Skip advert
Advertisement

Lotus Esprit – Dead on arrival

Whilst Lotus’s 2010 Esprit concept never made it past the styling stage, there was a fully functioning prototype of its all-new in-house hybrid V8

Lotus Esprit

Remembering the Dany Bahar era at Lotus can sometimes feel like recalling the details of an insane fever dream. The vapid ‘brand lifestyle’ magazines printed on paper so glossy it was like trying to read condensed milk. The ‘boutique’ shops selling expensively confected luxury goods while the road car range still hinged on the aged and basic Elise. The 2010 Paris motor show press day when a random grab bag of celebrities including Naomi Campbell and frizzy haired badger enthusiast Brian May pulled the covers off five brand new models while Sir Stirling Moss popped up to proclaim that if he was 50 years younger with one of these cars, ‘well you’d pick up all the girls, wouldn’t you?’ Seriously dude, feel my head, I think I’m running a bit hot.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The minds at Lotus were clearly fevered too, since they honestly reckoned they’d have five all-new cars ready for sale within six years (plus a hybrid city car, made in partnership with then-owner Proton). It was a scheme of such towering ambition that even a well-resourced megacorp such as Toyota or Volkswagen would think twice about giving it a shot, never mind showing their hand by revealing ‘concept’ versions of the entire future portfolio, having designed and built all six from scratch in just ten months.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

It seemed like a lot of flim-flam, but there was a small sliver of substance behind it because in Norfolk work was under way on production versions of these concepts, starting with the new-generation Esprit. This one sounded promising, and it got a whole lot more intriguing when Bahar, perhaps still giddy from Parisian afternoons with Brian May, decided to bin its adapted Lexus V8 and instruct Lotus engineers to confect an in-house engine instead.

> Lotus Type 62/2 coachbuilt by Radford debuts at The Quail

In fact, it’s the V8 that’s the real focus of this story, because normally on this page we talk only about cars that got perilously close to production, and the Esprit did not do that. Plenty of CAD work was completed on its basic packaging and performance, and the designers were adapting the show car’s looks to be feasible for production, but it was all a long, long way from finished. The slick-looking Paris motor show car was little more than a glassfibre styling model fitted with electric motors that allowed it to move (slowly) onto the stage. Whereas the engine did reach the fully functioning prototype stage. According to Bahar boasts at the time, it was good for 570bhp in league with optional KERS, and claimed to be 80 kilos lighter and 40 per cent smaller than the bought-in V8 it had usurped. The new motor had been run on a dyno and got so far as to be installed in a hacked-about Ferrari 458 for real-world testing before the roof fell in on the House of Bahar.

The man himself was dismissed in 2012, the magic money tap that was funding his plans ran dry, and the lone powertrain mule was written off in an accident, never to be replaced. With Bahar’s departure, the other Paris cars were quickly declared dead, but the Esprit remained a ‘live’ project until 2014 when new boss Jean-Marc Gales pulled the plug. The promising new hybrid V8 would never get to be anything more than an aborted engineering project.

As a side note, a source tells us that the Esprit revealed at the 2010 Paris show has not been junked and still lives at Hethel, where it serves as a reminder for those working on the Evija hypercar to ‘do things properly this time’.

Skip advert
Advertisement

Recommended

Saab PhoeniX – dead on arrival
Saab PhoeniX
Features

Saab PhoeniX – dead on arrival

The Swedish brand’s failed 2010s revival meant we missed out on a 400bhp hybrid TT rival – and more
11 Jul 2024
Alfa Romeo Alfasud Sprint 6C - dead on arrival
Alfa Romeo Alfasud Sprint 6C – front
Features

Alfa Romeo Alfasud Sprint 6C - dead on arrival

In 1982 Alfa Romeo showed off a widebody, mid-engined Alfasud destined for Group B rallying. Here's why it never came to fruition
30 May 2024
The FWD Chevrolet Camaro GM‑80 – dead on arrival
FWD Chevrolet Camaro GM‑80
Features

The FWD Chevrolet Camaro GM‑80 – dead on arrival

How General Motors’ performance linchpin was spared the indignity of losing drive to the rear
25 Apr 2024
Toyota 222D – dead on arrival
Toyota 222D
Features

Toyota 222D – dead on arrival

This 750bhp rallying MR2 could have seen Toyota conquer the stages, but instead fate intervened
21 Mar 2024
Skip advert
Advertisement

Most Popular

Analogue Lotus Elise v Alpine A110 R: £100k lightweight specials go head-to-head
Analogue Elise and Alpine A110 R
Group tests

Analogue Lotus Elise v Alpine A110 R: £100k lightweight specials go head-to-head

No-expense-spared restomod Elise by Analogue Automotive makes an intriguing pairing with the lightweight, track-focused A110 R
10 Jul 2024
Porsche 911 Carrera GTS T-Hybrid 2024 review – the best 992 Carrera of all
Porsche 911 Carrera GTS T-Hybrid
Reviews

Porsche 911 Carrera GTS T-Hybrid 2024 review – the best 992 Carrera of all

A new engine and detailed chassis upgrades have injected personality and character into the 992, marking a return to form for the 911 Carrera 
9 Jul 2024
Fast Ford heaven: a tour of the ultimate Ford garage
Ford Heritage Collection tour
Features

Fast Ford heaven: a tour of the ultimate Ford garage

Who doesn’t love a fast Ford? Prepare for a nostalgia overload as we get a guided tour of Ford UK’s magnificent, newly rehomed Heritage Collection
7 Jul 2024