1988 Lotus Esprit LS1 Swap Intro - LS1TECH - Camaro and Firebird Forum Discussion



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1988 Lotus Esprit LS1 Swap Intro

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Old 12-11-2016, 07:06 PM   #1
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Default 1988 Lotus Esprit LS1 Swap Intro

Kind of long- but it’s a kick off for the project and a little introduction as well-

I should have posted this over here in the beginning of this project! I didn’t realize there was a conversion forum and the folks on the lotus forums aren’t too crazy about an LS in an English car… so here is the project:
Taking a 1988 Lotus Esprit Turbo and putting a LS1 5.3 (to start with as it is cheap and there is one sitting here) with the help of Caral Motorsports in the UK for the fab parts. Simon over there has put together a kit for this and this is the perfect donor car. He makes the mounts and intricate little parts so there isn’t the cutting and welding required – more bolt-in kit. There are some difficult parts and odd things, but I must say, he has been quite a resource in steering me in the right direction on everything!

So the car- ill add some photobucket links below… it sat outside for a while and I actually got it to run! I think there was a clutch issue and it was parked and then there is some story about money problems and blah, blah- not interesting but its cleared up with the title. I dropped my $3500 bucks and loaded it up. Everything was there and it was in surprisingly good condition – with a few exceptions. The gas tanks were junk but pretty much everything else is good- little items like the headlight and window motors are junk and will be re-conditioned.

I have removed the motor, transaxle, exhaust, intake, turbo, harness and the tanks and most will be sold off to fund the project….

The recipe calls for an Audi 6spd Transaxle so the specific parts that Simon at Caral makes will work as bolt ins with no modifications. So I picked up an 01X from Lithuania and a 5.3 out of a Tahoe that a friend had from intake to exhaust. I tend to turbo everthing I own, so I am making things easy to turbo when the time comes, but the 1st pass will be NA… and truthfully- I want to hear it run and start before spending the big money on the custom parts- like drive shafts and the adapter plate/ flywheel/ Clutch. I will also build a 6.0 or something a little lighter and more special once she rolls on her own.

Current State of Affairs: Lotus motor and trans are out, LS1 is awaiting the LS2 oil pickup, dipstick, windage try to fit my LS2 oil pan on with. I have picked up some turbo forward/up facing headers that will be mounted backward with V-bands to allow for a simple exhaust setup prior to turbos.
Motor Mounts are on the way from Caral and the trans mounts and crossbar are being fabricated by caral for delivery next month or so.
Engine wiring harness is being built by a local guy that specializes in LS swapped stuff

I am trying to figure out the cooling system as it relates to the front mount radiator and has two 1 ¼ pipes presenting in the engine bay and I also am working on an LS3 water pump that the outlet is turned 90deg as I run out of space on the top of the fire wall (it mimics the seats and closes up as it goes up) the harmonic balancer is still up in the air – ill decide that when the motor goes in and we asses space.

I’ve built some BMW’s and a lot of bikes, so I hate to say it, but the LS is a little foreign to me. Its pretty simple but I try to have a plan before fitting stuff up! Flexible coolant hoses from Silicon Intakes will probably be incorporated along with some –AN fittings.

I have to get some tanks made- order the $2500 adapter plate and clutch/flywheel package, along with the $1200 half shafts… the tanks will be about $750. Oh, and Ill need to paint it and all the other Lotus stuff that I haven’t even gotten to yet!

It’ll be expensive, I’m sure… but I am hoping to end up with something that remain light, has more power than originally and is now actually reliable!

Please feel free to provide any input or suggestions as I love hearing from those with experience! and if you are really bored- drop by Atlanta, ill provide the beer!

Looking forward to the input and hopefully helping someone out with this on their next swap!


Pics of the starting point!
http://s828.photobucket.com/user/phi...Esprit%20Turbo
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Old 12-12-2016, 07:47 AM   #2
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Sub'd!
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Old 12-12-2016, 04:52 PM   #3
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Im keeping an eye on this one!
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Old 12-12-2016, 05:35 PM   #4
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I've seen 89-93 sho motors used on these but never a V8. It should be good when done.

Last edited by rwb; 12-12-2016 at 05:36 PM. Reason: wrong year.
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Old 12-13-2016, 05:06 PM   #5
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(yes I see the link but I want real pictures!)
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Old 12-14-2016, 02:11 PM   #6
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(yes I see the link but I want real pictures!)
I'll try to update (and not be lazy :-) with embedded pics tomorrow!

there are actaully 3 guys I know of doing this now... one happens to be just down the road by coincidence!
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Old 12-14-2016, 07:24 PM   #7
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Old 12-14-2016, 07:32 PM   #8
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WOW and i thought some of the Porsche systems were a bag of snakes!
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Old 12-14-2016, 09:28 PM   #9
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WOW and i thought some of the Porsche systems were a bag of snakes!
its pretty straightforward thankfully!

thanks for posting the pics :-) here are my new mounts!
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Last edited by 9mil; 12-19-2016 at 07:28 AM. Reason: Smaller picture- sorry!
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Old 12-19-2016, 07:25 AM   #10
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Sorry guys- got blocked from posting oddly... all good now.

