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1971 Lotus Europa: Worth Saving?


Some cars are worth saving and others, not so much. I will let you be the judge here, but I think this 1971 Lotus Europa at least deserves some consideration. The seller’s vague listing and bad photos make this one a gamble, but at a more realistic asking price this Europa might make a worthwhile project for a wholehearted Lotus enthusiast. Find it here on eBay out of Hobbs, New Mexico where bidding starts at $3,500 with no reserve. You had better know what you are getting into though.


At first glance, I assumed that this car had been dropped off at the local scrapyard. That can point to a bargain sometimes, but usually those places ask more than the cars are worth. That lines up with the situation here, but upon further investigation of the photos, I think this could just be on offer by a person who enjoys buying and selling stuff. They claim to not know the year (the VIN does point to 1971) and to not have a title at this time. Does that mean that the title is in the mail? Or has it been lost for good?


Little tidbits like that could greatly influence the final bid here. I have a feeling it isnt going to get any bids though at the current starting price because this Lotus may need more invested in it than it’s worth to be roadworthy. Well, that is if the title can even be located. If it can, then you will have your work cut out for you inside and out. The windshield is gone and the interior has obviously suffered for it.


The passenger side door is also missing and there is some obvious crash damage. The seller categorized the title as “Lemon & Manufacturer Buyback”, but I can’t help but wonder if they meant “Salvage”. So, if there is a title floating around, you will also want to verify that it isn’t branded. Hmm, this is getting worse as we go along here. Maybe I should just stop now…


This could be the final blow here. The seller claims that the “motor is mainly complete”, but I’m seeing lots vitals that are missing. Perhaps this would be a good base for a race car rather than a full restoration candidate. Yeah, that’s the ticket! The title would not be an issue then. The engine would get replaced with a hotted up version anyway and the interior would need to be stripped out for the roll cage. Well, perhaps I am just trying to convince you of this car’s merits because I hope someone saves it. It may be crude and it may look awkward, but anything designed by Colin Chapman has gotta be fun.


Well, almost anything. He knew the secret to speed and agility was lightness and the principle was well applied here. With a weight of around 1,500 pounds this car should have no problem going, stopping, or turning quickly. I would love to squeeze into that seat and give her a run. So much in fact, that the Europa ranks third on my Lotus list of must-haves coming in just behind the Elan and the Seven. If that’s not good company, I don’t know what is. So, back to our original question – is this pile of parts worth putting back together?


  1. Dave Wright

    We have had several of these cars in the family. They are crude when new. This looks to me like an S1 car…….low roofline that requires a driver of 5’8″ or less and small feet to work the pedals, anemic Renault engine. It would only be worth doing if it was an S2 with a twin cam and you were into self flagulation. One of my brothers stuffed one into a retaining wall at speed while showing off to a new employee…….I don’t think the kid came back. Another brother had one catch fire sitting at a stoplight in San Jose and burn to the ground. All that being said, they were incredible around a corner. The S2 cars were better but still had the quality of a Fiberfab kit car.

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  2. Tirefriar

    the inner voice is telling me “YES, IT SHOULD BE SAVED….but let the other guy do it…” I like these cars and can appreciate them, but just not crazy about them. I wonder if an Alfa 2L Nord motor can be made to work in this application, but the bell housing design tells me otherwise… On the other hands AR 116 cars had a transaxle, hmmm…

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    • Scot Carr

      ~ I will second that thought — the inner voice is telling me “YES, IT SHOULD BE SAVED….but let the other guy do it…”

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  3. stanley stalvey

    I like a good looking Lotus but this car is far and wide one of the ugliest cars i ever have seen. a can of gas and a match I would build a nice bonfire with this ewww grosss pile of dog doodie.. hahaha…

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  4. Scott M

    I say yes i see the potential in it maybe a ls build for the work involved to restore it build it to have fun

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  5. Julian

    Fantastic handling car.
    Lots of 4 cylinder engines will fit including UK Fords, renaults of course and by choice a twin cam Fiat motor. A spare Lotus twin cam would be rare and expensive.
    I’m 6ft and shared the drive in an S1 from UK to Spain. Reaonable comfort. Only broke down twice (minor electrics) and the luggage got cooked in the “boot” above the engine.
    This one will probably need a chassis – a relatively easy job. Most parts available in the Uk
    There’s an S2 just round the corner from me under a pile of stored junk. Every so often I offer to buy it and the owner says NO.
    Well worth a rebuild. I think we’d call it a “B” road flyer – not a freeway cruiser.

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  6. Mark E

    If it was me, I’d have the owner check for the title in the pocket of the missing door…

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  7. Alexander

    If you really needed body parts, this might be a gold mine–especially if someone else’s insurance is paying for the crash repairs. (I have a friend with a DeLorean going through that hell right now.)

