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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.
3,645 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. The Ron Hickman via John Frayling sleek, low (and we mean GT 40 low) Europa was as slippery as an eel and clung to corners like a limpet; a junior supercar with 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 (good luck with that Lotus and now Caterham, 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, both the 7 and Europa punched 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 it possible to open the side windows and adjust the seats 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 them and the car get pranged when the Europa was current, while today it means restoration is actually a relatively straightforward task.
Just as well really as that is exactly what this little diamond in the rough requires and indeed deserves. While highly original it does require full restoration, more than likely with a new chassis and certainly a little bit more than a good polish to the paintwork. Mechanically it will need a good going through but being on its wheels at least one can ascertain that it is almost all there.
Though the Bahama Yellow paintwork has undoubtedly seen better days, where it is flaking off there is little evidence of multiple other layers below (perhaps one in dark blue) which should help any pre-repaint preparation. The bodywork has for the most part escaped the bane of many a Lotus and indeed fiberglass cars in general, namely that of crazing in the sub-paint surface, or gel coat for the technically minded. During our inspection we noted only a small amount on the engine cover (possibly caused by the use of a prop to hold it open), around the passenger door handle and a more substantial area on the nearside front wing – please see the photo gallery. Though there are various cracks and chips, the body is straight and ripple free and seems for the most part to have survived remarkably well. The generous leading edge door gaps the more observant of you will have noticed (along with those less observant to be frank) are we suspect down to wear in the door hinges themselves.
What there is of the Lotus’ chrome-work is average with some specs of corrosion and light pitting showing on the bumpers though they are straight and free from dents (please see the photo gallery). Other items such as door handles and window frames are in better shape and may well respond to a good polish. The very period genuine Minilite alloy wheels are in good condition shape-wise but there is evidence of some oxidation under the silver paint so cosmetically they look decidedly below par. All the tyres have a decent amount of tread left on them but may well prove to be ‘age expired’. The rear light lenses have both picked up some damage and will require replacement, though these are readily available.
Under a generous layer of dust, detritus and cobwebs, the interior looks to be highly original and in fair to good shape throughout. The dashboard is to factory layout and there is no de-lamination of the wood veneer though the varnish is starting to discolour slightly in some areas and could usefully be reapplied. The full set of Smiths instruments are present with just the ammeter being of an alternative make. The carpets are good in places and it may be possible to bring these up to scratch with diligent cleaning and possibly a couple of new sections. The seats seem to be structurally in good condition with no rips or tears to the apparently original basket-weave vinyl though treatment with some softening compound might now be wise. The headlining is badly discoloured and may ultimately need to be replaced. The correct ‘Springall’ steering wheel is in place and though the Lotus horn push is present, it is unfortunately damaged. The original wooden Lotus-badged gear knob has been replaced with an alternative though these are readily available through an excellent network of Lotus parts suppliers.
Under the engine cover the boot liner is missing though the engine and ‘box are more accessible than you might expect in a mid-engined car. Apparently complete with all its ancillaries, the powertrain looks to be due at least a precautionary strip down and inspection.
Externally the Europa displays some nice styling touches from the single windscreen wiper up front back to the offset rear number plate leaving room for the exhaust to exit through the grill the digits mount on.
Aside from the various odds and sods mentioned above, the only other missing parts seem to be a pair of headlight trim rings (which are common to numerous other British cars of the period) and the front ‘boot’ lock.
The Europa has a small but perfectly informed history file which includes a letter from Lotus Archives accompanying their official Classic Certificate of Vehicle Provenance which confirms it was a Factory assembled domestic market machine, finished in ‘LO10 (Bahama Yellow) with black vinyl trim and that it was invoiced from the factory on 2nd December 1969 bound for Westleigh Garages Limited, Lotus dealers in Leigh-on-Sea. Also detailed is the fact that Lotus themselves then allocated the car to a G.C.Lewis of West Germany on 7th October the following year. According to a later registration document this was just two days after it was apparently UK registered OVG 932J (a Norwich 1970 registration number). Whatever the reason for this interesting diversion, by February 1978 the Europa was domiciled in Northern Ireland and it has only just returned to England in the last few weeks. As its original Norfolk registration number appears to have not been reallocated by the DVLA, there is every chance it could be reunited with the Lotus if it stays in the UK.
You will notice that we, showing great restraint, have not once mentioned ‘barn find’ (though we will now, simply for the sake of Google searches) but we feel this Europa represents a very good restoration project, being almost entirely complete and ‘on its wheels’ rather than disassembled with the potential for various parts (normally the hard to find/ruinously expensive ones) to have gone missing. The nature of the model makes it not only a viable prospect for the amateur but also 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. If you enjoy the simple pleasures of a bit of spanner twiddling while you anticipate ragging the finished product around we are sure you will agree with Jenks – this is going to be a riot.