A prototype Lotus Esprit fitted with revolutionary Formula 1 active suspension remains for sale after failing to find a buyer at auction.
Prospective owners may well have been daunted by the car’s complexity, coupled with the company’s unenviable “Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious” reputation for reliability. However, one brave soul will end up with a truly unique piece of Lotus history.
The car was originally built as a pre-production Essex Turbo in 1980 and was loaned out to DeLorean –the DMC-12‘s chassis was based closely on the Esprit’s. After being returned to the factory it was handed over to Lotus Engineering and an experimental active suspension system was installed and tested in the Esprit prior to making its Formula debut in 1983 on the Type 92.
According to a report by Top Gear back in the day by John Miles, “To drive it feels very like a normally sprung car except that it doesn’t roll in cornering or pitch when braking or accelerating.”
After serving its purpose as a testbed the car was apparently left behind a hangar at the Lotus factory and destined to be crushed. One former worker couldn’t bear the idea of the car being destroyed and hid it. Fortunately, Lotus bosses eventually saw the error of their ways and had the car tidied up and preserved. The current keeper bought it from Lotus in 2016 and has since spent more than £60,000 on rebuilding the engine, gearbox, electrics and brakes. It runs and drives, although the active suspension no longer works, while the jet black bodywork and red leather interior are described as “mostly original.”
Having covered just 6,492 miles in 40 years the car was anticipated to sell at Anglia Car Auctions for £60,000-£90,000 but nobody was bold enough to bid sufficiently high to make the seller part with it and it remains available.