South West Lotus Centre
Tinhay Industrial Estate, Lifton, Devon PL16 0AH. Tel: 01566 784152
Factory Visit, May 2006
SWLC have over 25 years Lotus experience and offer quality servicing, repairs and spare parts on all models. They can supply brand new OEM parts as well as value for money second hand parts, and offer a value for money when it comes to keeping this marque on the road.
If you need to contact SWLC there is Amber, Nikki and Kathy for all the office based support, ordering spare parts and delivery schedules. For technical help on spare parts and servicing you will need to talk to Phil, a wealth on information.
Phil Webb has 30 years experience on the marque and still enthusiastic about everything Lotus. Training for SWLC mechanics is on-going and thorough, as is their investment in modern technology.
All sounds good to us! So lets go and take a look!
We turned up before opening on a rainy Saturday morning. The 4 hour drive was uneventful and we made good time with no traffic on the roads. SWLC are pretty easy to find, but with our TomTom taking us straight there it was never going to be too much of a challenge. James Webb turned up to open up about 15 minutes after we arrived.
There's a shop/reception to greet customers. No one to greet LEW, but it was straight though to get the kettle on. We did go back to have a look a little later on. Plenty of stuff to flick through. Lots of clothing and all sorts of parts for every type of Lotus, including brake discs, pads, air filters, steering wheels, badges and much more. There's a few chairs and a table with some recent motoring magazines, just to make you a little more comfortable. We spotted the new Esprit book 'The Official Story' there if you fancied a quick read, also a very interesting Esprit exhaust with a left hand exit! No time for shopping, lets check out what SWLC have to offer Esprit owners.
Wheels & Tyres
This is somewhat a SWLC specialty. They do have a lot of wheels & tyres. There's always a good selection at Donington every year, but mostly Elise stuff. We got SWLC to dig out the Esprit stuff to see what they've got. The answer is almost everything! The have brand new sets of most Esprit alloys. The have reconditioned sets of most Esprit alloys. The have new tyres to fit most Esprit alloys and part-worn sets of tyres to fit most Esprit alloys! It's an aladdin's cave of Wheels & Tyres.
Boxes of Alloys, both new and used where piled high. Some wheels they'll take on an exchange basis, so they'll always have stock of good quality Esprit alloys. The have all the V8 styles, S4s, S4, SE and even alloys from the early Giugiaro Esprits. Some even brand new! Not bad considering the cars been out of production for nearly 20 years.
You can see from the pictures what's being hoarded by SWLC. You get the feeling after seeing all these alloys, there must be a lot of Esprits without any wheels! It did seem only the fabled Sport 350 alloys where in short supply at SWLC, but they did have a few of those floating around.
We were surprised by how many sets of the Giugiaro alloys were there including the original S2 alloys! If you need some wheels you need to call SWLC first, as they very likely to have what you need. That leads us neatly onto tyres. Now we didn't count, but we're not sure if SWLC have more tyres or more alloys! We were concerned James at SWLC had a wheel and tyre fetish!
We've picked up a set of part worn tyres that are now unavailable from suppliers from SWLC and they have plenty more. If you're looking for a set or a pair to match what you've already got, give them a call, you'll be surprised what they've got. Plenty of part worn, with plenty of tread in every shape and size. We would list them, but there's too many. From tyres to fit the SE wheels, which are becoming rare to rears to fit the Sport 300. Plenty of choice for V8 owners, including deals on Toyo tyres and some new Semi-slicks on the way. We even spotted some Goodyear's for the Giugiaro's. Now we've told the Esprit world about their stock, get in quick, as we can see these getting depleted pretty quick!
New & Used Parts
To say SWLC have a good stock of new & used parts is a big understatement. They have so much stuff in quantity it's pretty unbelievable. Besides Lotus stores in Bristol, this is the place to do a supermarket sweep. As you can see from the pictures, they have lots of stuff. Boxes of turbo's, bonnets, boots lids, exhausts, pistons, bumpers, doors, steering wheels, ECU's, pumps, brakes, suspension and the list goes one.
James found stuff he didn't realise they had, but assures us that everything's on the computer, so if they have it and you want it, it's there! Some rare stuff won't be cheap, but you'll be lucky to find it elsewhere. SWLC can supply brand new original parts like any other Lotus Dealer, but it's the chance of a bargain used part that prompts us to advise you to give them a call first. Plus with a minimum 5% off any new or used part for ClubLEW members, it's definitely the first place to call.
