Words & photos - Daniel Bevis
One of my favourite cars at the London Classic Car Show was actually largely hidden from view, crammed amongst a bunch of walkways rather than being showcased in a more central location. But that simply adds to the charming sense of discovery and secrecy, doesn't it?
The story goes that David Thieme, owner of the Essex Overseas Petroleum Corporation, effectively invented the concept of Formula One corporate hospitality and, having secured a sponsorship deal for the Lotus F1 team in 1979, made sure that the paddock always featured a triple-decker motorhome (complete with a bar, showers, a briefing room, and a rooftop balcony) and a VIP car wearing the Essex Petroleum livery. Now, since the car's function was to transport drivers from airports to circuits and what-have-you, a low-slung two-seater like the Esprit might have been impractical... so the team plucked a Lotus Sunbeam from the production line, choosing one in European spec (you'll spot that it's left-hand drive and badged as a Simca) with a view to keeping the thing in Monaco. It was collected from the factory by Director of Operations Julian Rivett, who drove it straight to Monte Carlo, and liked it so much that he kept it for thirty years. It's been UK registered since 1980 but has spent much of its life lording it up on the Riviera; it's also recently had a £50k+ restoration and is now for sale, a mint one-owner car, at Lap63. How much? Well, if you have to ask...
More pics from the London Classic Car Show here.