Going to be fitting the long block with headers in this week to see how things are sizing up and make some decisions on pulleys, Waterpump clearences and specifically water hose routing.

Im trying to use a little of whats there (1 1/4" tubes from the radiator location to the front of the engine) and the catch bottle and potentially the heater core piping.
im not very familiar with the LS requirements for the overflow tanks and pressure line- but its all hot water and usually works the same. the Steam piping thing will be a little odd, but i'm sure the internet will provide pics!
The GT40 guys have a good amount of info on this and pretty much any LS swap applies to this part so it should be good.

I did end up with an LS2 oil pan and i finally got all the correct pick-up pipes, windage tray and dip stick - also replaced the knock sensors and various gaskets on the 5.3 to help make it through the first part of the journey.

I'll be replacing it with something else in the LS family after i get the POC done and also see what grip and power is like. Im thinking this thing wont take a huge amount of power so i will focus on adding lightness and keeping the power reasonable. might just turbo it and if its healthy, leave it be for a while and focus on the other items... god knows there are plenty!

Adapter plate kit will be on the way later this week- going to have to go with the 15mm one as the mounts i am using are made for this overall measurement. Wanted to try and use the thicker one from eric over at A & E as i wouldnt have an ocean between us if somethign went aria, but suing the one these mounts are menat for will keep me from massive amounts of fab work, above what i already have to get done, and that was the point of this- keeping me from welding! as it would look just like I welded it!

Thanks for all the help already and i look forward to updating!
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Old 12-19-2016, 08:00 AM   #11
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Keep it up, what a cool project! Gotta love the 80's styling.
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Old 12-22-2016, 09:27 AM   #12
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Not sure why these arent turned 90deg- i rotated them on photobucket, but it appears when img used, it doesnt pull?

So the preliminary fit up is done. The mounts lined up beautifully and I couldn’t be happier with it so far! The only issue I had was my hoist needed about 6 more inches of reach to line up over the mounts but a little creative engineering, a buddy and a few minutes of sketchiness made it happen.

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I can now focus on the hose routing, preliminary wiring and exhaust. I’m going to see if the headers will work flipped down – as they look badass this way, but routing will remove any chance of the slightest bit of storage and the routing isn’t as optimal as it appeared.

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I left the engine stand on as it will come out a few more times prior to the trans being attached, so it was out of convenience.. I just removed the center support and put it back in once below it. There is a trans jack under the back of the motor so it won’t move and the level is somewhat correct.

I am trying to make sure I get the cooling system routing correct, but it looks like it lines up pretty well already. Anyone know where to get the SLC type insert as pictured here?
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Old 12-23-2016, 09:18 AM   #13
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– as they look badass this way
Leave them up! Badass looking headers will give you more enjoyment than room for 3 pairs of socks.
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Old 12-23-2016, 10:12 AM   #14
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Leave them up! Badass looking headers will give you more enjoyment than room for 3 pairs of socks.
Well said! especially if a turbo is placed between them!
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Old 12-26-2016, 11:49 AM   #15
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What kind of transaxle does that car use?
Sorry...reread...Audi M6..what is that out of?
How much was that?
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Old 12-27-2016, 08:35 AM   #16
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What kind of transaxle does that car use?
Sorry...reread...Audi M6..what is that out of?
How much was that?
Correct- an 01x variant out of a diesel FWD only car. I actually got it off ebay from Lithuania for 400$ shipped to my door. I would recommend those folks again for sure- great to deal with.
I have to work out the gearing and all but it is a good template to get things working in the car.
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Old 01-06-2017, 10:08 PM   #17
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I am trying to make sure I get the cooling system routing correct, but it looks like it lines up pretty well already. Anyone know where to get the SLC type insert as pictured here?
That was a one-off, hand-welded. That method is about as flat as you can make it, but at the cost of a fair amount of turbulence.

I used a stainless ell machined down to fit into the WP, with a welded and machined ring on the hose end.
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Old 01-07-2017, 07:39 AM   #18
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That was a one-off, hand-welded. That method is about as flat as you can make it, but at the cost of a fair amount of turbulence.

I used a stainless ell machined down to fit into the WP, with a welded and machined ring on the hose end.
that's what I was thinking this morning actually. I don't have to go back into the WP - I need to go right... I was thinking -AN fittings and tap the WP.
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Old 02-20-2017, 03:10 PM   #19
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Get a welder buddy to make those fittings for you if the AN ones don't work. This is a way cool project
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Old 02-20-2017, 04:02 PM   #20
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Sign me up,keep up the good work A+.
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