Budget Featherweight: 1968 Lotus Europa S1B

1968 Lotus Europa S1 Front Corner

When most people think of Lotus, they picture an Exige or an Elise. But when we think of Lotus, we think of the cars they built in the ’60s and ’70s. These cars were feather weights that could out handle just about any other sports car on the road. While we would love to own one of the beautiful Elans or Elites, they have become a little pricey. That’s why we love the Europa so much; it provides all the great handling that a Lotus should, but at a much lower price. This nice early example can be found here on eBay with a current bid of $3,500 and no reserve.

1968 Lotus Europa S1 Interior

While the Europa might not be the best looking Lotus, it has all the features that make for a great Lotus. The early Europa is the most sought after versions of the car, because of how basic the car is. To keep weight down, the Europa didn’t come with many creature comforts. This allowed for the Europa’s 1512 lb. curb weight and its fantastic handling. This car has had a few comforts added to it for usability sake, but most of the original parts are with the car or could easily be sourced.

1968 Lotus Europa S1 Rear Corner

This Europa S1B is going to need some work to get it back to original condition, but it could easily be driven and enjoyed just as it is. We love the looks of these early cars, but we wish they had used the twin cam engine instead of the 82 horsepower Renault engine. We would still love to own it, especially if the price doesn’t go up much higher. The fiberglass body of these early cars was glued to the frame, which is known to rust badly. The repairs can be very difficult and costly to have done, so inspect the underside thoroughly before bidding.

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Comments

  1. Mark McChesney

    ehh, Twin cam vs Renault motor? I’d take the Renault, it leaks less oil haha.

  2. J. Pickett

    Like all early Lotus road cars, Builder it Lighter, was more important than horsepower. Chapman was also cheap. The Renault didn’t last long. The same goes for the sail panels. They had few dealers here and repairs could be costly and waits for parts were sometimes long. I worked at a Lotus dlr in the 80’s. Today it would take a lot of effort and lubricant to get me into much less out of there. But I do love how light mid engined cars handle. I had a 914.

  3. Craig Bolton

    Okay, I’ll join in here- I have a Europa Twin Cam Special, and a Formula B Brabham with a twink, and I can assure you that with a properly assembled Lotus Twin Cam, the various fluids stay where they belong. And Colin didn’t rethink that body-bonded-to-a-sheet-metal chassis out of altruism- the waraanty expenses were eating Lotus up even back then. The early cars are nice, but the TC cars sported a lot of improvements (like- gasp!- opening windows) and had enough of an increase in power to make a serious canyon-carver. Plus, the Twin Cam has benefitted from subsequent decades of development and has MUCH better parts support. These factors do help hold the prices down to an MG-like level on the Renault-engined cars, which IS a good thing!

  4. cardog

    I actually like the looks of the early cars like this one more than the ones with the cut down sail panel. But the twin cam is supposed to be a much improved car. Is it possible to upgrade these to the twin cam specs while keeping the early body style?

  5. Craig Bolton

    cardog, what you need is a Lotus 47- best of both world, & more. The early body, with a Twin Cam, a Hewland, and a rear suspension more akin to a Formula car. Alas, not for the street…

  6. cardog

    Sounds like fun! I am not too familiar with English cars, though have gobbs of respect for them.

  7. His Royal Flatulence

    Is it my wishful thinking, or is that engine and transaxle actually really, really accessible with the covers removed?! I wouldn’t expect anything like that from a mid-engine car.I’ve never driven one of these, but as a former Mini owner I’m sold on the Chapman formula of small, very lightweight cars with moderate power. Even with the Renault engine I’ll bet this thing is just an absolute riot to drive.

  8. Michael

    I own a 1971 S2 with an all alloy Renault 1565cc engine and Hermes kit. It has only 5 hp less than a twink, but with none of it’s issues or prices for spares. Oh, and it is 300 pound (1420 against 1750, with all fluids, tools and spare tire. I put both side by side on a race scale) lighter than a cast iron TC!!!

  9. J. Pickett

    Actually your flatulance, it is mid-engined. That engine cover is big but it is a long reach over the rear quarters.

  10. Mark McChesney

    @craig bolton… I love the ford/lotus twin cam. Wonderful engine, complex gasket interface and all. :)

  11. His Royal Flatulence

    J.Pickett – I guess I did some click’n’clack-style “obfuscating” there; yes, I know it’s mid-engined. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one with the engine covers removed before, and I’m surprised at how accessible everything looks. Mid-engine cars generally have really poor access to the mechanicals, but this Lotus really opens up remarkably. It’s as good as, or better than, my old Triumph Herald was.

