Lotus Europa: Spotted

There's no doubting that Colin Chapman churned out some fantastically desirable lightweight Lotus cars way back when. If his genius was sometimes overshadowed by his thrift, which in turn led inevitably to some of those infamous quality issues, there's no denying the basic allure of most of his innovative designs.

The mid-engined and impressively aerodynamic Europa looked like it had arrived from another planet, so stunningly low was it. It echoed some of the racers then current, and indeed there was actually a racing version of it, too - the Type 47. The only problem with this low-slung fibreglass dream machine was getting into it: it was no taller than a box of matches and about as commodious inside, so anyone over 5ft 8in didn't stand a chance.

The first S2 Europas, of which we've picked from our classifieds here, retained the clever and lightweight 78hp 1.6-litre Renault-sourced engine from the S1. This was a source of frustration among many owners and potential owners, who could see the more powerful Ford twin-cam units in the front of the Elan and wanted a bit of that performance action in their own bolide.

To squeeze the twin-cam engine in on the aftermarket was actually possible, but it was a big and muscular engine and therefore it was a complicated and costly job, so it came as some relief when Lotus decided to do it itself in 1971. This 105hp unit at last gave the Europa the straight-line speed - 0 to 60mph in 6.6 seconds - to match its prodigious roadholding, measured at the time as 0.9g, a figure that we would still find impressive today.

Somewhere along the passage of time our car has acquired a Renault Gordini crossflow engine tuned for a claimed 130hp, this a fairly common mod on Europas requiring either a new engine, or more speed, or both. It's been repaired or restored in most other areas too, according to the owner: there's a whole new chassis, for a start, plus rebuilt suspension, a retrimmed interior and some extensive engine work.

It certainly looks to be in fine fettle, always assuming you have no objection to yellow cars, and it's quite moderately priced, too. As a way into a classic Lotus you could do a lot worse, provided that is you can actually get into it.


Engine: 1,565cc, 4-cyl
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 130
Torque (lb ft): Er...
MPG: Probably alright
CO2: Less so
First registered: 1970
Recorded mileage: 82,000
Price new: Not a lot, probably
Yours for: £29,995

See the original advert here.

Mark Pearson

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (90) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Wolvesboy 18 Mar 2018

    Amazing presence when seen in the flesh as they are so low as stated. A true classic that I thought would be valued much higher.
    I'm not sure I like the black wheels though.

  • Esceptico 18 Mar 2018

    My cousin, who was an airline pilot back in the 70s, had one of these. So long back I can’t recall the colour. He was definitely my coolest relative.

    This looks really good to me and price seems reasonable when compared to other classics (my preferred weapon of choice would be an early 911 but decent ones are now six figures).

    If I had some space in the garage I would be tempted.

  • defblade 18 Mar 2018

    I remember the first time I saw a Europa.

    A mate and I were walking through a car park, right down the middle of the road, when there was a polite "beep" behind us. We glanced around but there was no car and so we shrugged and carried on ambling. There was a slightly longer "beep", this time I glanced around and then also down... and there it was smile

  • rtz62 18 Mar 2018

    There was one of these at a local classic car repair place a couple of weeks ago, and after some general chit-chat they invited me to sit in it. With a smile.
    The smile became understandable when I failed to contort my 6’ frame through the door and long legs into the footwell (I do have a very bad back condition, which didn’t help either).
    Anyhoo, the car in the article looks absolutely stunning, and I’d guess probably better than new. If I was looking for one of these, I’d be beating a path to the vendors door!

  • rockin 18 Mar 2018

    I'm a huge fan of Europa and it sounds a nice restoration - although for my taste it's the wrong model. Renault engine cars with the high rear side buttresses lack the style and cachet of later twincam Europas (see link below) and for that sort of money you could be off and away in an Esprit.

    Definitely a fine Lotus though.

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