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Parts-Bin Engineering: Richard Cumo’s Lotus Esprit S4

 
1994 Lotus Esprit S4

Richard Cumo’s 1994 Lotus Esprit S4 at a recent Cars & Coffee event in Ohio. (Image/Paul Sakalas – OnAllCylinders)

In production from 1976 to 2004, the Lotus Esprit built an impressive resume.

It made appearances in two James Bond films (including once as a submarine), was featured alongside Julia Roberts in the movie “Pretty Woman,” earned an IMSA Bridgestone Supercar Championship driver’s title, and starred in video games on the Sega Genesis.

That pedigree helped Richard Cumo fall in love with the car.

A gearhead and track day enthusiast, we sat down with Cumo and his 1994 Lotus Esprit S4 at a recent Cars & Coffee event at Summit Racing’s headquarters in Tallmadge, OH, near Akron.

Being a long-time Mitsubishi tuner, Cumo was looking for a new challenge—or in his words “I figured I needed a 1970’s-designed 90’s supercar made by a GM-owned British car manufacturer. What can go wrong?”

At its core, the Lotus Esprit is a British supercar built using Lotus founder Colin Chapman’s famous philosophy of “adding lightness.”

You won’t see a 1,000+ horsepower V12 engine here, instead you’ll see a turbocharged 4-cylinder wrapped in a nimble, featherweight package.

“I figured I needed a 1970’s-designed 90’s supercar made by a GM-owned British car manufacturer. What can go wrong?”

The engine is a Lotus-designed turbocharged four-cylinder making over 260 hp (which was respectable power for the era). It also helped that the car weighed less than 2,700 pounds. In 1994, its 0-60 time was a swift 4.7 seconds with a maximum speed of 161 miles per hour.

But what’s really special about Cumo’s Esprit is its “parts bin” origins. As a company, Lotus didn’t have a pile of cash for R&D. Instead it used parts from the world’s major auto manufacturers. For instance, the taillights are shared with a Toyota AE86 (Corolla, here in the states). The steering wheel? Poached from a Pontiac Firebird. Throw in some assorted Lucas, Bosch, Opel, and Renault components, and it’s easy to see that an Esprit is a marvel of vehicle engineering.

Though his Esprit runs well, Cumo said he’s pulling the engine in a few weeks to settle some minor issues and handle preventative maintenance. He assures us that it’s going to be on the road again soon—and we believe him.

“I drive it everywhere,” Cumo said, as he ducked into the cockpit and sped away.

1994 Lotus Esprit S4, Driving

Everywhere Cumo goes, he’s answering questions about his Lotus.

 

1994 Lotus Esprit S4, Rear

Could you tell that those taillights are actually from a Toyota Corolla? Lotus designers get a gold star for their ingenuity.

 

 

1994 Lotus Esprit S4, Cockpit

The Lotus cockpit is well finished, note the Pontiac-sourced steering wheel.

 

994 Lotus Esprit S4, Parking Lot

Low and light—a modest-size Subaru Impreza hatchback towers over the Esprit.

 

1994 Lotus Esprit S4, Side View

The S4 edition lasted from 1994-2004, when Esprit production ceased.

 

1994 Lotus Esprit S4 Engine Bay

The Lotus-designed 2.0L engine featured an innovative water-to-air intercooler system dubbed “Chargecooler.”

 

1994 Lotus Esprit S4, Side

In 1994, the Esprit debuted its new deep-offset alloy wheels seen here.

Photos by OnAllCylinders’ Paul Sakalas

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