By on April 3, 2013

I’m not a reporter. I don’t even pretend to be one. What I do is tell stories and sometimes, if I am fortunate, they resonate with people. So when guy name Joe here in Buffalo contacted me and offered me a ride in his 1995 Lotus Esprit I was torn. Naturally, I wanted a ride, who wouldn’t? Still, I had to tell him up-front that I didn’t know if that a ride would generate a story good enough for the illustrious readership here at TTAC. Luckily for me, he invited me over anyhow and I got my ride, but in the end it turns out I was right. A ride, no matter how exhilarating, really wasn’t enough for me to create an entire story. That’s fortunate though, because Joe’s story about his almost lifelong connection to this one specific car is better than anything I could have invented.

To an ordinary guy like myself, the Lotus Esprit is one of those legendary cars that only live in posters on the walls of kids’ bedrooms. It is a low wedge of a car built for speed and handling and the car I found waiting for me in the driveway next to Joe’s house looked painfully out-of-place in the working class Buffalo neighborhood. The fact that it occupied a space next to a Renault Alliance, Motor Trend’s Car of the Year back in 1983, blew my mind, but the truth is that both cars are perfectly representative of the amazing person that their owner is. The Lotus is what Joe aspired to when he was a child and the Renault is where he comes from. The fact that he has both says something good about the man.

The car was low and difficult for me to clamber into, but once inside it felt surprisingly roomy and comfortable. The engine behind me hummed with pure energy as Joe put the car out onto the main road near his house, the pop off valve hissing impressively every time he switched gears. “This is one of those cars that gets a bad rep,” said Joe, “I don’t think that reputation is deserved though. A lot of guys take them out, flog them before they get fully warmed up, don’t rev match when they downshift and they generally beat on them. It’s a hand-built car, after all, I mean back in 1995 they only built 46 of them. TThese things need a little more TLC than your average sports car, but they are damn good cars” We continued up the rutted street, Joe using the car’s superior handling to dodge manhole covers and, as we drove, Joe’s amazing story trickled out.

When he was a kid, Joe was fascinated with the Esprit. He studied the specs in the magazines, read about them in books, admired them in film and photo and decided that one day he would own one. So intense was his desire that as a 14 year old riding with his mother, when he saw one on the road he forced her to turn around and chase after it. “I believe in the code of exotic car ownership, “Joe told me as he grabbed third gear, “One of the rules is that when kids come up and ask about your car that you encourage their interest. I know exactly what that means.“ The owner, it turned out was of a similar opinion and he encouraged the boy’s interest. The two soon became friends.

Eventually the cost of speeding tickets and insurance became too much and Joe’s friend sold the Lotus. Joe mourned the loss of the car, but continued his friendship. Flash forward almost a decade when Joe, a recent college graduate, decided to make his lifelong dream of Esprit ownership come true. “I got on-line and looked at dozens of ads for used cars.” He told me, “I knew exactly what I wanted, a 95 Esprit S4 like my friend’s and it took a long time to find one. On the very last page of the classifieds I finally found the perfect one. It was in Texas but I knew right away that this was the car. There was only one made in this color combination, it was my friend’s – the same Esprit I first saw when I was 14.” Joe contacted his friend and flew him out to Texas to check out the car. It turned out his suspicions were right. “I sent a check and had my friend drive it back to Buffalo. I have had it ever since and I’ll never sell it.”

As we headed home we passed an old steel mill, now shuttered and dark. “My dad worked In that building for 38 years.” Joe said over the growl of the super car’s engine. “Buffalo is changing and those changes have taken a lot of jobs with them. This town has been on a downward spiral for a lot of years but I think we’re past the worst of it, though.” He said hopefully, “The industry is gone but the people have always been what made this town special. They still do, Buffalo is the city of good neighbors, you know?”

