A great modern Lotus in an old school colour scheme – talk about a match made in heaven
By Matt Bird / Monday, January 17, 2022 / Loading comments
Like many a great Lotus tale, the story of the Esprit Essex Turbo – or the Essex Commemorative Lotus Esprit Turbo, to give the car its full name – is not a simple one. Not least because turbocharging an Esprit proved trickier than expected, a situation not made any easier by the distraction of the DeLorean fiasco. But Lotus got there in the end, the dry-sumped Esprit Turbo ready for the world just as Colin Chapman finished a sponsorship deal with the Essex Overseas Petroleum Company. Which nowadays sounds like an offshoot of Trotters Independent Traders, but once upon a time had enough in the bank to become title sponsor of Lotus F1. A deal was struck between Chapman and EOPC boss David Thieme for 1980 and 1981 that included the road car deal. The arrangement was said to be worth around $8m; it was April 1981 that Thieme was arrested for defrauding Credit Suisse of $7.6m…
So that’s the background (!). The Essex Turbo itself immediately became another Esprit legend. Of course the turbo thrill was exciting, and its rarity made it desirable, but the styling is what ensured the new car legendary status. The blue and red combo was inspired, the ‘Goodyear’ tyre font perfect and the ‘Essex’ decals exactly what the early 1980s ordered. It isn’t white with tartan or Sport 350 silver, but the Essex Turbo look was one of the best worn by an Esprit.
The Essex was loved so much, in fact, that Essex Blue would return to the Lotus palette. In 2016 the Hethel Edition Evora was offered with it (and looked great, of course), and was subsequently introduced to the Heritage range of paints. You don’t see it very often – Lotus offers plenty of shades, and the cars suit a lot of them – but kudos to whoever specced this Exige Cup 430 from the factory in Essex Blue, because it looks an absolute treat. There’s plenty of red here too, on the endplates, calipers and in the engine, if not quite as much as an Essex Turbo. Just needs the visible tyre writing, really.
The Cup 430 was the ultimate Exige, pairing the most powerful version of the V6 first seen in the Evora GT430 with the lighter Exige body. With a host of brake and suspension upgrades alongside, it was a truly exceptional track car. Which the seller of this one is all too aware of – ‘Never seen a track… so far’ reads the advert.
Still, the Essex Blue Cup 430 looks all set for whatever adventures 2022 has in store. It’s covered just 5,500 miles since the end of 2018, with a full Lotus service history – its most recent check-up at 5k. A button to have the exhaust valve permanently open is probably huge fun, but maybe not the most suitable thing for circuit. A stereo and air-con are useful features not included in the standard spec, and this Exige has a tracker fitted as well.
As the fastest Exige ever to leave Hethel, the 430 Cup has always been prized, and that situation doesn’t seem likely to change with production having now finished. Currently there isn’t one available for less than £85k, and more than £100k being asked for delivery mileage cars. Which means that £87,999 for the Essex is about par for the course, with no premium for the Esprit-evoking colour scheme. Sounds like a good deal to us. But, if only the real deal will do, there’s also a genuine Essex Turbo on PH – wonder what the POA for that is…
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