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Lotus Europa: Buying guide and review (1966-1975)

Lotus Europa side Lotus Europa side Lotus Europa side
It’s a curious car, the Lotus Europa. When we’re asked to think of mid-engined pioneers, the usual Italian suspects are at the top of the list. It’s the same with significant cars from Lotus – Elan, Esprit and Elise will be up there. But who – honestly – would think of the original Europa? 
 
And yet Colin Chapman’s vision of a mid-engined sports car for the masses is one of the most interesting cars ever to have emerged from Hethel. The engineering that made the Europa feasible was fiendishly clever – in effect, the Elan’s backbone chassis was turned round, and the front-wheel-drive power-pack from the Renault 16 was installed behind the driver’s head. 
 
It was packaged in a sleek glassfibre body that stood at a mere 1067mm (42in) tall, and slipped through the air with the minimum of fuss to make the most of the original car’s modest 78bhp. Sadly, it wasn’t as cheap as Chapman would have liked, and that led to unfavourable performance comparisons with its similarly priced counterpart, the Elan Sprint. 
 
But straight-line speed was never the Europa’s raison d’être; instead, it was all about F1-style handling. A well-driven Europa will reward the driver with effortless acceleration and roll-free cornering. Undoubtedly the later 105bhp Twin Cam is the car to have, but that’s not to downplay the honest charms of the Renault-powered cars. In short, they’re all gems. Just make sure you buy a good example. 
 
Which one to buy?
 
Series 1 cars have all but disappeared, with many Renault-powered cars having had their engines replaced by twin-cams for many years. Realistically, S2s represent the entry point, and for usable cars. The more sought-after Twin Cam is a step higher in terms of budget, but is a much better car.
 
The Europa that still continues to attract the most interest – and therefore commands a healthy premium – is the Special, especially when in black and gold JPS-style paint livery. Be careful to make sure any JPS you’re looking at is original though. The only way to be sure is to cross-reference the chassis number either with the factory or Club Lotus.
 
Performance and specs
 
1972 Lotus Europa twin-cam special 
Engine 1558cc four-cylinder, DOHC, twin Dellorto carburettors 
Gearbox Four-speed manual
Power 126bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque 113lb ft @ 5500rpm
Fuel consumption 28.2mpg
Top speed 127mph 
0-60mph 6.6sec
 
Dimensions and weight


Wheelbase 2311mm
Length 3994mm
Width 1638mm
Height 1067mm
Weight 711kg
 
Common problems
 
• The number one priority for any Europa buyer is to buy a car with a sound chassis. The reason for that is simple: corrosion. An outwardly nice-looking glassfibre body can disguise all manner of rust in the backbone chassis, and the best option for peace of mind in the future is a new chassis.
 
• There are three desirable types to look for – Spyder Engineering, Banks Europa or a genuine Lotus one. For investment value, the Lotus item is the best one to have. It’s interesting to note that Spyder now sells a chassis to suit a modern Ford Zetec engine conversion, too. 
 
• Places to check for corrosion are the fuel tanks, seatbelt mountings, front and rear chassis mounts, and the rear trailing links. And anywhere where the body is in contact with the chassis.
 
• Don’t under-estimate the importance of good paint, and doors that haven’t dropped. There is no way of properly repairing a glassfibre body without significant expenditure (often more than for a steel body), so watch out for stress cracks and crazing in the gel coat. Dropped doors are repairable thanks to the availability of new hinge pins from Banks, but it’s a difficult job to sort out.
 
• Suspension requires regular maintenance – oil at the front – but is not expensive to put right if there are issues. If there’s play, and the suspension has been rebuilt, it could be that it’s not been put together properly. All assemblies must be Loctite’d in place. 
 
• Ride height, damper quality and steering alignment are absolutely essential for the best ride and handling. A rose-joint conversion is a positive bonus. 
 
• The Lotus-Ford twin-cam is a well-known quantity and all parts are readily available, with extensive specialist support. Do listen for noisy cam chains and tired bottom ends, and watch for oil leaks. 
 
• Parts are not so readily available for the Renault engine, but it’s a tough old unit, and most 1470s will have been replaced by 1565cc units. Cooling is critical, so check for signs of overheating and the condition of the radiator. 
 
• Gearboxes can be weak and need regular care and attention. Be warned though, it will never feel like a modern ’box, even with everything aligned. Linkages take a tortuous route through the car, and sometimes adjustment can drastically improve change quality. 
 
• Earlier S1s and S2s benefit from the fitment of the Twin Cam’s driveshaft set-up – again a bonus if it’s been done. 
 
• Interiors are prone to damage from leaking windscreens, so look closely at the wood veneer dash and under the seats. 
 
