Lotus Esprit Sport 300 vs Sport 350

5 Sep 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Lotus Esprit Sport 300 vs Sport 350
Lotus Esprit

Sport 300 vs 350

During its twilight years, brewed up the two ultimate Esprits, wearing the Sport badge. We the 300 and 350 to Hethel to find out which was

The Sport 300s were by a handful of people. It was all very no Excel spreadsheets or project

Dark, brooding clouds across the Norfolk skyline as a deluge soaks Lotus HQ. for our photographer, yes, but somehow an moody vista for the pair of Esprits we’ve brought us. These rare, circuit-honed – a black Sport 300, on the 2.2-litre Turbo SE, and a silver V8 350 – were, in their time, the riposte from Hethel to the of Porsche 911s then track days.

But whatever shared ethos, as we shall their gestations and characters and are quite different.

First the 300, and to unravel its story is to the very essence of a small engineering project. There was no There was no money.

Just a small band of employees, prepared to go above and the call of duty, their creating something sensational.

Lotus engineer Dave picks up the story: ‘It was early and there was a new SCCA race [Escort World Challenge] in the It was decided that we should a pair of cars, but we got the go-ahead to them only about six before they had to be shipped to – in typical Lotus style!’ now, 20 years on, Minter’s for the project is palpable. ‘We didn’t have a brief; just regs. So a few of us sat round and thought it, built the thing in five had one week’s worth of testing and it went over to America and won its race. It was fantastic – everybody had up all their leisure time for

In fact, the Type 105 racer, on the Esprit Turbo SE, would four victories that including a brace of one-two and six pole positions. In 1992 it clinch the drivers’ crown for Doc in the Bridgestone Potenza Supercar Following the success of the racers, decided to build 20 close for track day use in the USA, known as the

Nevertheless, these cars Type Approved for road and the team back at Hethel yearned to feed back they’d learned from the into a true road And so the Sport 300 project was born.

cars [Sport 300s] done by a handful of people,’ Minter. ‘It was all very hands-on: no spreadsheets or project briefings. The of the car is based very much on the who did it. It was Roger [Roger Becker, vehicle engineering director at who kicked it all off.

We were to do what we thought was best. have an update with him in the or he’d drop by at, say, at night to see how we were getting

In essence, they’d achieved aim of building a road car as close as to the racer. The glassfibre bodies hand-laid for extra strength and the wheelarches extended, like the car’s, to the widest they’d be; the huge, hoop-like rear was retained, albeit slightly forward on the rear deck the race car’s; and an air dam graced the

There were now two crucial under the engine cover: the motor was tuned to squeeze out (up from 264bhp) while low-rev driveability and emissions (the racers had 385bhp), and a crucial four-point bracing was added to boost torsional always an Esprit weakness. rubber shod gorgeous new a power-steering system was developed for the time, and, unusually for a limited-slip differential was standard

Russell Carr styled the details and, according to the car was ‘hidden behind a curtain in the of the design studio’. These the … days of GM ownership, expenditure increasingly under but as the team worked on the car in their own there was little that be done to stop them.

And it wasn’t just GM that was as Becker recalls with forthrightness: ‘The sales guy us from spraying it in this yellow we had chosen for the motor but we thought it looked fantastic, so we all him to “f**k off”. It wasn’t his he hadn’t built it, and if he wanted to use it he have to have it in the colour we was appropriate! It blew everyone as the star of the NEC show in ’92 because it was so

Lotus Esprit

Just 64 Sport 300s eventually built over a production run, 14 more had originally been planned. It follows that driving black 300 today is a rare yet real pleasure. A good still has the ability to wow just everyone present, wherever you may be, but the 300 is else again: its unique ratio and detailing are perfectly

Today, we’ve arranged for Becker’s son Matt to drive cars and give us his thoughts. As engineer for vehicle dynamics at Matt is well used to round this deceptively little aerodrome circuit, and soon splashing our way around its

‘It feels completely different to a car,’ says Matt, before we’ve nailed the corner apex. ‘It’s nicely phased front to – you can still feel it’s a the roll axis is straight the middle, it’s nicely and easy to place on the road.’ lashes the glassfibre body as the struggle to clear the ’screen, but the 300 is in its

Nevertheless, I’ve been at the squeaks and assorted noises from within this low-mileage example, and Matt is to point out the culprit: ‘Structurally, not so good – even with the bracing cradle. You’re on the spring rate you can put into the because the structure will end up more than the actual Torsional stiffness is only 20% that of an Elise – that’s has really improved; a stiff is the starting point nowadays.’

a sobering reminder of technical but it doesn’t dampen our enthusiasm. I again that trademark to the chassis, marvel at the surprising from the zingy, peaky, ‘four’, and observe the sly grin still able to plaster Matt’s face. ‘I was just a preparing press cars this came out, but I can thinking at the time that it was special…’

The Sport 350 is a very different Conceived in 1999, three after the debut of the final generation with its twin-turbo, V8, it was an attempt to repeat the halo of the Sport 300. Brian a Lotus engineer often to as ‘Mr Esprit’ around Hethel, Sales and Marketing looking for like the 300, but ‘…emissions and had changed – there was less we allowed to do. It never had any more it just gave you a little torque in the lower gears.’

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