Colin Chapman may have been taken by the Reaper prematurely at the age of 54, but in his relatively short life, he accomplished more than many people could in a millennium. His racing outfit Team Lotus won seven Formula 1 titles and an Indianapolis 500 on his watch, and even if his scrappy little automaker hadn't lived on to this day, its memory would live on immortalized by the Esprit's appearance in two James Bond films.
Speaking of the Esprit, one of the finest examples of the iconic Lotus has just come up for sale, one that was personally owned by Chapman himself (and driven by at least two other big names), and also equipped with several improvements that you won't find on any other production unit.
An early entry in the Esprit's facelifted "series three" production, Chapman's car rolled off the line in February 1981 already equipped with numerous upgrades demanded by Chapman himself. Its suspension was lower and its brake pads uprated, presumably to counter any power gained by having his Esprit's 2.2-liter, 210-horsepower turbo-four carefully built by hand.
Performance, however, wasn't Chapman's sole concern, and he had his car equipped with multiple creature comforts seen rarely (or not at all) on other Esprits. His car got modified bodywork that reduced cabin noise and enhanced ventilation, which was further modified with the inclusion of air conditioning and special cabin air filters that filtered out pollens that made his allergies flare up. This car also got the first set of factory-equipped BBS alloy wheels on an Esprit, not to mention a power steering system said to be unique to this car.
Shortly after its registration in August 1981, Chapman's Esprit was presented to then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who remarked the car was "lovely" after taking it for a drive. One of Lotus's F1 drivers Elio de Angelis is also believed to have taken Chapman's Esprit for a spin, though whether this happened before or after the Lotus founder's passing isn't known. What is known is that Chapman himself accrued some decent mileage on the car before his death in December 1982, as its odometer read 4,460 miles as of February 1983.
Today, this unique Esprit has barely 11,000 miles on the clock and a recent service under its belt, making it a well-preserved example on top of being one with unrivaled provenance. As such, it should come as no surprise that its seller Mark Donaldson Limited only offers its price "on application," which is the upper crust's way of saying "if you have to ask..."
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h/t: Top Gear