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“OH MY GOODNESS! This has put the fun back into motoring. From the moment I slid into the reclining driving seat of the Lotus Europa I thought ‘This is going to be a riot.’”. ‘Europa to Sicily’, Motor Sport Magazine, July 1969.
3645 miles and fourteen days later, correspondent Dennis Jenkinson was still of the same opinion. In fact so glowing was Jenks’ praise for the Series 2 Europa that Lotus hijacked the complete article and handed out copies as a showroom sales aid. John Frayling’s sleek, low (and we mean GT 40 low) Europa was as slippery as an eel and clung to corners like a limpet. Result? Junior supercar 120mph performance from the just eighty-two chevaux provided by its all-aluminium Renault 16 TS sourced engine. Breadvan looks were apparently OK on a hand crafted aluminium bodied Ferrari GTO but not to everyone’s taste when offered in fiberglass by Lotus, though it has to be said that time has been kind to its high rise back end and stepped-on front. Apparently originally conceived as a replacement for that bargain basement sportster the 7 (mmm, good luck with that Lotus, just ask Porsche for a few tips when it comes to ousting a legend), personally we could never see the link; the Europa had a roof and even doors for goodness sake plus in a light drizzle it didn’t take on water like a Varsity boat race eight in choppy conditions. It did also look as though it had actually been ‘designed’… Having said that, they did both punch well above their (feather) weights and were pitched at the enthusiast prepared to make a few compromises in the pursuit of performance. By the time the S2 arrived in 1968 Lotus had perhaps realised it was not going to elbow the 7 out of the range so the Europa was allowed to creep slightly upmarket though basically making the side windows openable was unlikely to have caused all that many sleepless nights at Rolls Royce. Un-bonding the body from the chassis made replacement a viable option should the driver’s talent desert him and the car get pranged when the cars were current but today it means restoration is actually a viable option.
Sourced from a small collection of Lotus cars where it had resided for the best part of the last twenty years, this Europa is, we would suggest, mechanically in far better than average condition. It has just sailed through its MOT test with no ‘advisories’ and in fact it has had but one in the past ten tests carried out religiously since 2007. It performs and drives very well indeed on the road, sound in wind and limb, as one would expect it doesn’t disappoint dynamically. The seller is something of a Lotus aficionado who has in the past been lucky enough to own pretty much the full range and suffice to say he feels it is one of the nicer driving Lotus’ he has had the pleasure of conducting. A virtual walk around the underside of the car via our photo gallery (mind you don’t virtually bang your head) goes some way to explaining this with new parts evident at every turn from trunnions, bushes, springs and adjustable AVO shock absorbers to rebuilt brake callipers, with many supporting invoices in the history file. The chassis looks to be well preserved and in great condition. There are no apparent overheating or oil pressure issues and the gear change (always a potential weak spot on a mid-engined car) is about as good as Europas get. Pleasingly everything works on the electrical front which is never a particularly strong suit for a plastic bodied car.
Up top, the Europa displays some nice styling touches from the single windscreen wiper and bullet wing mirror back to the offset rear number plate leaving room for the exhaust to exit through the grill the digits mount on. The bodywork has for the most part escaped the bane of many Lotus and indeed fiberglass cars in general, namely that of crazing in the sub-paint surface or gel coat for the technically minded. The straight and ripple free condition of the body points to the quality of the restoration carried out in 2004. The red paintwork is still bright though it does now have just one or two battle scars, particularly a large chip near the rear bumper as shown in the photo gallery. According to the factory records and copy of the buff logbook, the Lotus was originally Royal Blue though the car’s file also indicates the Lotus was white by 1974 and yellow at the time of restoration so should the new owner decide to refinish it, a good argument can be made for any one of the four colours that have adorned it to date.
What there is of the Lotus’ chrome-work is a bit variable with some pitting on the bumpers (please see the photo gallery) though the more noticeable items such as door handles and window frames are in better shape. The Lotus logoed hub caps are in excellent condition both shape and shine-wise, having only just been fitted as they were not to the previous owner’s taste.
The attractive Lotus design steel wheels (common with some Elans and 7s) are in good order with no evidence of the cracking that can occur around the stud holes. Their paint finish is pretty good if possibly a little thin in one or two places and apparently of the correct shade while all the tyres have a generous amount of tread left on them.
The interior looks to be original and in fair shape throughout. The dashboard is to factory layout and there is no de-lamination of the wood though the varnish finish is starting to lift slightly in some areas and could usefully be reapplied. The carpets are not unduly worn and the seats are structurally in good condition, pliant yet supportive though there are a couple of tears to the driver’s side squab material as shown in the photo gallery but as these are confined to just two panels, a partial recovering might be viable. The correct ‘Springall’ steering wheel is in place along with the wooden Lotus badged gear knob. A pair of ‘Willans’ four point harness’ and a fire extinguisher are two sensible additions to the Europa’s factory specification.
Under the engine cover there is a slight crack in the surprisingly capacious boot liner and once this has been removed the engine and ‘box are more accessible than you might expect for a mid-engined car. Tidy and presentable, the engine and gearbox themselves look to be honest and suitably exercised – these cars are for driving, not detailing though if that were carried out we are sure it would be a rewarding experience.
A jack, its handle and associated wheel brace are found next to the correct spare wheel in the front load space along with the adjuster for the Kenlowe fan.
The Europa is blessed with extensive detailed history files and two ring binders cover restoration and maintenance carried out throughout its life. A letter on file from The Lotus Factory Archives confirms it left the factory on 12th February 1970 bound for Northern Sports Cars, the Lotus dealership in Richmond, Yorkshire from where it was purchased by a Mr Reid of Hartlepool on 18th May. Further ownership history is covered in the aforementioned copy of the original log book and the previous owner obtained a full set of copy registration documents from the DVLA. A stack of old MOT certificates that accompany the current one indicate that the Europa had covered just over 80,000 miles by September 1980 – eight thousand miles a year for the first ten years of its life.
For us, this Europa represents a very good and useable example of the model and quite possibly currently (and we stress, currently) the cheapest way into classic 1960’s Lotus motoring – the decade in which they ruled the roost on both the race track and road. Rag it around just as it is or tidy up the paint and trim, either way we agree with Jenks – this is going to be a riot.