CLA Build Stories: The Beginning of the Lotus Esprit VQ – Part 1

Esprit VQ

Club Lotus Australia is full of interesting people who are up to interesting things with interesting cars. We think that’s wonderful, so we’re going to share their stories with you here!

If you’d like to share your story on the club website, just send Seth a quick email at

In this post, we kick off Geoff Winder’s journey with his Lotus Esprit VQ track toy.

By Geoff Winder

Many years ago I purchased an Esprit. I made the mistake of buying an unloved example and spent the next 8 years restoring and repairing it. When I had finished I found myself hankering for another project. I looked at lots of non-Lotus options, but I eventually decided to go back to what I knew – another Esprit.

Esprit VQ

This was my first viewing of the Esprit. It had just completed the cruise from the UK to Sydney and been steam cleaned ready for me to pick up. It doesn’t look too bad in the photos but the pictures lie. Never mind, I will be taking everything apart anyway.

This story starts when I managed to purchase, sight unseen, a very tired 1988 Esprit NA for £4000 from Ebay.

The original plan was to strip the car to the bare bones, install a Lexus UZ1 and have a track day toy… But a lot has changed along the way.

Time to Strip the Esprit

At home in the garage. Time to strip it…

First stop was the local Japanese engine importer, with a tape measure in hand. I was somewhat dismayed to find that the Lexus V8 was to big to fit without cutting into the firewall (I have since found out that that it is possible to remove the distributors mounted on the end of the cam boxes which might have made it possible to fit).

The importer suggested a Nissan VQ 30DET. Never heard of it? Don’t worry neither had I. It is used in Japan in big limo cars similar to the Lexus LS400 and is an all alloy V6 with a single turbo. It’s 100mm smaller than the Lexus in all dimensions with similar power and, in typical Nissan tradition, lots more power available with a tune..

So after lots of research and sole searching, the Esprit VQ concept was born and I purchased a 1/2 cut 1995 Nissan Cima.

Half-Cut 1995 Nissan Cima

Enter the mighty Cima.

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