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Lotus Esprit V8 Construction & Safety

Discussion in 'British' started by MD355, Jul 2, 2018.

  1. MD355

    MD355 Formula Junior

    Mar 8, 2004
    780
    Europe
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    MD
    Can somebody explain to me how the Lotus Esprit V8 is constructed ?

    Does it have good structural / torsional stiffness ?

    I have seen pictures of something that resembles a tubular steel central tunnel structure which supports the suspension and the engine & gearbox, and on top of that goes the fiberglass body , correct ?

    How does this setup respond in case of accident ?
    In front accident is there a crumble zone that absorbs impact ? (I read somewhere the spare tire actually is part of the passive safety !!!)
    On a side accident are the occupants protected ?
    What about roll over ? I have seen no steel roll over bars...

    I am thinking about buying a V8 or an S4 and need some input about safety.
    Lightweight is good, as long as it is not too dangerous !!

    Thanks !!
     
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  3. StuR

    StuR Formula Junior

    Jun 14, 2005
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    Stu R
    Check out the lotus forums - you can mod aspects of the chassis/ suspension. Later chassis valve used, replacements available. Biggest issue accident damage poorly repaired. Driven at full speed and rolled it will hurt! What do you want it to be safer than? LOTUS is Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious but that’s electrics and stuff rather than LOTUD - deadly LOL. Always find it was TVRs that wanted to kill you, but mainly down to driver going beyond limits.

    I think handling the turbo power appropriately, keeping the chassis suspension set up correctly, proper rubber and not hoofing it in the wet on roundabouts etc are the key points.


    What are your fears based on? Have you read the buying guides and spoken to owners? The Lotus forums?


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  4. f4udriver

    f4udriver Formula Junior

    Feb 1, 2012
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    Mike G
    I was hit while at a stop light in my 1988 Esprit. Not a 8 cylinder but I would guess they have similar construction.
    I saw the 1971 Monte Carlo in my rear view mirror not slowing down at all and coming towards me. I tensed up and he swerved and hit me in the right rear. This launched me into the car in front of me and she rolled all the way into the middle of the intersection. The Monte Carlo weighed almost twice what the Esprit did and we estimated he was going 25 mph at the time.
    So the impact lifted the right quarter off the car and the front impact lifted the entire front clip up and to an angle of about 10 degrees.
    The battery was crushed and it was leaking all over the pavement. The car was totaled but subsequently rebuilt as the value back then was 35K.
    I only had a slight pinch in my back for 2 days. I feel that the seat conformed so well to my back that it certainly helped to not allow for injuries.
    The car in front of me was taken to the ER. I went to work that day.
    No frame damage only body damage.

    I felt the car held up very well

    Don't ever drive it in the snow though
     
  5. David Lind

    David Lind Formula 3

    Nov 19, 2008
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    All of the Lotus Esprits have a steel backbone frame which forms a "T" in the front and a "Y" in the rear. Inside of that "Y" are mounted the engine and transaxle, and the front and rear suspensions are hung off of the "T" and the "Y", respectively. There are no other large metal components in the structure of an Esprit, and there were originally no metal side beams in the doors. In fact, I am fairly certain there were never metal door beams, as that Lotus (and maybe the Elise) were granted exemptions from side impact legislation for awhile. BTW, I think the Esprit was no longer imported after those exemptions expired.
    Hope this helps!
     
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  6. MD355

    MD355 Formula Junior

    Mar 8, 2004
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    Thanks for the explanation !! Which leads to the next question : what happens if the car rolls over ? Since there is no steel roll over bar, how is the passenger cabin protected ???
     
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  8. David Lind

    David Lind Formula 3

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  9. David Lind

    David Lind Formula 3

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    David Lind
  10. StuR

    StuR Formula Junior

    Jun 14, 2005
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    Stu R
    As per my post - chat on the forums. This has been discussed a lot eg https://www.thelotusforums.com/forums/topic/1104-roll-cage/

    The A pillars provide a good level of protection, with high strength Kevlar reinforcement - extending into other key impact areas.

    Are you thinking of tracking it and the risks of that? In which case there are lots of options including cages; but I wouldn’t drive a caged car on the road (without helmets etc).

