Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chrome Under Glass... 1984 Lotus Esprit With A 6 Cylinder Ford SHO Engine

As I've written, I'm not a huge fan of transplanting drivetrains from one brand of car into another. However, there are exceptions to everything in life and, in my mind, this is one of them.

This Lotus Esprit S2 has a 6 cylinder Ford SHO engine in it.

This is not an old-school "drop a big motor in a small car" type of conversion. This appears to have been done right. Very right. There were no modifications made to the Lotus frame or body.

According to the seller, the conversion "uses factory Ford engine management components with the OBD II diagnostics". He states that all the SHO emissions systems are in place and working properly, including the catalytic converters and O2 sensors. The car still uses the French built Lotus 5 speed transaxle. All the gauges work correctly with the engine.

Purists get angry at these types of conversions. I'm usually right there with them. All I can say is take a look at the eBay listing and click on the two YouTube links the seller provides. If you're not impressed by the look of the SHO engine in the Lotus engine bay or by the potential performance an engine like that brings to this car, turn up the sound on your computer. No Lotus 4 cylinder engine ever sounded that nice (and they sound pretty good). If it sounds that good through tiny computer speakers, imagine how nice it will sound behind your head at full throttle on a mountain road. This is a car I'd love to own.

Located in Madill, OK, click here to see the eBay listing.


Chris Keen said...

Wow, I think I'm in love.... what a great use for such a great engine. And so well-done too... did you submit it to bringatrailer?

Richard said...

Love it! Agree 100%, not a fan of engine swaps, but the motor in the Lotus just wasn't that reliable, swapping it with an SHO gives you car that you can now enjoy. Plus I think the SHO was initially designed for a mid-engined sports car that ford never produced? Nice to see it back in a mid-engined car.

Bill said...

Nice idea! I am neutral on swaps, would love a more reliable lump in my Elan, but this gets the power that normally aspirated Esprits lacked, without the turbo heat and headaches. You commented on the flush door handles on an AMC a few weeks ago. Here they are, also on the Marina. Same Wilmot-Breeden part...

Jon said...

In my humble opinion, a fine swap that made an otherwise problematic car that could actually be driven and enjoyed.

It's far from being a typical hillbilly swap.

It's hard for me to get anywhere near "purist" regarding this era of Lotus cars, or certain British classics in general. My take is if you can get your car to make it to the corner store and back, you are a mechanical genius.

I recently checked out the website "www.britishv8.org." It is filled with British cars with v8 swaps. As you can imagine, some conversions are better thought out than others. The neat thing about this site is that it offers the owners impressions of their cars post conversion.

Face it, the Esprit generally is a "Project Car Hell" allstar. Let's not even bring up the Excel, Eclat, or Elite.

Consider the history of the Esprit and how the V8 actually ended up in the later cars. The Esprit WIKI states that the 1995 (or 1996) S4 "was to be the end of the line for the Esprit but a cancelled project for a front engine car had left Lotus with a compact V8 and no car to put it into." Yep, they engineered and built a new motor and cancelled the model it was supposed to go into. That's strategic planning, UK style.

Reminds me of when Jaguar couldn't shoehorn the V12 from the XJ12 into the XJ40. The XJ WIKI says "The delay in fitting the V12 engine was due to the design of the engine bay which was too narrow to allow a V formation engine..." The last six-cylinder Series III XJ was produced in 1987In a brilliant marketing move, the old V12 Series III XJ shared space on the showroom floor with the new XJ40 until 1992.

I could go on, but you get the point.

Come to think about it, a good part of the British car industry was in part based on "swaps" and conversions. Think Sunbeam Tiger. For roughly 40 years, the Rover Buick 215 was crowbarred into a number of vehicles made by MG, Morgan and others. Chrysler engines powered Jensens and Bristols.

The current Lotus lineup uses Toyota engines.

Which brings me to my final take on this car based on the methodical and scientific Kevin Bacon point theory.

First: The word "Esprit" in French means "spirit." This brings me to...

Second: There is a current Elise model using a Toyota engine with a "Yamaha designed twin-cam head." The SHO motor in this Esprit was likewise developed by Yamaha. The common Yamaha "heritage," a key phrase for "purists," seals the deal as it keeps the car safely within the spirit of the Lotus legacy.

Third: The SHO WIKI suggests that regarding the SHO motor... "There has been some confusion about the original intended use of the engine. It was thought this engine was first intended to power a mid-engine sports car..." Apparently the mid engine project was cancelled. Therefore, the SHO swap in this project keeps in the spirit with its originally intended use as a mid engine motor.

Case closed, I'm hitting the hay.