The Esprit was launched in October 1975 at the Paris Auto Show, and went into production in June 1976, replacing the Europa in the Lotus model lineup. These first cars eventually became known as S1 (or Series 1) Esprits. With a steel backbone chassis and a fiberglass body, the Esprit was powered by the Lotus 907 4-cylinder engine, as previously used in the Jensen Healey.
The original Esprit was lauded for its handling and is said to have the best steering of any Esprit. However, it was generally regarded as lacking power, especially in markets such as the United States where the engine was down-rated for emissions purposes. Lotus' claim of 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 138 mph (222 km/h) may be thought of as optimistic - actual road test times indicated 0-60 mph in 8 seconds and a top speed of around 133 mph (214 km/h).
The S1 Esprit can be distinguished from later Esprits by a shovel-style front air dam, Fiat X1/9 tail lights, lack of body-side ducting, and Wolfrace alloy wheels. Inside the car, the most obvious indication of an S1 Esprit is a one-piece instrument cluster with green-faced Veglia gauges.
Source: Wikipedia (original)