• Electrics can be fragile too, but that’s mainly down to poor earthing.
 
Model history
 
1966: Lotus Europa is launched, initially for sale in European markets only. Powered by the well-proven Renault 1470cc engine and clothed in a GRP body bonded to a steel chassis. The following year sees the arrival of the S1A and B, with removable windows and a wooden dashboard.
 
1968: S2 goes on sale, with the same 1470cc engine but also electric windows, new interior and dashboard, and a bolt-on body (which makes restoration easier). In UK from 1969.
 
1971: Europa Twin Cam hits the market, with the 105bhp, 1558cc Lotus-Ford engine. Re-designed body with better rearward visibility and new Renault gearbox introduced. Twin fuel tanks and brake servos are now part of the spec. 
 
1972: Europa Special introduced. Big Valve cylinder head increases power to 126bhp, with a five-speed version of the new Renault gearbox fitted. A total of 3200 Specials are built. 
 
1975: Production ceases after a total of 9230 Europas of all types have been made. 
 
Owners clubs, forums and websites
 
• www.clublotus.co.uk
• www.paulmattysportscars.co.uk
• www.lotuseuropa.org
• www.banks-europa.co.uk
 
Summary and prices
 
Being something of a forgotten hero in the Lotus back catalogue, the Europa’s values lag behind those of the Elan. Club Lotus chairman Alan Morgan cites a factor in pricing: the cost of restoration. ‘In the UK, the bottom line for an engine, chassis, interior and body restoration on a Europa is £10-15k, so it’s understandable why there are still a good number of projects around – and why the good cars out there still command such a premium.’ 
 
Series 2 cars are the most affordable Europas. As little as £3000 could get you a project, but as we’ve said above, unless the chassis is sound it’s going to be a very expensive rebuild. Better cars range from £6000-£12,000 although for something in top condition, be prepared to pay north of £15,000. A good Series 1 is potentially worth a fair premium due to its rarity, however if you intend on actually enjoying the car, there’s little reason to go for the earlier machine.
 
Obviously the early cars are the rarest, and you will have more luck finding a twin-cam. Projects can still be picked up from around £4500, but usable cars can go from £13,000-£20,000. Obviously the best examples, especially in Special JPS trim, sell for around £32,000. 
 
The Europa rewards keen drivers with excellent handling and uncorrupted steering. Once fully sorted, it shouldn’t be any less reliable than any of its mid-engined opposition. The main advice is to buy the very best you can afford, keep on top of its maintenance… and enjoy. 
Lotus Europa side Lotus Europa side Lotus Europa side
Last updated: 29th Mar 2016
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Lotus Europa cars for sale

4 Search results
Lotus Europa
22995 32950 GBP
  • Lotus Europa S '07

    €32,000(£28,531.20) €32,000(£28,531.20)

    The Europa S is a light weight car of 995 kg (2,194 lb) with a 149 kW (203 PS; 200 hp) 2.0 L engine. It uses an extruded and bonded aluminium chassis with composite body panels and front crash structure. The Europa S is a derivative of the Lotus Type 111 Elise and Exige cars only in that they sport variations of the same bonded aluminum chassis, the Europa bears a separate Lotus model designation (Type 121) due, in part, to its longer chassis and completely new body type.As the Europa S model was not exactly a big success, Lotus engineering director Roger Becker took charge of the car’s development programme and created the Europa SE model. Specifications >>>>> Oldtimerfarm specializes in consignment sales of vintage and collection cars and we are proud to present you this car. Oldtimerfarm is located in Belgium, 9880 Aalter, Steenweg op Deinze 51C, where this car is in our showroom. We are open from Tuesday to Saturday 10-17h (also without appointment). We are closed on Sundays and Mondays. Mondays on appointment only. Make sure you scroll down to look at the extensive photo report (100 pictures). Of course, a more detailed description can be obtained by telephone. Contact us: Xav

    • Year: 2007
    For sale
    Oldertimerfarm.be
  • Lotus Europa Twin Cam Special

    £32,950 £32,950

    An amazing find! Freshly shipped from being dry stored in California this Lotus Europa Twin Cam Special has covered just 5,536 miles from new and is in a totally original and unrestored condition, even down to the original tyres although we will of course be advising new tyres are fitted prior to delivery! Surely a once in a lifetime opportunity to purchase a barely run in Lotus Europa Twin Cam Special resplendant in Lagoon Blue with Oatmeal interior that drives in a most fabulous way with the Big Valve engine producing a wonderful sountrack and great performance. This car must be seen to be appreciated. *Viewing by appointment only*