    If you are worried about on the road, and it’s not your driving that’s the problem, then what else is on your list? The insurance / salvage sites are full of high performance cars squashed and burnt to give a good insight into what they can end up looking like.




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  11. MD355

    MD355 Formula Junior

    Mar 8, 2004
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    Great write up and explanation !!
    I've heard that the kevlar body of the Esprit is very strong.
    The closest thing I would compare the Esprit is with the F40, both have tubular steel chassis and kevlar panels for reinforcement !!
    Both cars are notorious for being super light and not so safe when it comes to accidents...
    So I guess back in the 80s and early 90s you needed to sacrifice some of the safety for light weight performance !!
    For the same money I could look at a Porsche 997 S , but I find it boring and too commonplace...
    Plus I already own a fantastic 993 Carrera !!
    So I am leaning towards the Esprit
     
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  13. StuR

    StuR Formula Junior

    Jun 14, 2005
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    I wouldn’t worry about the roof. Seriously: I’d focus on the poor aircon and low front spoiler.

    Absolute spot on service history and very well maintained is essential - this should be evidenced. I know we all say this whatever the car, but LOTUS are pretty well known for the challenges and deep pockets that they can generate. Keep it on the button and it’s an old school high performance beast. again, there are lots of things that can be done to modernise the older aspects. But do you want / need to? The old school factor is what you buy it for otherwise a porsche is probably the safer, more reliable daily driver and can give you 50-99% of the Adrenalin depending on your driving ability.

    The benefit of the v8-02 esprit is that at 20mph leaving the supermarket you can still terrify yourself thanks to the low down driving position - and that’s no criticism!!

    That said, there’s a lot of internet / media rumour and then neglected cars that still have shiny gel coat.


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  14. finnerty

    finnerty F1 World Champ

    May 18, 2004
    10,341
    The US market V8s always had steel impact beams in the doors --- there was never an "exemption" for the Esprit on side impact. The Elise had an exemption for bumper height on several MY. But, the V8 Esprit was always US DOT compliant in every way. Some of the earliest (of the MY 1996) Esprits were not imported, but that was due to factors unrelated to safety testing / compliance.
     
  15. finnerty

    finnerty F1 World Champ

    May 18, 2004
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  16. fatbillybob

    fatbillybob Two Time F1 World Champ
    Consultant Owner

    Aug 10, 2002
    20,372
    socal
    safety....Mass wins...
     
  17. finnerty

    finnerty F1 World Champ

    May 18, 2004
    10,341
    #14 finnerty, Jul 8, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2018
    As for rollover protection, it is true there is no integrated "roll bar" in the body structure behind the seats.

    However, there is a very stiff / strong vertical rear bulkhead which spans from the floor pan to the roof line. This panel is a multi-layer composite sandwich structure --- with layers of plywood ( yes, I said plywood ) bonded to GFR and Kevlar reinforcement sheets. It sounds strange, but it is incredibly strong in-plane, and easily as good as a steel / aluminum hoop would be. The only weak point is the cut-out for the rear glass.
     
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  18. finnerty

    finnerty F1 World Champ

    May 18, 2004
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    #15 finnerty, Jul 8, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2018
    As for "crumple zones", they are ALL OVER the body ---- glass fiber and the other (carbon & kevlar) fiber composites used are excellent materials for absorbing impact energy, so having to purposely fold up metal structures is not needed for crash protection on the Esprit.
     
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  19. David Lind

    David Lind Formula 3

    Nov 19, 2008
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    Finnerty, was that side impact beam in the Esprit from the S-1 models in 1977/8?
    Good catch!
     
  20. StuR

    StuR Formula Junior

    Jun 14, 2005
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    Yes. The 1980 model year onwards anyway.

    I’ve used these guys and they have the manuals online like Eurospares do for ferrari etc:

    https://www.deroure.com

    The US and Can systems are different. US had a steel bar, I think, fastened to the aluminium bar section.


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  21. finnerty

    finnerty F1 World Champ

    May 18, 2004
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    #18 finnerty, Jul 9, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2018
    Not sure regarding the earlier 4-cylinder Esprits. Although I am pretty sure the SE and the S-4 had them.

