The Lotus Turbo Esprit (pronounced "es-pree") is a sports car that was built by Lotus in the United Kingdom. In 1980 the first factory turbocharged Esprit was launched. Their production continued through to the autumn of 1987 when the old design was discontinued and a new-style, the more rounded X180 model, took over. Two Turbo Esprits — one in white and the other in copper — were featured in 1981's For Your Eyes Only. The white vehicle was blown up by an anti-theft self-destruct system in Spain, while the copper one was a replacement used to travel to Cortina d'Ampezzo in the Italian Alps.
Design and performance
Initially, the turbocharged Esprit was a special edition model commemorating F1 ties and reflecting current sponsorship, in the blue, red and chrome livery of Essex Petroleum, and is therefore known as the Essex Esprit. The new turbocharged dry-sump type 910 engine produced 210 hp (157 kW) and 200 lb·ft (270 N·m) of torque. 0-60 mph could be achieved in 6.1 seconds, with a top speed of 150 mph (240 km/h).
These performance improvements were coupled to a redesign and strengthening of the chassis and rear suspension, where an upper link was added to alleviate strain on the driveshafts, along with brake improvements. The Essex cars introduced a Giugiaro-designed aerodynamic body kit with a rear lip spoiler, prominent louvered rear hatch, more substantial bumpers, a deeper front airdam, and air ducts in the sills just ahead of the rear wheels, which were 15" Compomotive 3-piece items. Internally, scarlet leather, combined with a roof-mounted Panasonic stereo, made for a dramatic environment.
April 1981 saw the introduction of the S3 (Series 3) Esprit and the Turbo Esprit. Both new models had a common chassis, inheriting much of the configuration of the Essex cars, whilst body production was based on a single common set of moulds. The Turbo Esprit's engine reverted to a less complex wet-sump lubrication system, retaining the power and torque outputs of its dry-sump predecessor. The interior was revised and featured new trim; combined with changes to the body moulds this resulted in more headroom and an enlarged footwell. Externally, the Turbo Esprit retained the full aerodynamic body kit of the Essex cars, featured prominent "turbo esprit" decals on the nose and sides and was supplied with 15-inch BBS alloy wheels.
James Bond's Espirit Turbo
Realizing that the submersible Esprit had proven popular in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), the production team once again selected one of Lotus' vehicles for use in For Your Eyes Only (1981) — the Lotus Esprit S3 Turbo. This Lotus Esprit was driven by Bond throughout the film and can be seen prominently during an expedition to spy on Hector Gonzales in Madrid, Spain. Later in the film, the car is seen again at the Italian ski resort of Cortina.
Given that the vehicle was needed by two camera teams on the island of Corfu, simultaneously at multiple locations, Lotus supplied a pair of vehicles for filming, one of which was the original prototype that had been retained by Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus Cars. In addition, a chassis was acquired by the production team for the self-destruct sequence.
In keeping with the more serious tone of For Your Eyes Only, Bond's Turbo Esprit was equipped with more realistic gadgets than had previously been seen in The Spy Who Loved Me. The only gadget to appear in the film was a self-destruct system triggered by attempts to break into the car. Early in the film, the white model, driven by Bond in Spain, is destroyed when a mercenary inadvertently trips the self-destruct system. To achieve the effect, the crew destroyed a chassis worth about DM16,000. Later in the film Q-Branch issues Bond a second Esprit for Bond's journey to the Italian ski resort of Cortina.
Initially, both cars had been painted white with red stripes and matching decals, but when production moved to Cortina, the crew discovered a darker shade would stand out better against the snowy backdrop. Consequently, one of the cars was sent back to Lotus where it was repainted bronze with golden stripes and decals. At the same time it was also fitted with a pair of custom ski racks that were positioned over the engine cover, the antenna was removed and the brake lights were disconnected. As temperatures dropped to minus eighteen degrees Celsius, the car was only to be seen in two short scenes: once during the arrival in Cortina in front of the Hotel Miramonti, then once in front of the ice stadium.