S1, S2, S3 and S4

On this page, I'm going to take a look back at Lotus Esprit models from the 1970s, 80s and 90s, and you'll find lots of gorgeous photos, many of which are public domain and creative commons.

You may remember the white Esprit driven by Roger Moore in the 1977 James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me. Not only did he drive it on the road, but he drove it underwater like a submarine, too. Of course, the actual road car couldn't drive underwater, but it was nice to imagine that it did. I also remember there being a toy model version, too, and a friend actually bought one while we were on a day trip in London with the Cub Scouts.

Launched in 1975 at the Paris Auto Show (it went into production the following year), the Esprit featured Italian styling, a French gearbox and British engineering. It also boasted a 2.0 litre, 16v 1973cc engine and had a top speed of 135mph (217 km/h). In 1980, a 2.2 Esprit and Esprit Turbo were launched, with the latter capable of reaching 150 mph and up to 210bhp - standard models were 160bhp.

The sharp lines in the body design looked fantastic in the 70s, but the car was starting to look a little dated by the mid-1980s, especially when compared to a Ferrari 308 or 328. It wasn't until 1988 when these lines were softened with a re-design by Peter Stevens. Personally, though, I much prefer the original, charismatic 70s model with its distinctive wedge shape.

White Lotus Esprit S1 angled view - public domain image

Public domain photos of a white Esprit S1

Black Lotus Esprit S1
By dave_7 from Lethbridge, Canada (Lotus Esprit) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Yellow Lotus Esprit S1 from 1977

1977 Lotus Esprit S1

This replaced the Europa and was produced between 1976 and 1979.

Lotus Esprit S2 JPS
By GTHO (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Black Lotus Esprit S2 JPS edition

1979 Limited Edition S2 Lotus Esprit John Player Special (JPS)
1979 series 2 John Player Special (JPS) limited edition with black and gold colour scheme. Creative Commons photo by Youngtimerclassic
Lotus Esprit S3 in white (Creative Commons Image)
By nakhon100 (Lotus Esprit S3) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Blue 1980 Lotus Esprit S2

1980 Lotus Esprit S2

Produced between 1979 and 1986. Definitely prefer it in yellow!

Lotus Esprit Essex Turbo (1980) - only 45 cars featured the Essex Petroleum livery
This 1980 Lotus Esprit Essex Turbo (S2) features the livery of Essex Petroleum and only 45 were built. These were the first turbocharged esprit's. Creative Commons Photo by Mick
1988 Silver Lotus Esprit Turbo S3

1988 Esprit Turbo S4

1984 Lotus Esprit (932166137)
By dave_7 from Lethbridge, Canada (1984 Lotus Esprit) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Red S3 front left view

US Lotus Esprit Turbo (1989)
Red S3 By Detectandpreserve (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Lotus Esprit S3 1981-1987 front
US market Lotus Esprit Turbo (1989) which featured a new electronic fuel injection system and a chargecooler (water to air intercooler). Photo by Mr. Choppers.
1990 LOTUS ESPRIT TURBO SE - rear view

Rear view of a 1990 Lotus Esprit Turbo SE - public domain image

Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge

This game was the first of three top notch Lotus racing games to be developed by the British game developer Magnetic Fields and published by British software house Gremlin Graphics. The game was made available for the 8-bit computers, the Atari ST and Amiga and received pretty decent reviews, with the Amiga version being regarded as the most impressive. 

The follow-up games Lotus Turbo Challenge 2 and Lotus III: The Ultimate Challenge were released only on the 16 bit machines.

Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge on the Commodore Amiga (1990)


Lotus Esprit Tan Colour
By nakhon100 (Lotus Esprit) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A unique orangey/tan colour

Schaffen Lotus Esprit S4 in red
Red S4 By Ad Meskens (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Lotus Esprit Turbo 1991 green with yellow wheels
By order_242 from Chile (Lotus Esprit Turbo 1991) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


1997 Lotus Esprit V8

1997 V8


Two Austin Metros from the 80s