    All my comments refer only to the V8 variants as that was the OP's inquiry, and that is the model I have knowledge of ---- I owned a 2003 for about 6 years.
     
  22. finnerty

    finnerty F1 World Champ

    May 18, 2004
    10,341
    #19 finnerty, Jul 9, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2018
    A lot of things I did not like about that car, but design safety was not one of them :). In fact, I felt safer in the Esprit than I did in some of the Ferraris I've had !

    That said, there is not an exotic sportscar (of any make or any MY) made that I would want to be in a crash with at more that 40 mph !
     
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  23. MD355

    MD355 Formula Junior

    Mar 8, 2004
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    Can you please elaborate what you liked / did not like ? Thanks !!
     
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  24. finnerty

    finnerty F1 World Champ

    May 18, 2004
    10,341
    #21 finnerty, Jul 10, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2018
    Not to be misunderstood, the V8 Esprit is good car overall --- and very fun to drive.

    My major complaints are ---

    Oil Pressure / Temperature Gauges --- There is neither installed. I strongly prefer that ALL my high performance cars have one or the other (best to have both) in the instrument cluster. Absolutely stupid for any sportscar not to have either.
    Fasteners --- In their neurotic zeal to reduce weight, most of the fasteners Lotus used are badly underrated for their tasks. Various attachments constantly break, loosen, or simply fall off the car. I'd much rather the car weigh 30 pounds more and have everything secured properly !!!
    Interior --- Pretty much everything in the interior has a cheapo / chintzy look, feel, and operation ---- has an overall "kit car" quality to it in general. Again, here as well, I'd much rather the car weigh 75 pounds more and have better equipment throughout the cabin !!!
    Gear Shift Mechanism --- This system is lousy --- a poorly designed cable / pulley affair that is very finicky and not at all robust. You can spend hours adjusting to get it "just right", and then after driving the car for a couple of hundred miles....... it will be out of whack again. At any given time, any of the gears can be glitchy to select easily --- 3rd and 4th particularly. But, after a lot of practice, you get fairly adept at "finessing" it into the gears. The key is to be slow and gentle...... if you try to shift fast and rough, it will mostly likely balk and not engage.
    Twin Disc Clutch --- The later cars used a lightened flywheel and twin disc clutch setup. At slow speeds and moving off from a stop, it can be awkward to slip / engage smoothly --- again, another pointless move by Lotus to save a few pounds. The early single plate clutch is superior to drive (also, the twin system is much more costly to replace).
    Sideview Mirrors --- These perpetually loosen up and wobble (shake). Does not matter how much you tighten them up ---- they rattle loose again. And, it is a big job to take them off the car, and take them apart to access the components that need to be snugged down. There is also a very weak detente mechanism inside that is prone to breaking making the mirror loose permanently (these reasons are why most every V8 Esprit you come across will have at least one wobbly door mirror).

    My minor complaints are ---

    Rear Visibility --- This is virtually nonexistent, and the rear quarter blind spots are large ----- no real problem on the highway, but in town driving with high traffic can be a real PITA...... and you really want a passenger along to help be your look out. Only car I've ever driven that was worse in this regard was the Lamborghini Countach (and they are notorious for it).
    Rear Wing --- IMHO, this thing is useless as it has no significant aerodynamic performance and it looks ridiculous on the car ---- unfortunately, the car looks even worse with it removed. But, that is a personal aesthetic of course, as probably some folks really like it ? However, if you are a DIYer, I guarantee that you WILL hit your head on either corner of the damn thing no less than every 5th time you pull your head out from the engine bay :mad
     
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  25. David Lind

    David Lind Formula 3

    Nov 19, 2008
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    Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play? ;)
     
  26. StuR

    StuR Formula Junior

    Jun 14, 2005
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    Say what you like about the 348/355, you cant fault its wing mirror fixings. Just shows what high-end R&D gets you!


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  27. finnerty

    finnerty F1 World Champ

    May 18, 2004
    10,341
    LOL :)

    Hey, that reminds me ----- speaking of plays, then theaters, then balconies, then seating ;) ----- the seats in the car are none too great. Spending more than an hour or two in the driver's seat becomes quite uncomfortable.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    As for the GOOD about the car, that's easy.......

