There are a lot of Esprits that spend time on Ebay. Some seem to be listed for ages. They seem to have one of only a few story lines. First is the car that is such a basket case that the owner actually has to be honest and describe it thus. Second is the owner that had the car for a few years on the tail end of a replacement cycle, worked on it more than drove it, and has become exhausted (I was THAT guy once). Third is the nitwit that puts fancy-pants wheels, or huge stereos’, or Lamborghini wings or other things on it and declares it “improved” (about as dumb as thinking that Kate Upton need a boob job…). Fourth is the dealer that either thought they got a deal at an auction, did a favor for a good customer and took the car in on trade, or stopped reading the DuPont registry in 2002 and believes their car is worth $8-12,000 MORE than the market and gets offended when you suggest otherwise. Fifth is the guy that bout a wreck or a salvage and did his best to sort it out for a flip. Finally there is the owner that has driven and serviced his car properly and is either moving on to a new project, or really needs the money. Those, are the ones to look for.

The funny thing about the Esprit community is that at this point, almost all of the cars are known, and after a little looking you can find out their histories. The they ALL seem to have them. For instance, there is a V-8 listed now that sat at a dealership for almost a year because they couldn’t get the thing running and didn’t want to spend the money to make it right. It went to auction and now is represented by a few glorious glamor shots and a testimonial that is best considered brilliant fiction. Lift the deck lid and the poor car goes from Penelope Cruz to Cunègonde in the Transylvanian kitchen instantly. Putting the car right will cost the new (no experienced Esprit owner would EVER buy the poor car) Lotus guy thousands and probably turn him off to the marque forever.

Sometimes I like to call those dealers and talk to them about their cars. They start out all self assured, telling me that no expense was spared in keeping them commissioned. The talk gets somber when we get to timing belts. They always phone that bit in. They HAVE to. The tools alone for the job are prohibitively expensive, and the number of people actually qualified by Lotus to do the job are fewer than winning lottery tickets. If they can’t name proper names, and express serious regret at the cost of the service bills they incurred they are lying. When I tell them that, the call usually ends.

My current car never made it to eBay. I found it on autotrader. The pictures were stunning, and I knew based on the miles that the car would ned some attention in spite of the previous owner telling me he spared nothing… … Sparing “nothing” and leaving 13 year old tires on a car with the capability to go 175 miles an hour are sort of mutually exclusive. However, the car was fairly priced, and I do not regret pulling the trigger.

The only real issue I have with my car is the constant Anzio-like shelling I endure from my wife when it won’t run, but I believe in my heart after the last trip to Stan than my “spring offensive” has finally begun. Spiritually, she is the Lotus equivalent of a CIA interrogator in a camp no longer on published maps, but she means well. She doesn’t save it for me either. In fact, if she could get her hands on Colin Chapman himself she wouldn’t miss a beat. She can’t understand why I would willingly give up an Exige which had impeccable reliability, for an Esprit, which hasn’t (but will when I am done with it). Sometimes I don’t understand it myself.

On the front end, you are probably better off buying a car from a well known enthusiast that can provide the pedigree a car requires. It’s more expensive to do that, but several standard deviations less aggravating.

One of these days that’s how I intend to do it…