Why The Cost Of Maintenance Could Be A Total Dealbreaker If You Want A Lotus Esprit

If you wanted something ever so slightly more exotic than your standard local grocery store car show fare, then there are a few things you should be aware of. Brands like Lotus carry a certain allure to classic car fans and appearances in the James Bond franchise may invigorate some appetites for the classic British brand. Owning a car like a Lotus Esprit, which appeared in "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "For Your Eyes Only," may fit the bill. But when it comes to maintenance — and, perhaps most importantly, cost — does an Esprit have a license to kill your wallet?

Classic car ownership can be a rewarding experience, provided it's done with a fair amount of forethought and your commitment to the hobby can have as much of an impact on your enjoyment as your choice of car. For example, if you buy an old Ford truck with a 300 cubic inch inline-six, it can double as a hardware store truck if the need arises in addition to its classic Americana appeal. The inline-six will run practically forever provided you keep up with maintenance and it can be an enjoyable, not to mention useful, truck. Similarly, any car powered by a Chevy small-block isn't "maintenance free" (no car is), but the engine is fairly reliable under strain and the availability of aftermarket parts makes it a relatively inexpensive choice for a classic car, compared to something like the Lotus.

You can't afford to cheap out on maintenance

There are several distinct flavors of the car spread across several generations, starting with the Esprit S1 that debuted in 1976 and culminating in the Esprit V8 that premiered in 1996. Lotus finally ended production in 2004. As such, specific pricing information may be difficult to find depending on what car you have. All shops use different labor rates and no matter what model of Esprit you pick, it's going to be expensive to maintain in the United States. This is not a task for the fainthearted, beginners, or people who aren't well versed in cars from Lotus. Turbocharged and V8 models in particular require vigilant maintenance and keeping an eye out for parts on sale. Like many rare cars from overseas automakers, Amazon and cheap eBay parts aren't going to cut it.

For maintenance, the spark plugs need to be swapped out every time you change the oil. The V8 models need a new clutch every 20,000 miles. Timing belt maintenance is a must as a failed timing chain means saying goodbye to the engine for now. Unlike your average Corolla where a lenient maintenance schedule may work, the Lotus requires military-like precision and a wealth of expertise. With all the expertise of a Lotus shop or really any other exotic car specialist, comes a higher price tag. You wouldn't get an Omega watch serviced at a local big box store; similarly, you don't want to take your Esprit to the local tire change place for maintenance. 

Not a budget Bond car

You will need specialized tools, a lift in your garage (or access to one), a secure way to get parts from overseas, and a Lotus specialty shop or dealership on speed dial. None of those things are particularly inexpensive or easy to get a hold of. You will need to be on the constant lookout for parts and many components will have to be shipped from overseas. It may be beneficial to find a trustworthy Lotus parts dealer in the UK and establish a shipping plan when (not if) you need parts.

That said if that doesn't scare you, by all means, bid on that Esprit you've had your eyes on. If you have a limitless supply of tools, time, and money, then you have the potential to inch ever so closer to looking like James Bond. Although there are cheaper Bond cars out there, like the BMW Z3 featured in "Goldeneye" or the AMC Hornet in "The Man with the Golden Gun."