1978 – 1981 Lotus Esprit S2

Years: 1978-1981
Names: Series 2 / S2 / Type 79
Units: 1,061
Engine: 1973 cc inline 4
Power: 160 bhp @ 6,200 rpm
Torque: 140 lb/ft @ 4,900 rpm
0-60 mph: 7.3 secs

By 1978, the Esprit was upgraded Series Two specification including a new front spoiler and rear valance. There were also new alloy wheels, wider seats and new instrument cluster. A Commemorative Edition was made to commemorate Lotus’ 1978 F1 World Championship.


On 27 July 1978, just two days before the annual factory holiday shutdown, Lotus decided to issue a press release detailing S2 modifications. That press release, however, was embargoed until ‘001 hours 16 August 1978’ — a cunning move, as it meant that journalists could not get through to ask awkward questions, unless they called an unlisted direct line. Externally, the sharp-edged lines were much the same as before, but some useful modifications had taken place.

The front spoiler dropped the blade principle and wrapped around the under-bumper area instead. That was the reason why the company quoted the best original Esprit aerodynamic Cd factor on record: 0.335. The top speed claim remained at 138mph , but the most noticeable driving change was cross-wind stability — enhanced by the integrated front spoiler.

More ‘air management’ had been applied to the engine bay. A set of ‘ears’ sprouted around the side rear windows. They collected the air-stream for diversion to the engine induction. The battery was moved from its S1 cabin location into ‘the floor of the boot’.

Aside from the aerodynamic changes, the most striking external alterations came from the fitment of Speedline alloy wheels. The new wheels were designed by Lotus at the personal behest of Colin Chapman. Other external changes included the use of black chip-resistant paint treatment to the spoiler, sills and rear valance. Remote control door mirrors where also introduced.

Related: Esprit Ultimate Guide / Current Lineup / Lotus Models / Lotus News

From the rear, a most notable alteration was the incorporation of ridged Rover 3500 tail lamps, which encompassed high-intensity fog warning lamps.Major Interior updates included, new black & white dials, oil pressure, battery volt, water temperature and fuel tank gauges. Switchgear was updated to include individual graphics, illuminated via fibre optics.

Electric windows switches moved and a digital clock appeared. The seats became 2in wider, access to the engine bay was considerably improved. The engine cover was re-designed, with a Britool tool kit, wheel brace and jack on top, and there was also an access hatch for oil and water checks towards the rear of the cover.

The S2 also had a incorporate the air-intake system for the carburettors, whilst hot air from the engine bay was extracted thermally to exit via the right-hand external ‘ear’.The S2 was primarily a machine of greater creature comfort, rather than of improved performance. Made between 1978 and 1981, 1,061 S2s rolled of the production line (only 33 during 1980-81).

Specs

Model 1978 – 1981 Lotus Esprit S2
Engine Lotus 907 1973 cc four-cylinder in-line, 16-valve DOHC, two Dell’Orto carburettors.
Bore & Stroke 95.2mm x 69.2mm
Compression 9.5:1
Power 160 bhp @ 6,200 rpm
Torque 140 lb/ft @ 4,900 rpm
Body/Chassis Glassfibre-reinforced plastic body with steel backbone chassis. Passenger compartment encapsulated in a ‘safety-cell structure’.
Transmission Five-speed manual unit. Synchromesh on all forward gears; fifth gear is overdrive, Clutch: 8.5in diaphragm spring, hydraulically operated. Rear-wheel drive
Brakes Front – 9.7 in discs, Rear – 10.6in inboard discs
Steering Rack-and-pinion, Castor: 3 to 3.5 degrees, Kingpin: 9 degrees.
Suspension (Front) Independent unequal length wishbones and coil springs. Telescopic shock absorbers. Anti-roll bar. 
Suspension (Rear) Independent diagonal trailing arms and lateral link with fixed-length driveshaft, coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers
Wheels & Tyres Front: 7J x 14, 195/60 HR14. Rear: 7.5J x 14, 205/70 HR14
Weight 2248 lb (1022 kg)
Height 111 cm
Width 186 cm
Length 419 cm
Wheelbase 244 cm
Cost new £12,000

Performance

Top speed 124 mph
0-62mph 6.8 sec

Lotus Esprit S2 Press Release

Lotus Esprit S2 — the exclusive mid engined, two seater high performance sports car, hand built for discerning customers all over the world.

Body and interior styling has been influenced by one of Europe’s leading designers — Giugiaro. Manufacture utilises the very latest technology in glass fibre reinforced plastic and incorporates many safety features.

Powered by the highly successful 907, 16 valve, twin overhead camshaft aluminium engine, the Esprit’s performance is what everyone expects from Lotus — outstanding.

Lotus advanced engineering expertise makes cars more practical, more efficient and therefore more fitting for their purpose. Refinements incorporated in the S2 are numerous. Naturally, the Esprit virtues for impeccable driving comfort are retained but there are improvements which only continual development can create. For instance, the wrap around spoiler, for increased aerodynamic efficiency.

