1997 Lotus Esprit V8 CART-PPG IndyCar World Series Pace Car
Prepared by Lotus to full PPG Pace Car Specifications. It started life as a model year 1997 Esprit V8 Twin Turbo, built in December of 1996.
This Esprit was used by the PPG CART IndyCar organization as a PPG Pace Car for races during the 1997 and 1998 seasons. It was the only CART IndyCar pace car that could pace the field at Michigan International at 150 MPH.
Founded in 1883 as the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company, PPG Automotive Refinish Products is a premier supplier of automotive paint. They were the title sponsor of CART IndyCar series for 19 years [1980-1999]. The pace car program was PPG’s way of showcasing their paint technology. Each of the pace cars had a unique paint finish. Lotus was keen to have the worldwide publicity they received by supplying one of the pace cars.
This car was originally painted in an iridescent black/gold color for the 1997 season. It was repainted the current yellow for the 1998 season to show better on TV. Underneath the yellow is a translucent green. In Noonday sun, it is pure yellow. In fading light and at certain angles, green can be seen in the yellow. Note that the PPG Pace Car logos on the doors are under the clear coat.
The car was part of the Lotus display at the 1997 Detroit Auto Show.
This 1 of 1 Esprit traveled the world [Australia, Brazil, Vancouver] with the race teams. It was also used by PPG for hot laps rides for team sponsors and VIP guests at the races. Lotus states that actor/racer Paul Newman gave rides in this car. While in a city for a race weekend, the pace cars were often taken downtown on Friday evening as a PPG and IndyCar promotional display.
A team of professional women racers drove the pace cars to actually pace the races. Their team manager was Johnny Rutherford, Indy 500 champion. One team member was Desiré Wilson who raced in 11 IndyCar events and is the only woman to have won an F1 race.
Specification and Equipment unique to this Esprit includes:
- Lotus 3.5 liter 32-valve DOHC V8 twin-turbo, hand assembled and balanced by Lotus
- ECU program is unique to this car. ECU #L0960001. No EGR, air pump or catalysts.
- Full roll cage extends from axle line to axle line and attaches to the frame at each end. The cage is replicated from the championship-winning X180R Esprit factory race cars.
- Sport 300 racing style fixed back seats
- 4-point driver and passenger racing restraints
- Lotus Sport AP calipers and discs. Kelsey-Hayes ABS.
- Prototype twin-plate clutch and flywheel.
- Modified electrics as specified by PPG Motorsport.
- Twin safety fuel cells
- Extensive Aeroquip in the engine compartment
- Dual electronic halon fire suppression systems; one for the cabin and one for the engine bay
- External emergency electrical cut-off switch
- European spec Esprit GT3 Alcantara suede interior. Red Alcantara Elise S1 Cup steering wheel.
- The A/C system and radio have been removed.
- The exhaust system has straight pipes from the turbos. No mufflers.
- Adjustable coil-over Spax shocks
- Welded-on tie-down points for easy securing in a trailer
- Four strobe lights are still in place at each end of the car but the harness has been removed.
While this Esprit was prepared for track use and sold on a bill of sale, it is now fully street legal in Pennsylvania, registered as a Specially Constructed vehicle. The current owner uses the car for fun drives, car shows and it will likely see some track days. It was at LOG34 in Ashville, NC in 2014.
The car has extensive documentation from both Lotus and PPG, from the initial correspondence to the project Gantt chart to build and equip the car to the press releases and bills of sale between Lotus and PPG. Lotus sold the car to PPG for $1.00 in early 1997 and it was sold back to Lotus at the end of the season. That was repeated for the 1998 season.