    • Year: 1974
    For sale
  • LOTUS EUROPA Twin Cam Special

    £32,950 £32,950

    An amazing find! Freshly shipped from being dry stored in California this Lotus Europa Twin Cam Special has covered just 5,536 miles from new and is in a totally original and unrestored condition, even down to the original tyres although we will of course be advising new tyres are fitted prior to delivery! Surely a once in a lifetime opportunity to purchase a barely run in Lotus Europa Twin Cam Special resplendant in Lagoon Blue with Oatmeal interior that drives in a most fabulous way with the Big Valve engine producing a wonderful soundtrack and great performance. This car must be seen to be appreciated. The Lotus Europa was the first mass produced mid-engined road car, and the handling was considered by the motoring journalists of the time to be the closest thing to that of a Formula 1 car. With a very low kerb weight (c. 650kg) and plenty of power, the Europa is a fabulous and involving drive. *Viewing strictly by appointment only*

    • Year: 1974
    • Mileage: 5536 mi
    For sale
  • Lotus Europa

    £22,995 £22,995

    *SIMILAR CLASSIC CARS ALWAYS REQUIRED* SOLD Thinking of selling? Our proven commission sale or SOR (Sale or Return) program is a great way to utilise and access our professional services and facilities while still maximising the return from your vehicle with minimal hassle, stress and time, If you’d like to take advantage of this then please get in touch for further information. Alternatively If you’d like to move your vehicle on quickly and efficiently with minimal delay then we can make an offer on an outright purchase basis with payment and collection arranged soon after. A superb Lotus Europa S2 recreated as a Type 47 John Player Gold Leaf. EQUIPMENT One piece moulded glassfibre reinforced plastic, sound-proofed, safety glass, halogen headlights, steel backbone chassis, race mirrors, mahogany facia, sports wooden steering wheel and gear knob, integral headrests, electric windows, glove storage, heater, variable speed wiper, GT instrumentation, Radiomobile MW/LW. EXTERIOR Guaranteed to turn heads wherever it goes, Ron Hickman’s aerodynamically styled bodyshape looks striking at any angle. Finished in racing Carnival Red, (Code L05) over Cirrus White (L04) to recreate sponsorship from John Player and the adoption of the Gold Leaf colour scheme which were built and run by Team Lotus as fully homologated Group 4 racers. This vehicle has a glossy polished shine with a mirror reflection and no stress fractures. Detailing such as the Type 47 side vents, black racing mirrors and Gold Leaf decals make this car visually very special. The previous long-term custodian quotes eight weeks alone were taken during the paint process and importantly Spyder Engineering in the chassis work. The trim and rubbers are of Lotus quality and the original badges remain intact. An iconic Colin Chapman creation. INTERIOR Simple, sparse and sporting help to explain the cockpit of this lightweight vehicle. Being the S2 model some luxury refinements are afforded such as a mahogany facia and electric windows but make no mistake, the sole purpose of this cockpit is pure driver/machine communication. Europa Engineering invoices totalling thousands include a cabin refit so the fully adjustable sports seats and black carpeting are factory fresh. All GT instrumentation is functional and period although modern touches such as a 80mm Elliott revolution counter with a chrome bezel improve accuracy and clarity. A Radiomobile is fitted and both front and rear compartments are clean. ENGINE & TRANSMISSION The rear mounted engine and transmission has been extensively worked on by Richard Winter, proprietor of Europa leading experts, Banks Service Station. The rebuilt Renault engine has been specified at 120bhp bringing it in line with the ‘big valve’ Special. Having a capacity of 1647cc, running twin 40 Weber carbs and breathing through a stainless exhaust, fun is expected! A 5-speed conversion was again carried out by Europa Engineering at considerable cost with upgraded components and a new uprated clutch but smooth operation requires practice with a sharp clutch and close ratio gearbox. WHEELS, TYRES & BRAKES Period Minilite 13” alloy wheels with Lotus chrome caps are unmarked and shod in Yokohama A048 175/60 R13 tyres. Disc brakes upfront and drums to the rear bring this nimble lightweight car to an assured halt. HISTORY FILE Registered on the 1st August 1971 this Lotus S2 has embarked on a transformation with its previous owner lasting some 18 years. Invoices from industry respected specialists will reveal the detail and expense lavished on this car and help prove the ‘no expense spared’ mentality to this special recreation. A glowing feature in the February 2016 Classic Cars magazine is included along with the A4 file of eye watering invoices. A superb class leader. HPI Clear. To see a video of this car please click on the link below: https://youtu.be/qqsvI28-qzA To see a full set of photographs of this car please click on the link below: https://flic.kr/s/aHsktdqK9E 'Like us' or 'Follow us' for exciting new cars coming soon at KGF Classic Cars: https://www.facebook.com/KGFClassiccars https://twitter.com/KGFClassicCars

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