  12. J. Pickett

    Good to know, My memories of the Europa go back to 85 when I worked for a dealer that sold and serviced Lotus, Fiat, Chrysler, and Mazda. All I remember was How much the Lotus tech beefed more about parts waits for the older models. Accessibility beefs only occurred when he hate to put a clutch in a later model Esprit.

  13. Chris

    The later Europa had the body structure bolted instead of bonded. One of the nicest driving sports cars ever with a surprisingly supple ride. I turned one down because of the rust worm. Any frame rust or rust around suspension mounts is big trouble. There used to be a Lotus Europa Club that gave great support to the members.

  14. Geoff

    I found a 68 S1B in a field last summer got it for free in the end (long story)I am now restoring it near to original. It’s in poor condition but I hope by May 2012 it will be ready for the shows. This is my 2nd Lotus the other was a 68 Elan +2 beautiful car. The S1B will be very different to what you see here in Alberta should be fun to show it. This one is a keeper.

  15. Chris

    Hi Geoff. Peter Egan @ Rod & Truck, did a pretty good write up of the problems he had to solve restoring an Elan. I think some of his comments will carry over to the S1B. When I read posts to the Europa Club site, there was a very good series of help articles on the Europa weak spots. I recall one was how to rebuild the shift linkage so it worked the way it should.

  16. Geoff Minors

    The full story how I found my S1BI used to live near Calgary Alberta back in 2007 a friend came to my workshop and asked if I liked Lotus after seeing my 68 Elan +2 outside of course I said yes sucker that I am. He told me of this Lotus sat in a field just outside his home in the country. I said I will go and have a look and see later today. I took my camera with me and found the field but no car to be seen so a quick phone call explained which part of the field and it is hidden by the tall grass. The car had a big heavy tarp over it and when we took it off it was very sad sight to see but restorable I have photos. I contacted the owner of the field by phone and I got this story. Back in 1971 his friend who owned the Lotus needed a loan of $10,000 and he loaned him the money taking the Lotus as security. The loan never got repaid and he never saw him again. I asked if he wanted to sell the Lotus the answer I got was I would like my $10k back I replied maybe I would go to $500 max after all it has sat in his field since 1971 the call ended by I will talk to my Lawyer if I can sell it. I put the car to the back of my mind and I moved to Southern Alberta later that year. Then in 2010 when my daughter got married. At the wedding was my friend who lived next to the field with the Lotus. He came up to me and said the owner of the field of the Lotus had just died and his wife told me to tell you come and get that old car out of the field as soon as possible for free. The very next day I was there with my trailer and I had that 1968 Lotus Europa S1B out of there and it is now in my workshop being restored. I am interested in anybody who has one and done any work on them.

  17. Chris

    Geoff, I wish I was there to help. There is a huge bit of difference between the very early Europa chassis and series II onward. Originally the Europa chassis was built with the pressed steel backbone frame actually bonded to the fiberglass(GRP) body shell. This made repairs to either the shell or chassis difficult as any necessary separation was difficult. My guess is the insurance industry wasn’t too happy about it either due to the added expense. Another issue is the early production cars had the color actually mixed into the resin itself. Good luck matching the color now. I’d be very careful doing anything underneath until I’ve really checked out the conditoin of the chassis and suspension mounts.

  18. Geoff Minors

    Hi Chris. The frame is not to bad thanks to the dry area we live in. The front part bottom has some rust in it I can cut away the glass part carefully and weld a new section in. Otherwise all is good. The original color is Bahama Yellow which I dont like. I am thinking of Lamborghini yellow and maybe a black strip. Any idea where I can get replacement side windows quarter section and the lift out window. I have 10 days off at Christmas my plan is to get allot done then.

  19. Chris

    Hi Geoff. Glad to hear the chassis is in pretty good shape. Careful cutting out any of the glass as the body was bonded in for structual strength. As for parts, the Europa forums may be able to help you with the special bits and pieces. I’m also in favor of the bright yellow as the Europa looks good in it and the SUVers can see you. i hope you were lucky enough to get a manual with it.

  20. John

    Manuals are readily available online. Go to lotus-europa.com, tons of info there. Join the yahoo Europa list.

    I am also doing up an S1B in Alberta. I’m in Edmonton.

    Please remove the frame and repair it properly. Fibreglass is flammable and, worse, hard to extinguish so I would not weld with the body in place. It’s not an easy job to remove the frame from an S1 but not that bad as the frame will have un-bonded from the body by now.

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