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Stocks Coachworks
A regular Advertiser on LEW 'Used Car Centre'

If you browse Lotus Esprit World's Used Car Centre regularly, you may have noticed one name come up a few times. Mark Waite of Stocks Coachworks has advertised quite a few early Esprits on the page. We spoke to Mark about giving us an inside view to what he does with his Esprits before selling them on. Can he really enjoy working on Esprit's and then passing all his hard work on to us?

Ever since Roger Moore launched his Esprit S1 off a Sardinian pier into the Mediterranean it was every school boys dream to own one. Unfortunately I have never been able to shake that boyhood dream! I now run a small car body repair shop in Chelmsford, Essex, and over the last two years I have made it my objective in life to restore and bring back to life any Esprit that needs it.

The Esprit S1 was launched in June 1976 with a price tag of around £8,500. Twenty eight years on any Esprit still looks good on the road, with around seventeen different models to choose from, there is something for everyone. Any early S1 or S2 can be purchased for a little under £5,000 or the last of the V8s for around £35,000. In my opinion the best value for money super car has got to be the S3 turbo and the king of these being the HC turbo. Turbo prices can range from a £3,500 restoration project to a £12,000 HC show stopper. But buyers beware, these cheap super cars can be expensive to maintain.

Because of the high maintenance cost and the expensive running of the Esprit I seem to come across a number cars that people just give up on or can no longer afford to maintain and run. Because the Giugiaro models run back as far as t wenty eight years and the build quality wasn’t up to the Germans standards there are bound to be some restorations out there. Paint work fades, lacquer crazes and in the worst cases of the earlier cars the gel coat cracks. But all this can be rectified. A complete respray on an Esprit without gel coat cracking will set you back around £2,000. With gel coat cracking, depending on the amount, it can be crippling.

The interiors on the Giugiaro models are renound to fall apart unless carefully looked after. The seats come apart, the leather dries up and unless dry stored, damp gets to the carpets and before you know it you are in for a complete re-trim. Although leather can be re-coloured and treated this is only superficial. A complete leather re-trim on an Esprit will cost around £1,600 so yet again not a cheap prospect.

Mechanical problems are in abundance, engine rebuilds can cost approximately £4,000, gear box rebuilds approximately £1,300. Even some seemingly straightforward jobs can be pricey. An exhaust manifold replacement most of the time means engine out and a normally aspirated Esprit manifold is approximately £300 and a turbo one is more than double that. All this with the labour charge and gaskets and yet again it is off to see the bank manager. So I suppose in the end it is easy to see why they end up as full on restorations.

My first Esprit was a turbo I purchased in 1995, pearl white with full red leather - I was smitten. But as all good things come to an end it had to go. It was the car or a three bedroom semi.

Back in October 2002 I had decided that it was about time I owned an Esprit again. I searched through the Autotrader and Exchange & Mart and then got onto the internet. I had seen a website advertised in a Lotus magazine call Lotusmart.com. After looking through the Esprits they had to offer one caught my eye. It was a 1983 calypso red S3 with around 80,000 miles on the clock and was reasonably priced.

So the following Sunday I went to view it. After seeing the car it was clear it needed some work. Being red the paint had faded badly but it did have five months MOT and good service history. The interior was in good condition but it wasn’t leather. It seemed that around the 1983 period, Lotus had fitted a carpet style interior that was on the dash board as well as the seats but the car drove well and I decided to go for it.

When I got the car back home the exhaust was blowing and after close inspection I realised the manifold had been bodged with a bit of exhaust paste. So straight down to my mechanic. I stupidly thought a new manifold, it won’t be that bad, but after a few phone calls I realised this was going to cost a bit more than I had originally anticipated. The manifold was in the region of £300. Because the bolts were deteriorated he decided to take the head off rather than the engine out, not knowing the gasket set was around £100. The total bill was around £700.

After getting the car back I used it for a while and then decided to get it into the work shop, strip out the bumpers, door handles etc and paint it. I decided to take the car to the Lotus show at Donnington and try to sell it so to enable me to move on to another project. The car didn’t sell there but had a lot of onlookers. After the show I advertised the car in Exchange & Mart and sold it within two weeks.

Since then I have had a few other projects including a white S2 that had been painted black poorly (including the shuts the under bonnet area). So it was stripped back and completely re-sprayed in a Lotus yellow. Shortly after I had purchased the S2 I received a call from a person in Worcester. He claimed he had a 1988 normally aspirated Peter Stevens model in his garage. His description was the car needed a full re-spray and had sat there for six years with approximately 40,000 miles on the clock. This I had to see.

The following Sunday morning I left for Worcester in a borrowed car transporter with cash in hand. After a 3 and a half hour drive I was delighted to find the description of the car was spot on. We decided not to try to start it just in case the cam belt had perished. Both rear callipers were ceased on so we had to tow it out of the garage. The interior was good but as he had said, it needed repainting. There were a few scuffs and scrapes and the lacquer was coming off the removable roof and being calypso red most of it had faded.

When we got the car back to the workshop my mechanic was set loose on it. After starting work on it, it seemed one thing went wrong with it after another. We ended up giving it a full service with a battery, cam belt and hand brake cables and a new clutch with a new braided clutch pipe. The alternator was re-wired, the fuel pump was replaced along with the water pump. The callipers were overhauled and the throttle cable was replaced along with HT leads. All this with some hoses and switches it did seem that as soon as something was replaced something else would go wrong with it and then after all of that it had to be re-sprayed. But the end product was well worth it. When it was finished it looked and drove beautifully.

So if you have an Esprit sitting in your garage needing work or if you are fed up with putting your hand in your pocket give me a call. I will always be interested in any Esprit from 1976 to 1990.

Contact Mark Waite of Stocks Coachworks, Chelmsford, on 01245 248143 or stockscoachworks@tiscali.co.uk.

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