We’re used to seeing some crazy high-powered muscle cars or ultra-cool exotics at Jay Leno’s Garage, but this time around we’re treated to a very special Lotus. The Esprit debuted with its futuristic wedge shape in 1976, and just a year later it scored a famous on-screen role as James Bond’s submersible spy car in The Spy Who Loved Me. Detlef Claudius was also taken with the car, buying this 1977 Esprit brand new in the US for $14,500. He still owns the car 41 years later, but as the video above shows, there’s a bit more to it than that.
Aside from being smitten with the Esprit, Claudius is something of a Lotus guru and a quintessential automotive tinkerer. Fortunately, he’s also mechanically inclined and a talented fabricator, and this car showcases quite a bit of his experience. Casual observers will see a 1970s Esprit, but Lotus experts will spot the 1980s-era body kit on the car. A closer look reveals the 2.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder – another 1980's transplant that has only about 7,000 miles on it. In fact, the whole car only shows 19,500 miles, something which Claudius’s son Jason attributes to his father always having the car apart for changes and mods. We really like this guy.
The body kit and engine are just the beginning. Look all around the car – inside and out – and you’ll see personal touches like the boot lid handle and seatbelt surrounds that Claudius machined out of aluminium. He also personally redid the Esprit’s interior, and under the trunk lid is a hydraulic power brake system along with upgraded electronics. There are far too many little touches to mention here, so we’ll leave the rest to the video.
The original Esprit wasn’t necessarily a powerhouse, but the turbo swap in this car is good for about 300 bhp. That’s not necessarily a massive number by today’s standards, but with the Esprit weighing only around 1,000 kilograms it has a power-to-weight ratio that’s definitely grin-inducing.
It’s not often you see these older Esprits out and about. We’re glad to see Leno throwing out some classic Lotus love, and this car is definitely deserving of the attention.