Saturday 15 August 2020 12:00 pm

Lotus Esprit Turbo driven by Mrs Thatcher to make a comeback

A Lotus Turbo Esprit that was driven by Margaret Thatcher, when she visited Norfolk in 1981, is to be restored. The metallic Silver Diamond Esprit was also the final ‘company car’ of Lotus founder Colin Chapman, giving the motor a special place in the hearts of both petrol-heads and free-marketeers.

The car will be the first recipient of Lotus’ new Certificate of Provenance programme, and will eventually join the marque’s heritage collection.

Margaret Thatcher in a Lotus Turbo Esprit

First registered to Lotus on 1 August 1981, the Esprit was allocated to Chapman for his exclusive use. After he died in December 1982, it was sold by Lotus in July 1983 and has been privately owned ever since. Today, the odometer shows just 11,000 miles.

Factory-fit options include an oh-so-80s red leather interior, air-conditioning and a Panasonic head unit built into the roof panel. The latter was an idea borrowed from the limited edition Essex Turbo.

Lotus Turbo Esprit

There are also several features added at Chapman’s request that make this car truly unique. It was the first Esprit with power steering, for example, and rides on modified and lowered suspension. The brakes have also been upgraded, while the car wears dished BBS Mahle alloy wheels.

Chapman showed off the Esprit to Margaret Thatcher when she arrived at Norwich airport on 5 August 1981.

Margaret Thatcher in a Lotus Turbo Esprit

Thatcher sat behind the wheel of the Esprit while the paparazzi snapped away, then drove it around the airport’s private roads.

Whether she got the 213hp four-cylinder engine fully on-boost isn’t recorded, but the Iron Lady was a sports car fan – she’d previously owned an MGB GT. According to local newspapers, Thatcher said: “I was tempted to drive away in it”.

Lotus Certificate of Provenance

The Lotus Certificate of Provenance is a new scheme designed to authenticate – and potentially add value – to Lotus cars of any era. The certificate itself summarises a car’s spec, including the build date, VIN code and paint colour.

An additional Build Specification Letter offers greater detail, such as the engine and transmission types, standard features and optional extras. The Certificate of Provenance comes in a presentation box with a signed letter from Lotus CEO, Phil Popham.

Tim Pitt writes for Retro Motor.