A bit of history...
No, not the history of the Esprit, that's been done before! I mean, how did I end up with one?
Well, back in the mists of time, I and several friends were sat in a pub, as you do, wittering on about the cars that we would have 'someday'. Two or three of us mentioned the Esprit, but the nearest anyone got was a '75 Elite. Years passed and I 'got into' TVRs. As my 40th birthday rapidly approached another meeting in a pub resurrected the Esprit tale, and it occurred to me that I might actually be in a position to do something about it.
I pondered for a while, and decided I didn't want to do what the 'experts' tell you and buy the best car you can, because I already had one sports car and didn't want another load of debt and upkeep. Also, the Esprit wouldn't be able to sleep in the garage as the TVR takes up most of the space and tools, lathes etc. take up the rest! So, no point in buying a tidy example, as it may not stay that way. In addition, for some perverse reason I seem to get a kick out of pulling things to bits and fixing them, so where's the fun in a car that isn't broken? ;)
I set about the search for a scruffy Esprit. Almost the first car I found was mostly stripped down, body off, chassis refurbished etc. Basically an Esprit-shaped jigsaw puzzle. Even the asked price of £1500 didn't seem too bad considering the work that had already been done, but the seller was convinced the 'personal plate' was worth another £1000 and wasn't prepared to do a deal. I kept looking.
A 'wanted' ad. on the PIstonheads website elicited an email from a guy (Nick) in Marlborough, claiming to have three sheds full of Esprits. He emailed me some pictures so I hired a trailer and set off for Wiltshire.
Sure enough there were about 5 Esprits, ranging from a Series 2 JPS in kit form to a Series 3 that would have been perfect if only I didn't already have an expensive sports car :)
I settled for the black Series 3 that you see on this site. With 87000 miles and a dozen (mostly uncaring) owners from new it fitted the bill a treat. The car was sat under a carport that was accessed by a ramp through a tunnel formed by the buildings around it. We fitted a battery but all we got was the warning lights on the dash - no fuel pump, no starter solenoid click, nothing. I pondered the wisdom of buying a car- especially an Esprit - that I hadn't heard running, but decided to go for it anyway!
We put some air in the tyres, pushed the Esprit to the bottom of the ramp and hitched it to Nick's Stilo with a towrope around the only part of the Esprit chassis that you can use for this, which of course meant I'd have to steer the car backwards through the tunnel. There wasn't room for me to steer through the window, so I had no choice but to jump in. Too late I realised that I couldn't see a damn thing out of the rear window for dirt, and the door mirror was pointing at the sky. Instead of a gentle tow, Nick hurtled up the ramp with me praying that I wouldn't hit the sides of the tunnel. By some miracle we made it and winched the car onto the trailer. Money changed hands and we set off for the return trip North.
When I got the car home, it only required about 30 minutes work to get it running. I borrowed the battery from the TVR and turned the key. Nothing, so I got a multimeter on the starter solenoid and proved it was getting a supply from the switch. I clouted the starter repeatedly with a small hammer, turning the key every few blows, until suddenly it engaged and the engine churned over but wouldn't fire. With no fuel pump running, and having been stood for a while, it was hardly surprising; sure enough I took the tops off the carb. float chambers and found them dry. Frustratingly, my spare fuel can was empty, so a quick trip to the petrol station ensued, the carbs were filled up and the key turned. After a short spell of sluggish turning, the engine caught and, as they say, burst into life. Relief! Next I jacked the rear up so I could wriggle underneath and checked for supply at the fuel pump. The pump was getting a feed alright but not making the usual SU ticking sound. Gentle application of the 'uncalibrated tapometer' followed, interspersed with touching the 12v supply wire on the terminal. Eventually there was a click. Then another, then a series of clicks. Next thing, there was a prominent smell of petrol. What the hell...? Then I realised I'd left the fuel pipe off the carbs! The pipe was reinstalled and the key turned. Tick-tick-tick-tick-tick... nothing. Oh yeah, it stops ticking when the carbs are full. Ahem. :-D
Pull the choke, turn the key, whirr-whirr-whirr-whirr-VROOM! Wahey, it lives! Quick, what's the oil pressure gauge say? Is the battery charging? Is anything leaking? Amazingly, I thought, considering the car had been stood for 18 months, it all went rather well.
I spent a happy evening or two compiling a list of defects and tasks that ranged from setting the clock to rebuilding the suspension. I knew that the car wouldn't pass an MOT test with the faults I could find quite easily and I wasn't about to insult my mate Big John by turning up with the Esprit in that condition. I forget how, but I ended up on the SJ Sportscars website. An absolute goldmine of a supplier with almost every component you could possibly need to fix your Esprit. Straight off I needed a trunnion and a balljoint, but it seemed to make sense, especially given how inexpensive some of the parts are, to do the job properly, so I ordered balljoints, front wheel bearings, trunnions, bushes for the anti-roll bar and lower levers and so on. As I worked my way round the car I found several items that needed replacement, but luckily it had good tyres, unlike a couple of the others I'd seen!
I bought the Esprit in February 2004, but it was mid-May before I got an MOT and June before I could get out and drive the car. If you're interested, you can follow the following links to see some of the jobs I tackled; disproving, I hope, the myth that the Esprit is not a car for the 'home mechanic' (update Oct '07 - I have removed some pages that had zero content)...