Back at home the Lotus slipped into its spot next to its polar opposite, the battered Renault. “I always wanted this,” said Joe from the seat of the Lotus, “But I grew up in that.” He said waving to the small car. “My dad was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago and I got that so we have something to work on together when he gets better. I had to spend a lot of time finding one like he had, but I finally got it. I think we’re going to have a good time with it.”

The childhood dreams that most of us have fade away over the years as we grow into adulthood so it’s nice to know that sometimes people make those dreams a reality. It’s nicer still, to know someone who lives those dreams but remains firmly grounded. Joe knows who he is, where he is from and what is really important in life. It was my honor to meet him and to tell some of his story. That’s all I can do, I hope it resonates.

Thomas M Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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26 Comments on “Dreamweaver – Living The Dream With His Feet Planted Firmly In The Real World...”

  • avatar

    Your Buffalo, my Pittsburgh and a host of other Rust Belt cities share many of the same problems. Some have found a rebirth of sorts, but the manufacturing jobs, those steel mills with 50,000 employees, are long gone. Gone also is the tax base provided by those employers and their employees.

    But the people who did stay are generally friendly. Cost of living is low,especially housing. Pittsburgh isn’t a bad place to live and raise a family, but true opportunity, if you work outside of banking,healthcare or education, usually knocks out of state. Having family in Buffalo, I know the same holds true.

    Our winters are nowhere near as brutal as Buffalo, but we have a lot more hills that make it fun when the white stuff comes. But we don’t get as much.

    Wonderful story on the man as much as the car. Might be the only person in Buffalo with a Lotus AND a Renault.

    • 0 avatar

      In Pittsburgh as well, and there’s a white Lotus that’s occasionally street-parked around the corner from me – on a very working-class street. I always admire the folks who drive such interesting cars as transportation. Some day.

      That said – I’m very jealous of the guy having a lifelong dream of a single car. As I’m approaching the point in my life where I can buy a more interesting vintage automobile, I’m faced with the opposite dilemma: I like just about everything. British, German, Italian, American… so hard to choose just one! So far all I’ve been able to narrow it down to is: $10k, Manual, Convertible/Targa, and something I can wrench myself. Gonna be a long hunt…

  • avatar

    To him it’s his childhood dream, but all I see is a very old car with a tacky roof spoiler. Glad to hear this story, though. I think we all have emotional attachments to things from our childhood. Sometimes I think when we love and accept ourselves, we cherish things that remind us of who we are.

    • 0 avatar

      Nice car. Saw one in Maui while on vacation, it just takes your breath away in person. Someone parked it in the hotel service area just about everyday I was there so it had to be a daily driver. Some people lust after a car but others love on first sight. Love lasts a lot longer.

    • 0 avatar

      Come on – that wing is surely one of the more fun CHMBL solutions out there…

    • 0 avatar

      If you can mentally block out that spoiler and imagine a more integrated lower front bumper and rocker panel (as it appears with darker colors), you might be able to see why it was, at least at one point, my favorite car when I was a kid.

      Have a look at these ones:–gt3–/BellW219BACls1.jpg

      This one would be really pretty without the spoiler:

      I’ve only seen one in person, dressed in British racing green. It was parked on the street a few blocks from my buddy’s house. I had to stop for a look, of course. It was smaller and much lower than I expected, but wide and sleek and just as beautiful as I’d have hoped. I’ve seen a few other interesting cars parked there since but not the Esprit again.

  • avatar

    ‘The engine behind me hummed with pure energy.’ That’s a nice way of saying it sounded like a sewing machine. Interestingly enough, the V8 model sounds like two sewing machines.

  • avatar

    No pictures of the Alliance? I may have told this once before, but I’m feeling nostalgic today.

    My parent’s bought one new in ’85 or ’86. I remember it partly because it was bright red, had a habit of shedding trim parts at highway speed, and it once got filled with a bad tank of gas and stranded us on the side of the road for a few hours.

    I remember it mostly because my brother started driving it in highschool while the other 3 of us were in elementary school. As his schedule allowed he would pick up up and drive us home like only a 17 year old can. I have great memories of ridiculous speeds down gravel roads, windows down so he could do irresponsible things like throwing his garbage into the ditch, and very loud hair metal.