    Aside from that, let’s see…… an example of what, in my opinion, is one of THE worst-looking cars that someone thought was supposed to look good (as if someone cross-bred a Corvette, an Austin-Healey Bugeye, and a Ford Ranchero!), with THE worst color I have seen on a car in ages (is that Kermit the Frog green?), and an engine name that sends involuntary shudders up my spine, having been subjected to a Renault 10 in my childhood……… can I pay to smash this thing with a cricket bat?

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  8. Scott Duncan

    Neat car, not that rare, worth saving but not for $3500.

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  9. Chuck Foster Chuck F 55chevy

    I actually owned one for a while, a $1200 sale paper find, it was owned in NE IN by a former Chrysler designer, he had a lot of neat prototype sketches that are probably worth a lot. It had Weber carbs and a header, someone had stripped the paint for him and never finished it. I did get it running, and it was like a big go kart, cornered great. This one is probably best for parts, or if you really want one for a track car. The chassis are rust prone, and not easy to replace.

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  10. John M

    Will a small block V8 fit into one of these things??? Just sayin… ;-)

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    • Tirefriar

      John, as far as I know SBC fits into almost anything except maybe a Dinky toy. However, the first time you bury the throttle, you will tie up this car into a pretzel.

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    • Dolphin Member

      Before you get very far with that SBC transplant idea have a look under the rear hatch of one of these Europas sometime, especially the size of the chassis rails and the suspension links. There is no chance that the car could survive the torque of an engine like that. Tirefire is right. It would twist the chassis and probably rip the suspension right out. These were made to work with a small 4 cylinder engine because they are very light and have low drag because they are about waist high. Save that SBC for a different project.

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  11. jim s

    i too think this is a parts car, but i am not sure i see the asking price in parts. nice find.

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  12. John

    I had a 74, Twin-cam. I assure you, “perfect” and Lotus are mutually exclusive terms.

    There was never a day when the car didn’t need something. And every “something” cost about five times the expected cost. It’s brake system has two vacuum chambers and a plumbing scheme from hell. The shift linkage had a u joint in it that used to sheer roll pins at the worst possible moments (ever eat at a high-class restaurant and have the parki guy come get you because the car won’t go into gear). It’s motor had to be removed to replace its water pump. The pump cassette is about four inches thick. It sits two inches from the front bulkhead of the engine compartment. It’s spare tire blocked air-flow through its radiator. You could always tell when it’s water pump or radiator were not functioning. That was the only time that the heater worked.

    But the largest issue is that the backbone type chassis is a welded up sheet metal structure that rusts and twists until it fails. Combine all of that with Lucas electrics and kit car quality weather sealing (windshield wipers that rip their mounting points out of the firewalls) and you have the recipe for a never ending project. You do not want to “restore” it to the way it left the factory because it left there only partially assembled.

    And the S1’s were Renault powered. Drop a V8 in it? Not unless you are willing to re-engineer the entire chassis.

    They handle perfectly. That’s the only thing that recommends them.

    $3500 is about what a perfect one should bring. This is not a $3500 opportunity.

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    • Dave Wright

      Very well stated…….and you had the best one ever built…….

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    • Alexander

      Lucas……….. a.k.a “The Prince of Darkness”………….

      Lucas: Inadvertent Inventor of the Intermittent Wiper………

      Lucas Three-Way Switch: “Off/Flicker/Dim”……..

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  13. Alan (Michigan)

    Thirty years ago, a friend stripped a JPS version of one of these, and replaced the engine with a rotary from an RX-7. Not a street car, but built for autocross. That car was FAST! Another guy from the same area had a street version. Not the most reliable or comfortable car, but fun nonetheless.

    @ $1000 this could be fun, built into a track car. Of for parts, of course. But @ the current beginning price, I really will be surprised if there is one bid. Based on what I see, it is likely that the right door is missing due to a mishap. There has been repair work around the door frame. And the engine bay… Good grief the cylinder liners are sticking up out of the block!

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    • Rapple

      All good points.. Except the cylinder liners (IN the block) look just like one would expect them to look in a wet sleeve engine with the head removed,

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      • Tirefriar

        Rapple, seeing that got me thinking AR Nord engine as a transplant…

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  14. rancho bella

    I’ll stay with Elans and Elan Type 50’s. If I was going to a middy………it would be a 914.
    Far superior

    As for this car……..”just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”

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  15. frank

    L.O.T.U.S. = Lots of Trouble Usually Serious

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  16. That Guy

    To answer the question – “worth saving?” Sadly, I think not. Too much damage, too much missing, too many decent examples out there at used-Accord money. This is the very definition of a parts car.

