The tailgate panel consists of an inner and outer glass fiber composite panel bonded together, with a toughened and heated window glass bonded to the outer surface. A striker pin at each rear corner of the tailgate engages with a spring loaded latch plate on the body, with a single release cable operating both latches and terminating in a release handle on the driver's side of the cabin rear bulkhead. Two gas struts are used to assist in raising the tailgate and will support it in the fully open position. On models with an aerofoil mounted on the tailgate, a locking type strut is used on the left hand side, which, when closing the tailgate, requires that
the tailgate to be lifted slightly to disengage the locking mechanism before pulling down. The lower ends of the gas struts are secured via brackets to the cabin rear bulkhead and seat belt mounting beam.

A canopy panel stretches between the buttresses over the top of the tailgate window, and is secured by studs and nuts, and two similarly fixed louver panels are mounted over the engine to allow hot air to escape from the engine bay.

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The tailgate is hinged at each front corner via a special shouldered pivot bolt to a bracket bolted to each rear corner of the roof. The tailgate is most easily removed from the vehicle by disconnecting both gas struts and releasing the three setscrews securing each hinge blade to the tailgate. Note that the tapping plates for the hinges are retained by a fourth fixing further along. On no account should all four fixings be removed at the same time since the tapping plate may not be easily re-positioned within the tailgate double skin. The hinge brackets, complete with hinge blades and pivot bolts, may be removed from the roof after removing the rear bulkhead upper trim to gain access to the fixing nuts.

Note that the electrical feed to the heated rear screen is transmitted via the left hand tailgate hinge and the feed to the high level stop lamp via the right hand gas strut. The earth return connection for both screen and lamp is made via the right hand hinge. See sub-section ML.9 for details.

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A plunger type latch fitted at each rear corner of the tailgate aperture, is adjustable for position via oversize fixing holes in the body, with the rearmost fixing incorporating an adjustable height buffer, by which the panel height may be set. The plunger fitted to the tailgate may be adjusted up and down after slackening the locknut and should be set after adjusting the panel height to obtain secure, rattle free latching.

A single release cable is used to operate both latches by using the driver's side latch plate as an outer cable abutment, and securing the inner cable at the passenger's latch. The cable is operated by a release lever mounted on the cabin rear bulkhead, with a cable adjuster provided at its abutment on the seat belt mounting beam. To adjust or replace a tailgate release cable, or to remove a release handle, it is necessary to remove the rear quarter window interior trim panel.

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Broken tailgate release cable

The tailgate release mechanism on the Esprit utilizes a cable to move a catch at each rear corner of the tailgate. Unlike other vehicles, there is no external keylock for opening the hatch. The only way to release to do this is by pulling a lever located on the driver side cabin firewall. Unfortunately, if the cable happens to snap, you will find yourself in quite a pickle.

There are several techniques owners have developed to help open a tailgate with a broken cable. However, none of them are pretty. These include:

  • Drilling an access hole through one of the taillights to allow pulling the broken release manually. Obviously this is the worst approach as it leaves you with the further task of replacing the taillight assembly. These are starting to get in short supply so this destructive approach is not recommended.
  • Remove the license plate then, using a hole saw, drill an access hole through the license plate plinth and body behind where the plate would mount. The hole has to be large enough for a hand to fit through and reach to release the broken catch.
  • Drill one or two access holes in the boot compartment floor to access the broken catch. Again, the holes need to be large enough to allow your hand or tool to fit. Some people have opted to do this option as a preventive measure. If you plan accordingly and do it well, you can make two neat access panels that can be easily removed in the case of an emergency but are not visible otherwise.

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Stuck tailgate

If the tailgate release mechanism on the Esprit gets out of alignment or the cable in the cable release stretches with age, it is possible that the tailgate will get stuck and the release lever will not be able to fully open the catches on one or both sides.

There are several techniques owners have developed to help open a stuck tailgate. These include:

  • Lifting the vehicle with a jack on one of the two side jacking points behind the front wheels. The theory is that lifting the car unevenly will cause a flexing and twisting motion on the bodyshell that can release the stuck hatch.
  • Driving the vehicle onto an a low curb or bump with just one wheel. The theory is the same as above but might help in situations where a jack is no available or is impractical.
  • Carefully prying on the sides of the tailgate opening while simultaneously pulling on the release lever. Use a small wooden wedge and be gentle to avoid damage to the fiberglass.

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Replacement tailgate struts

A perfect replacement for the Esprit's hatch gas struts is made by AVM. These are available for sale at AutoZone parts stores under the name Mighty Lift.

Below are the part numbers for 3 struts with different amounts of resistance. Which one you choose will depend on whether you have a hatch mounted spoiler. In my case I only replaced one of the struts with a 130-lb model. This provided enough force to lift and hold the hatch open. I noticed that if I only used one of the new 130-lb struts instead of two and I kept one of my old ones on the other side, the tension on the hatch was just right.

  • D-95765: 95-lbs
  • D-95297: 120-lbs
  • C-95029: 130-lbs

These units do not come with the standard electrical spade connector that some of the OEM units have to power the rear window defroster. However, it is rather easy to transfer this part from the strut being replaced.

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