World’s best 1977 Lotus Esprit visits Jay Leno’s Garage

It’s rare to find one-owner classic cars. Time marches on and aging automobiles have to make way for more modern machines. That’s the case most of the time, but not so for Detlef Claudius. He’s owned his bright yellow Lotus Esprit since he bought it new back in 1977.

Detlef owns the car with his son Jason, and the two recently visited Jay Leno’s Garage with their car. The Lotus has clearly become a beloved member of the family. It’s exactly the sort of machine that Jay Leno loves to see because the family’s dedication to the machine shines brightly. You can see it in the clean paint, strong engine, and the simple joy the duo takes in driving and owning the car.

Back in 1977, Detlef paid $14,500 for the car. Since that time it’s only accumulated 19,500 miles. In fact, it’s probably the best 1977 Espirit on the planet, though it’s not original. That’s because Detlef is one talented automotive technician who owns his own Lotus shop. This car has an upgraded turbocharged engine from a later model Esprit. It’s good for 300 horsepower, which is more than enough for a car that weighs around 2,300 pounds.

The modifications don’t stop with the engine because Detlef could never make up his mind on the interior. He does his own leather work and this is the fifth iteration. Detlef added other neat little touches like a remote boot release machined from billet aluminum, a tidy fuse block with relays, and a power brake system with Willwood hardware up front. He did all of the work in his own shop, too, with the exception of the paint.

The family is kind enough to let Jay take the car for a drive. Once out on the road, the car clearly loves to run. It lets out raspy snarls both on throttle and off, and the turbocharger whistles away. It is almost certainly a truly engaging driving experience. In fact, son Jason says he can keep up with the more-powerful V-8 Espirits. They weight a bit more so his power-to-weight ratio gives him a serious advantage. It doesn’t hurt that this car makes far more power than a stock version and even more than the later model that donated the engine.

Leno likes the car but he also seems weary about the brand overall. He says that owning a Lotus is like «falling in love with the wrong woman.» You know it’s a mistake, but you can’t help yourself.

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