Will my Lotus make it out of the shop, let alone to a show?

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Nik Berg

Like many a Lotus owner, I haven’t spent much time with my car this year. You may remember I took the plunge on a sight-unseen 1982 Esprit S3. For a bit, everything was going great. But alas, consistent with the accepted folklore, it’s since spent a lot of time in the shop.

Its throttle-sticking-induced breakdown represents only a very small part of this project. The real reason it’s been laid up is that I decided to have it painted. And painting a fiberglass car is a major undertaking.

The chaps at the Beaconsfield Workshop have it been at it for months. It is, quite literally, a grind. All the old paint has to be sanded off, any cracks and imperfections dealt with, resin applied, and only then can it be prepped for paint in the usual way.

As it happens, those cracks and imperfections were rather more serious than the first stage of paint removal revealed. At some point in its past, the Esprit suffered the ignominy of a big repair with a new rear section grafted on. The news isn’t all bad; the chassis is undamaged and Leigh at the workshop was able to use his decades of experience with fiber to redo the joins and patch it up in a couple of other places, such as the rear driver-side inner wheel arch which broke off in his hands.

 

Lotus Esprit body problems
Nik Berg

Finally, after all the patching up and stripping back was completed, the resin and primer went on to be left for a few days to cure, leaving me time to ponder paint colors once again.

I’m keeping my decision on the exact hue a secret for now. The hope is for a grand reveal at the U.K’s version of RADwood on August 20, where I’ve optimistically entered the Esprit in the Show ‘n’ Shine.

Getting the car there might be touch and go, as, once the color has gone on there’s two coats of lacquer, a good rub down, another coat, and then the final polish to be done. And that’s all before the car can be put back together.

Surprisingly, getting parts isn’t proving to a problem. Everything from a new side repeater (which fell apart as it was being removed) to a decal kit is available from SJ Sports Cars in Devon, so fingers crossed there’ll be no issues as the car is re-assembled.

The ancient rear tires had to go and the fronts were a budget brand that I’d never heard of, but sourcing replacements has proved tricky. For the rears at 235/60 HR15 the choice is incredibly limited. The white-lettered Goodyear Eagles that came as standard are long out of production and to match the size exactly the only options come from Pirelli or BF Goodrich. The Italian rubber is rather pricey, while the American tires are a bit too muscly for a lightweight Brit. If I did opt for Pirelli P600s at the rear, I’d have to pick a different tread pattern for the fronts and the pedant in me would prefer them to match.

The only option is to downsize the rears a tad and, having scoured the forums, this seems to be quite a common solution; going to a 225/60 section opens up a whole new world of rubber to Esprit owners (the fronts are 195/60 and easy enough to source from a multitude of brands). After much deliberation I’ve opted for a full set of Falken ZE310s, which have won a few awards in their native Germany, and should shore up the Esprit’s handling significantly in the wet and the dry.

I have some ambitious road trip plans for the fall, so a good grip on the roads of Europe will be most welcome. Of course the Esprit does have to make it out of the workshop first!

Nik Berg
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