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  17. JagManBill

    I might be interested at 5’8…but at 6’4 I’m not. Tried on a Series 2 once, had potential just because the owner was 6’3 and had done everything he could to the car already to make it fit him. But his price was waaaay outta my league…

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  18. erikj

    love franks L.T.O.U.S. Thing Funny. I had a 61 ithink Renault something . got it cheap and thought it was the ugliest thing in the world . back then I was young and dumb $50 and got it going and it as fun to drive. sold it early on and made $150 profit (I don’t include my time) It was just a fun memorie brought up by this car. Thanks to Barnfinds for Joggling my brain to remember this stuff! I Forgot about that car— Ive had so many. Erik

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  19. Dave Wright

    This is deffinatly a series 1 car. The engine is an aluminum block Renault that probably weighs 200 lbs. I remember moving a complete engine from the floor to the bench by myself. To make more power and not destroy the chassis I would be thinking towards a motorcycle based water cooled engine like being used in some of the newer formula race cars. These are a transisition car for CC as he was moving into street cars and is really more a track car in any event. My first Lotus had a Coventry Climax that was a similar weight, it came with both orignal engines (it was a club car), one had broken a crank with such force it twisted the block at least 1/2 an inch out of alignment. The crank was by far the heaviest part of the engine, probably weighed more than the entire rest of the engine combined.

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  20. Platorats

    I’ll save it gladly, buy I won’t be able to justify paying more then $200, possibly as high as $400 if the top of the motor is there.

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  21. Robin

    This one is destined to remain a LOTUS.

    I don’t know whether or not it is true, but I have heard it said that is how Lotus got its name … the first car chapman bought was an unsold lot at auction … written on the screen was

    LOT U/S

    And that’s where the name came from.

    You would have to be mad to buy it!

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  22. William Henshaw

    I am also of the opinion that this car would be an easy restore by someone else, but not by me. Looks to be a true POS, I see too many available for three times this price that are good drivers, why would you bother with this? As for me personally it’s a moot point as I do not fit in this car even with the worlds largest shoe horn.

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  23. julian

    Dave Wright’s idea seems best.
    A big Honda or Suzuki motor and a new chassis to make a quick track day or hill climb car.

    But then what’s worth buying for more than about 2000?

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  24. Chris A.

    I passed up a nice S1 Europa that had a lot of the mentioned problems fixed. However it was an early S1 with the chassis bonded, not bolted to the body shell and had visible rust damage. I passed, but for $1,500 asked, it was a good runner that I could just barely drive at 5’10” and 160 lbs (back then in 80). But it was a joy to drive around corners. A modern 1500 cc engine and a 5 speed with a new, stronger chassis, some sound insulation would make a nice Europa bridge from a kit car. And there is a good support club for these. This one isn’t restorable, especially at the asking price.

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  25. Alan (Michigan)

    Relisted @ $2500, a 1K drop.

    Still WAY too much, IMO.

    Not sure why I did not think of it before: About the time when this car was new, a guy came into the gas station I was working at driving a yellow one. But there was something agressive looking about the car. I remember him telling me that it was a “racing version” meant for competition, but that he had it licensed for street driving. Twincam motor, perhaps 1.6L? The striking thing about the car was that it was configured to save as much weight as possible. One specific item I recall was that the door windows were plexiglas, and that there was no normal mechanism for operating them. Just a leather strap attached near the top, with a snap on the end that was matched to the other gender affixed to the top door frame. That is how it was held closed! The only complaint which the owner had about the car was the brake pads. Made for competition, they were way too hard for street driving. He said they never got warm enough to operate effectively, so pedal pressure required to stop was extreme. He mentioned that he intended to put “softer” pads on it… Only saw the car the one time, a “never forget” experience.

    Tom’s Kettering-Oakwood Shell.

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  26. Scott M

    If i had the money i would own it

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  27. julian

    the yellow Europa that you saw was probably a lotus 47
    a lighter version of the Europa and only about 65 produced for racing.
    One with racing history sold in 2011 for around £85,000
    There’s lots of information on google

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  28. Richard

    This is a Europa S2, not a Europa S1. The S2 has the regular door handles you see here. The S1 has a push button where the handle would be. The S1 was made from 1966 to 1968. The S2 was made from 1969 to 1971. I had a brand new 1971 S2. Best car I ever owned. Selling it was the biggest mistake I ever made. I hope to buy another S2 that is completely restored. What some writers said about driver height is correct. I’m 5’7″ and the S2 fits me perfectly. Not enough leg room for someone 6′ tall. The reverse situation is also true–the Europa Twin Cam (1972-1975) made room for taller drivers by moving the pedals further away. If you’re 5’7″ like me, the foot pedals will be too far away. If you move your seat forward, the steering wheel will be too close. Also, the styling of the rear sails on the Twin Cam is not as nice as the S2. For me, I would rather have the S2 than the Twin Cam, but most people want the Twin Cam for the more powerful engine and the extended leg room.

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