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At $24,900, Could This 1989 Lotus Esprit SE Be Worth Adding Lightness To Your Wallet?

Illustration for article titled At $24,900, Could This 1989 Lotus Esprit SE Be Worth Adding Lightness To Your Wallet?
Photo: Craigslist
Nice Price Or No DiceIs this used car a good deal? You decide!

The Esprit was Lotus’s longest-running model, and as proved by today’s Nice Price or No Dice SE, the body tweaks it received along the way were mostly all in its favor. Let’s see if this now-classic sports car is priced to continue its reign in the hands of a new owner.

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I have to admit after I read the seller’s admission that yesterday’s 1999 Isuzu VehiCROSS needed ‘TLC’ I started to wonder, just exactly which TLC was that? Sure, it could have meant “Tender Loving Care.” But what if it stood for basic cable’s The Learning Channel? It could just as easily have meant the 90s R&B band that didn’t want you chasing either waterfalls or scrubs. It was confusing.

Thankfully, there was little confusion about that Isuzu’s $3,000 price tag. Even needing some sort of TLC, it was seen as a deal by 63 percent of you, which earned the VehiCROSS a solid Nice Price win.

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The seller of yesterday’s Isuzu needed to tell you that the car was in need of some work. Today we’re going to look a car that has a unique reputation for pretty much always having something amiss all the time.

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Photo: Craigslist

This 1989 Lotus Esprit SE doesn’t seem to have any major faults, and the ad does describe it as being in top shape mechanically — 10/10. The ad also sets the exterior and interior at 8 out of 10 and 6/10 respectively, so you know that some elbow grease and electrical wiring smoke will likely still be required.

By the time this SE hit the streets, the Esprit had already been around for more than a decade. This edition enjoyed the car’s first major restyle, with a softer take on Giugiaro’s original knife-edge design, penned by British designer Peter Stevens. Perhaps the most noteworthy element of the restyling was its integration of borrowed body elements. Those include door mirrors off of a Citroën CX and tail lamp units from the Toyota Corolla.

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Photo: Craigslist

Power for the SE (Special Equipment) came from a turbocharged and water-to-air intercooled 2.2-liter 16-valve four. Stock, that engine pumped out 264 horsepower.

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This car has had an aftermarket intercooler and exhaust installed, but there’s no mention in the ad whether that makes any difference in the output. A five-speed transaxle backs up the engine and puts the ponies to the pavement through the rear wheels.

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Photo: Craigslist
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As noted, the seller assesses the exterior to be 8/10. That’s somewhat subjective, as the pics in the ad don’t immediately identify where those 2 points get deducted. The Esprit body is all vacuum-molded fiberglass that rides saddlebag-style on a folded-steel central backbone. That design puts a lot of stress on the fiberglass which can lead to crazing and cracks. We don’t get a close enough look here to properly evaluate the finish here, however.

We do get to see that the car rolls on a set of aftermarket two-piece wheels and skinny Federal tires. The seller says the original white-painted turbines come with the car as well.

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Photo: Craigslist

This Esprit has done a modest 52,000 miles, but despite that, its seats have apparently given up the ghost. Stepping in is a pair of thin thrones out of a more modern Elise. Again, the original pieces are included in the sale. The Elise seats don’t match the color of the remainder of the interior but are close enough that you probably wouldn’t even notice the difference at night. A Sparco steering wheel sits in front of the instrument nacelle, which, oddly enough for these cars has a shiny burlwood finish. The car has a/c but if my experience with Esprits is anything to go on, you’d be better off hiring a child to blow at you over a melting ice cube.

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Other pluses here include a clean title and the seller’s claim that service records for the car are available.

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Photo: Craigslist
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The Esprit is an odd duck in the supercar milieu. On one hand, it’s extremely exotic and capable, while on the other, until late in its game, it only had four-cylinder power. That’s long been the way with Lotus though, making more out of less. Even though these cars don’t have a cylinder count to brag about, they make up for that with exceptional performance and limpet-like handling.

We’ll now need to decide if that may be worth this car’s $24,900 asking price. That get’s you the supposedly sorted mechanicals, a big box of original parts, and all the updates. This being a Lotus Esprit, it no doubt also gets you some headaches down the road. Do you think that yin and yang could command so lofty a goal as that $24,900 asking? Or, is this a Lotus priced above its position?

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You decide!

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Los Angeles, CA Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

H/T to FauxShizzle for the hookup!

Help me out with NPOND. Hit me up at rob@jalopnik.com and send me a fixed-price tip. Remember to include your Kinja handle.

Rob Emslie is a contributing writer for Jalopnik. He has too many cars, and not enough time to work on them all.

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DISCUSSION

I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: buying a car is an emotional decision. Your brain is involved but only because that’s where all the serotonin-oozing neurons live.

My amygdala tells me I want this car. The rest of me is inclined to agree. Whether the body panels are made of cracked fiberglass or cracked cocaine, I want it and no amount of good sense is going to change my mind.

Nice Price, damn you.