Laconic Finn Kimi Raikkonen scored a very popular win for Lotus F1 team at the recent Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The victory was the first for the English firm in Formula One since 1983. Considering that Lotus was the chosen brand of superspy James Bond in that era – and the latest 007 movie will debut in SA later this month – we thought it fitting to bring you a road test of the original Lotus Espirit. As you can see the photographic team at CAR at the time were keen to recreate the theme from The Spy Who Loved Me.
The car that really launched Lotus into the limelight was supposedly boasted brilliant stability, precise steering and unfathomable cornering ability, what with a short wheelbase and a mid-mounted motor. This was was the normally-aspirated version – turbo models came later – which featured a 2,0-litre inline four driving through a five-speed gearbox. Maximum power of 120 kW was enough as the car tipped the scales at a scant 900 kg. Performance was quick, for the time, with a quickest sprint time from zero-to-100 km/h in 8,9 seconds and a top speed of 200 km/h.
Interestingly, this Esprit was built by Intermotormakers based near the D.F. Malan Aiport (now CT International) in the Mother City. This company also built two other Lotus models, the Elite and Eclat, as well as Lamborghinis.