    One sunny spring day with all four of us siblings in the car, he crossed the centre line on a rural 2-lane, and we went head on into a Chevette at 50 mph.

    4 people in our car, age range from 17 to 9 and the middle-aged man in the Chevette; the worst injury was a 6″ cut on my sister’s forehead. Gory, required a lot of stitches, but not serious. We were obviously very very lucky, but I literally owe my life to that little Renault from Wisconsin.

  • avatar
    gator marco

    That fella sounds like a great neighbor.
    Excuse me, I have to wipe away a couple tears and call my dad…

  • avatar

    Great story and one that deserves to
    be told. Achieving an aspiration and
    honoring a special friendship. I would be
    honored to know someone like Joe.

  • avatar

    Thomas, do these stories find you, or do you find them?

    Wonderful stuff, and I’m glad we have the opportunity to hear them.

  • avatar

    This one found me.

  • avatar

    _ALL_ your stories resonate Thomas ;

    This is because you’re a gifted writer . I bet you’d make a fine Reporter too .

    I remember traveling through Buffalo in 1967 or so when the paper mills were all still there and going full tilt boogie ~ you could smell them miles before you neared Buffalo .

    I kinda – sorta miss living Down East , as a Car Guy since I was in short pants , I don’t miss the cold nor the rust but the green everywhere and different People than I tend to find here out West , I miss that part .

    I wasn’t aware that Lotus ever made any bad cars , they’re so exotic .

    Pops bought a Renault Alliance , it was three months old and had been head onned and totaled , all he saw was ” CHEAP ” and bought the wretched thing , it ate tires and front suspension components like crazy ~ it was gone by my next visit .

    I can hardly wait for the Father’s Day muse .


  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Beautiful story. I wonder how are your bed time stories for the kids.

    “The childhood dreams that most of us have fade away over the years as we grow into adulthood so it’s nice to know that sometimes people make those dreams a reality.”

    Not always, not everyone. I ended working in the industry I always dreamed about. I moved to the country I was thinking of when I finished uni the first time.

    I think the issue is that we usually forget to keep dreaming. And when that happens, there’s nothing left to chase.

  • avatar

    This is the perfect type of story for this website. It resonates. You’re doing it right. Take note DeMuro.

  • avatar

    Nice looking cars at I wouldn’t want to own one, especially after seeing the Wheeler Dealers espisode on restoring one. Funny thing about these cars is people like to do engine swaps on the older ones, Taurus SHO, GM 3.8, and it’d probably be a good place to drop in a Mustang SHO engine too.

  • avatar

    Excelent work Thomas. Indeed, you do have a gift,and with it, you write from the heart.
    I’ve been a “car guy” my whole life. I can’t get enough reads like that.

    Keep it up.


  • avatar

    Great. Now I miss my dad more than ever. We never got to this point in our relationship, as he died way too young. We’d discussed his potential buying of an old 2000CS for us to work on when he returned from Germany, but that never happened.

    Great work…keep these stories up! Makes all of the other snark creeping into TTAC worth going through to get to gems like this.

  • avatar

    Echo those guys ^^.

    Oh, and @ gator marco — make that call to your dad. Don’t be like me — I live with the painful regret that I didn’t do that nearly often enough.

    Thanks again, Thomas.

  • avatar

    And best wishes to Joe and his father.

  • avatar

    Nice piece, Thomas. This guys does sound like a Buffalo guy. Town is full of stories like this – I know.

  • avatar

    There’s a house in my neighborhood that occasionally has one of these parked in front. Bright red. Gorgeous. I saw a guy driving it through a parking lot once. I wish I’d asked him to give me a quick ride in it.

  • avatar

    These and the NSX have always seemed like attainable used supercars. I’d probably end up going for the NSX though, since practicality and reliability are the larger forces in my mind.

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