Alloy wheels to Lotus design — with hub offsets to increase the Esprit’s track by an inch, adding even more stability to perhaps the most famous Lotus asset — roadholding. Vertical air intakes — rear to the side windows — provide improved ventilation to both the rear screen; engine bay and inlet manifold — improved interior, seats, instrumentation, plus built-in high intensity fog lamps in the new tail lights — all help to make driving the Esprit a pleasure.

The Esprit S2, can be described very simply — a rare thoroughbred and one of the most beautiful cars in the world.

Lotus Esprit S2 Review

AutoCar August 1978 – What They Said

Lotus Esprit S2. Revisions for Lotus’s slinky mid-engined two-seater best-seller

Since its announcement in October 1975 and its production life which began nearly a year later, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Lotus Esprit has not been a conspicuous success. You still don’t see many about, certainly not by the standards of a better-established rival like Porsche. But in fact Lotus say that a total of 1,300 Esprits have been sold, and three-quarters of them have been exported, notably to the States – 12 million dollars worth. This week some interesting revisions are announced, the new car being called the Lotus Esprit S2.

There are no major changes. The basic layout stays the same – Lotus’s 2-litre 160bhp light-alloy four sits longitudinally behind the driver, mated to the Maserati five-speed transaxle originally made for the now-dead Citroen SM. Coil-spring suspension is partly borrowed from the Opel Ascona in front – double wishbones with an integral anti-roll bar – and Lotus’s own Elite-based three-link independent arrangement at the back, using the drive shaft as one member. The body uses Lotus’s remarkable low pressure injection moulding method (details of which Lotus still try to keep from competitors) to form two glass-fibre sections, upper and lower, like a plastic model car; the necessary join at waist level is made a feature of the Ital Design styling.

So what has changed? From outside the greatest difference is in the way the front spoiler has been wrapped around at the sides to improve straight-line stability and aerodynamic balance, and to put more air through the new larger-capacity radiator. The other important aerodynamic move which will incidentally aid recognition is the fitting of quite pronounced air scoops between the rear quarter window and the fuel filler cap on each side. Happily, as you would expect from such a functional design team as Lotus, these are not dummies and they have important jobs to perform. The left-hand one feeds ram-induced air via a spreader duct placed close to the back window into the rear luggage compartment, ‘ensuring’, say Lotus, ‘a constant flow of air over the inside of the rear screen, preventing condensation build-up in high humidity climates.’ You will of course only persuade air through a closed box like a boot if it has got somewhere to get out afterwards. This is provided by a corresponding duct on the other side of the glass which collects the air into a tube duct leading into the side of the carburettor air-filter box. Even at idle, therefore, the luggage compartment air is on the move. The air scoop on the right feeds cooling air directly into the engine compartment itself.

The makers claim a useful improvement in volumetric efficiency – due one suspects as much to the coolness of incoming air as to any ram pressure effects – to the tune of 0.3 sec off the claimed 0-60 time (from 7.1 to 6.8 sec) and 0.8 sec off their 0-100 (from 20.2 to 19.4 sec).

The wheels are new, designed and styled by Lotus and made by Speedline who also produce the wheels for the World Championship-leading Lotus 79 formula 1 cars. These use the same tyres as before (205/60HR14in. front, 205/70HR14 rear) but combined with increased offset their extra widths – 7in. front, 7.5in. rear – add 1in. to the track dimensions. The bigger width is also the main reason for the adoption of a smaller ‘get-you-home’ 185/70VR13in. tyre and wheel as a spare.

The exhaust system is revised with an extra intermediate silencer, hot-aluminium sprayed down-pipes, aluminised main silencer and tail pipes, and olive-type pipe connections for more reliable sealing. Under the tail, the engine cover now incorporates an inspection hatch so that you don’t have to take it off to check oil and water levels. It carries a new tool kit (formerly in the nose) and inside it has a hot air ‘dam’ separating hot (exhaust) and cold (carburettor) sides of the engine for better engine cooling and hot starting on very warm days.

Remaining exterior details include the new tail lamps with rear fog warning lamps, a different number plate panel and a black chip-resistant band on sills, spoiler and tail valance, plus double coachlines and Esprit S2 transfers on the rear gussets – which unfortunately continue, blocking rear quarter view.

Inside, the instrument cluster has been altered to make it easier to read, a revised warning lamp set-up deals with most mechanical functions including a cooling fan failure warning, rocker switches are replaced by slide ones, fibre-optic lighting is provided for switch functions (au Jaguar), and electric window switches now live closer to the gear lever. A digital clock, its display dimmed when the side lamps are on, sits between the sun visors. Seats are 2in. wider, claimed to give better lateral and lumbar support and allow 1in. more headroom.

Price increases by slightly more than 9 per cent. Lotus say that the first two Esprit S2 examples have been delivered to Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson. Ordinary mortals should be able to find one from announcement day (16 August) if they are quick off the mark. Total Hethel production now (of Elites, Eclats and the new Esprits) averages around 30 a week; Esprits are Lotus’s best seller and up to 20 are produced per month. At present, with a buoyant Lotus home market, roughly half of these are sold in Britain.