A while back I came across an abandoned temporary license plate for a Jensen in my neighborhood and have been looking out for it ever since. But standing on the corner a blocks from my house an even better sighting hove into view.
Beyond knowing a Lotus Europa when I see one, I cannot readily distinguish between the years and even doing some research doesn’t help much as some have been modified since production, all I know is it’s at the earliest a 1971 and at the latest a 1975 model. At least I had the presence of mind to take one picture and one very short video of it getting back up to speed.
Lotus cars have a reputation as being, let’s say, potentially troublesome cars, that however was not evident at all with this one. It sure looked and sounded great. I won’t rehash the history of the car here, but below are two excellent pieces explaining it all.
1974 Lotus Europa Special – The Sports Hearse Strikes Again by Tatra87
1972 Lotus Europa S3 Twin Cam – Magnificence in Miniature by Roger Carr
Nice find Jim, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these in the wild.
And speaking of wild, that styling… It’s terrible, yet somehow I like it.
A Lotus, is a Lotus, is a Lotus. Love seeing them. No, have no desire to drive one! Thanks for the photo and the video.
Always uncommon, but really rare now. When I was at university in the late sixties/early seventies I remember seeing one sneak into a campus parking lot. It was a central lot that was protected by gates. You needed a pass to enter but the exit gate was automatic and triggered by a sensor in the pavement in front of it. The Lotus drove up to exit gate from the outside and the nose was low enough to go under bar and trigger the gate. It raised and in he went.
My ultimate lust object. Never came close to owning one.
“My ultimate lust object. Never came close to owning one.”
You and me, both. I had a severe soft spot in my head for these as a teenager. Bought the service manual, joined a Lotus club, daydreamed endlessly. Sat in one, once, in the back room of a Lotus dealer. Had one drive past me once. Never rode in, or drove one.
These days, I think about how I’d have to gut the engine and transmission in favor of something else NOT made by Ford or Citroen, and how much work it’d be to replace the rusted backbone frame. I’m pretty sure I’ve logic-ed my way out of ever having to come up with that much money–which at any point in the last forty years was always about three times what I had available.
But all it takes is a photo of one, and I remember who I used to be.
Great find! I have never actually seen one on the street (but many at dealers and through ads). It is on my list to own when I can find a good one.
As for unreliability – it surprises me that that “fact” would keep an enthusiast from having one. If the car has been sorted it should not cause too many problems. Straightforward suspension, engine and gearbox. Of course it is not a new car so there will be always small things to improve upon but that is part of the fun of having a classic.
What I remember most about the Europa are the black/gold pinstriped John Player Special versions. Ever since, anytime I spotted a ‘special edition’ car with that color scheme, whatever the make, I always think back to the Europa.
I know where they are all hiding. One day, they will all suddenly appear at once, like the 17 year Cicadas.
They appear to be in Australia or New Zealand, but that’s as much as I can figure out from the picture.
This brought the Man from U.N.C.L.E. car to mind for me. That car was based on a custom chassis, but looks similar in proportions and styling cues.
Here’s a link to more info on the Man From U.N.C.L.E. car, aka Piranha: http://www.c-we.com/piranha/
Rather than having a mid-engine like the Europa, the U.N.C.L.E. car has a Corvair engine hanging out back. From what I can gather, the Piranha was essentially a short-lived kit-car. Production seems to have barely made it into the double-digits, with few remaining.
I regularly see a Europa in St Paul MN. Running and driving!
Ive been for a ride in one, not a lot of room inside, there were some at a car show I attended recently rare sure but not as rare as some things
not a lot of room inside,
Understatement of the day!
My only memories from a brief ride in an S1 Europa fifty-odd years ago are that the front tyres rubbed on full lock, and the driver needed two hands to select reverse. I’m a serious Lotus fan, but never really took to the Europa.
Indeed, the Elan seemed like a much cooler car. It was certainly more accessible for the average mortal and no wonder it was the inspiration for the Miata.
First one I remember was in a Charles Grodin (who just died) / Candice Bergen movie about a diamond heist. 11 Harrowhouse (1974) Pretty dumb movie, but the car was very active.
Drove a very new one once in my high school days, sadly for no more than about 10 miles. Handling was otherworldly. I had to take my shoes off to drive it; the footwell was so tight that my size 12’s had a very hard time depressing any one pedal without also depressing its neighbor!
Last one of these I saw in the wild was on a trailer with flat tires, behind a repair shop. I haven’t gone back to check it out. But at least it was intact.
My eighth grade art teacher bought one at the factory, drove it around the Continent on vacation, and had it shipped back to IL. It wasn’t a twin cam though. It was a very, very low car.
This is the slightly later series, when they cut down the buttresses. I like the original breadvan – since the rear window is about four inches high (literally) it’s not like the visibility could have been improved much.
This is the earlier series – the only thing I don’t like in this view is the weird curve to the top of the side window. It makes sense in three dimensions but it’s very hard to photograph well.
And photos don’t show you how incredibly low it is – I’m 5’9″ and it’s about waist height.
Lotus: Lots of trouble, usually serious.
A delightful car in concept and an admirable attempt, but sadly less than what it could have been. Learning just now that it was the replacement for the 7 gives me pause in my criticism, because it is in almost all respects much more to my liking than that aerodynamic disaster. The Europa is very light, corners very well and will keep you much dryer and warmer than a 7. It probably is slower to accelerate and slower to corner than the 7 due to weighing 300-400 lbs more for equivalent power, but it is not an aerodynamic disaster and it looked like it was actually a car. Once I understood the backbone frame my desire to actually own one to drive diminished rapidly. The Elise is so much better in it’s perimeter frame design. Space utilization in the Europa makes the 914 look like a mini van. Even the X-1/9 has more space than the Europa. The trailing arm suspension is hard on transmissions. Think of it as a race car you can drive on the street.