    All you have to do is point it down the twistiest road you can find and mash the throttle --- there really is nothing quite like that legendary "as if it were riding on rails" handling through fast corners ! I've taken 90-degree corners at 30mph, and clover leaf highway exits without hardly slowing down :)

    You cannot break that car loose or even seriously scrub the tires (unless you foolishly light up the turbos when exiting a tight turn ---- the rear end will step out wildly) on proper, dry pavement.
     
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  28. Tony K

    Tony K Formula 3

    Jun 7, 2006
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    Claims of no beam or steel beam are incorrect.

    Every Esprit ever made has a side impact beam in the door, and all of them are aluminum. From the very first S1 to the very last V8, all beams, all alloy, no steel.

    Whereas in the early '70s lots of manufacturers began inserting steel beams into doors to meet U.S. FMVSS standards for intrusion (how many inches at what speed of impact), the Elite (followed by the Esprit) went a step further by incorporating the door beam as part of the safety cell design rather than just a piece that makes the door stiffer.

    The Esprit's safety cell is composed primarily of the marine plywood bulkhead behind the occupants, the door beams/hinges, the steel beam running under the dashboard, and the center tunnel (frame). There are additional steel gussets where the bulkhead meets the door jamb (they are obscured from view by the fuel tanks and bulkhead carpet), and the sills are three sections (fiberglass) deep (outer, inner, and interior), with the middle one being significantly thicker. The A-pillars also contribute to the strength.

    In a rollover, the plywood bulkhead serves as a roll hoop, and your head being right in front of it is in a relatively good spot given its tiny cabin.

    As noted by someone earlier, where steel cars have crumple zones to absorb and transfer the energy, fiberglass aids in dispersing the energy by breaking into pieces and flying all over the place.

    For the size and mass of the Esprit, it is a relatively safe car for its day; the safety cell is decent relative to the mass of the car itself. But as also noted earlier in this thread, in an accident, mass wins. You might escape getting crushed, but if you do you are likely to be punted like a football instead.

    I was in a minor accident in an Esprit S1 about 18 years ago where my door was hit at an angle from behind. The inner and outer fiberglass of the door were shattered, the car was moved a couple of feet, the beam still closed perfectly with the car, and the structure was completely intact. I was uninjured.

    A friend of mine was in a serious accident in a Giugiaro Turbo Esprit. He was T-boned at a rural intersection where a pickup ran a stop sign. The car shattered into thousand pieces similar to how an Indy or F1 car does; he survived with injuries that were not as bad as the accident looked. He replaced the car with another Giugiaro Turbo Esprit. He survived a similar accident in a 1984 Corvette and has a deep appreciation for the properties of fiberglass . . .

    If you visit The Lotus Forums, you can find several stories and photos of people's Esprit accidents. There are few, but the occupants all fared well from my recollection (including one that involved higher speeds and a tree).

    Also, here are what some Esprits look like after accidents: http://www.wreckedexotics.com/lotus/esprit

    The Stevens and later Esprits are indeed stiffer and stronger thanks to the Kevlar reinforcements.

    IIRC, the waivers that Lotus got for continuing to import the V8 Esprit were due to limited roof padding/head room and/or the slope of the door glass/nearness to the occupant's head ("tumblehome" slope) in a rollover accident. Maybe someone more knowledgeable can chime in . . .

    Lotus were proud of their accomplishments in the 1970s with regard to safety, including winning the Don Safety Trophy for the Elite. Mike Kimberley posts on a couple of the Esprit and Lotus Facebook groups and has given details about some of the Esprit's safety features from time to time (for example, how the steering column is pulled forward away from the driver a couple of inches in a frontal collision), and you can tell by the tone of his posts that he is pleased with his/Lotus' accomplishments. The chart below is for the Elite from the mid-1970s, showing the degree by which it exceeded some minimum safety requirements. It is an antiquated test and it doesn't say much today, but it was a win for the Elite in its day, and either way Lotus applied many of the same principles and techniques in the Esprit.

    The Esprit is no S-Class Mercedes when it comes to safety, but it's no MGB, either. It was decent for its time, and met all U.S. safety regs (with the exception of the noted waivers above) all through production.

    I pray that you all be safe and have fun. :)

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