Any V8 owners fancy a black engine cover? Lotus were playing around with colours and SWLC managed to get hold of this straight from Lotus. They buy a huge amount of old stock from Lotus, also stuff Lotus can't sell as a car manufacturer, so there's all sorts of stuff. We spotted plenty of ECU's (without memcals), which is always handy to know. V8 bumpers maybe!
They also have plenty of manuals and handbooks for most Esprit models, so if you're service book is getting filled up, you know where to get a new one and maybe a service stamp! So many parts and so little brain power to remember all the cool stuff! We've done our best, but if you need something, give them a call, chances are they'll have something hidden away.
Maintenance and Servicing
Not only do SWLC sell clothing, wheels, tyres, new and used parts, they also can work on your Esprit. From S1 to V8 they can take on the simplest work, right up to rebuilds. LEW's new member, our 84 Turbo had a C-Service and belt change at SWLC and also got all for brake calipers overhauled. We've also left our SE there for SWLC to do a little work on. More on that in the near future.
As you can see, SWLC have everything they need to look after your Esprit. This is how we wished our garage wall looked. The official Lotus tools for all those jobs that require the help of pixies and fairies if you don't have them! Unfortunately these aren't for sale! bugger!
Out in the workshop they've got everything a well stock garage needs. Plenty of electrical kit to sort out any problems and get everything set-up correctly. MoT's can be done as well. Nice Essex badged bodywork from a race car hangs on the wall.
With all the wheels & tyres about, they've of course got the kit to put them on. Reminders of years gone-by make sure the staff know there job. We're not going to comment on 'Lotus Quality'!
Outside SWLC sell second-hand Lotus cars along with some japanese imports. The have a valenting bay so your car should come back shiny! Our white Esprit was very clean! SWLC actually have a Lotus forklift bought from Lotus! It's got a Lotus badge and everything! The really are into there Lotus's!
The sign of a good Lotus Specialist. Broken Esprits out back! The chassis and white shell are what's left of one of the cars in our Wrecked Esprit section. Mark wrecked this 1987 HC within 45 minutes of buying it! Many parts will now help keep other Esprits on the road. A back half of a Stevens shell sits up on the roof!
Engine & Gearbox Rebuilds
SWLC have a good reputation for rebuilding both 4-cylinder and V8 engines. We've seen there engine and gearbox workshop and heard a few stories that give us an idea they know what they're doing. There's a V8 Esprit engine currently being rebuilt (and here it is finished a few days later) and a Lotus Carlton engine awaiting a rebuild. SWLC also have a few engine already rebuilt and ready for exchange if the worst happens.
They have all the parts for rebuilds including a few blocks lining the walls!!!!. They have a room just full of engine and engine parts. 2.2, 2.2 turbo's, 2.2 chargecooled, V8 and Elise engines as well. We doubt there's a spare engine left at Hethel! So you know, with a stock like this, you'll get your parts asap.
As for gearboxes, they have a few of those as well. No wonder they had to stop making the Esprit due to lack of gearboxes! SWLC have them all! We can't believe how much stock they have stored away in deepest Devon.
SWLC have a dedicated packing room, to make sure everything gets wrapped and packed and off to you. James pretends to be busy, but we know he doesn't know how to use a computer! He's better of out in the workshop fixing Esprits! Anyone can work a computer, very few can work on an Esprit.
We had quite a day at SWLC. We've been on good terms with them for a while now and also have a good chat at Donington every year. They've invited us down every year, but the though of the drive scared our lazy butts! But to be honest it wasn't that bad and we really should have made the effort before. SWLC have customers from all over the country and even Europe, who bring their Esprits to get serviced and have maintenance done and we can see why. They have a great set-up and more than enough Esprit knowledge to look after anyone's car. Working on Esprits is just one side of the business. Their parts set-up is pretty impressive for an independent and we suspect that many main dealers would struggle to match them.
They're also a pretty friendly bunch, although owner Phil Webb can be a little scary when he marches up to you, but once you get talking, he's just a big a Lotus nut as the rest of us and a font of knowledge. We have always recommended SWLC as we'd been using them for parts for years, but after a factory visit and the work done on the white turbo they get a top rating. Don't forget you can get a minimum of 5% off new and used parts as a member of ClubLEW as well! Give them a call!
South West Lotus Centre • Tinhay Industrial Estate, Lifton, Devon PL16 0AH • Tel: 01566 784152 • www.thelotuscentre.co.uk