Cheap? 1972 Lotus Europa S2

This is an interesting one, and not so much because it’s a 1972 Lotus Europa S2. There’s a small story here, and the consequence of it is something for consideration. This Lotus is located in Hawthorne, California and is available, here on craigslist for $10,000 FIRM! Thanks to Pat L. for this tip!

I have always found the styling of the Europa to be polarizing, people seem to like it or hate it – styling is always subjective, however. The Europa’s identifying design cue is the extended B-C pillar/sail panels/flying buttress, however you care to refer to it – you know a Europa when you see one. And speaking of seeing one, ten years of production only produced about 9,800 copies with the S2, like this example, being the most common with a total count of about 4,200. I recall seeing Europas on the street, with some regularity, from the mid-’70s into the early ’80s, but I haven’t encountered one, out and about, in years.

Moving on to the story… Apparently, the seller was using this Europa as a daily driver and he states, “This car was a daily driver until it overheated few weeks ago (I drove it to work and on all LA highways)“. This statement is stuck between, “Lots of new parts (suspension, tires, etc). Very well maintained esp. 2011-2020.” and “Complete and stock interior“. Curious positioning of the critical…So what’s wrong with the 81 HP, 1.5 liter, Renault-sourced in-line, four-cylinder engine? The seller adds, “This is not a project that will take forever to be a daily driver again – just rebuild engine, install upgraded radiator, and drive.” Apparently the over-heating condition was fatal. When running, this Europa employs a four-speed manual transaxle to get this diminutive 1,450 lb. two-seater up and moving.

Is it me, or does this image look photoshopped? This one is still a head-scratcher; the Europa is small but, toy-sized? It was to be the wide-angle nature of the photo. Anyway, this Lotus presents really well, the exterior images are limited, and not too revealing, but from what can be spied, there is no sign of body damage and the finish appears to have nice depth.

There is one image of the interior, and from what’s revealed, it seems fine – no obvious issues. The seat upholstery and door panels look like they are covered in a rib felt material that may or may not be original, I would ask informed Europa aficionados to please comment on that matter. The other examples that I could find seem to be generally finished off in black vinyl. We’re at a distance, but the instrument panel looks to be complete with no gauge or switchgear vacancies.

OK, time for the nitty-gritty, the seller proclaims, “Not taking offers – if you make an offer on this I will NOT sell it to you even for what I am asking for it.” There you go, you have been forwarned… $10,000 firm with an engine that is “all blowed up”. What do you think, worth the risk?


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  1. RayT Member

    I’m something of a Europa fan, Jim, even if I barely (and uncomfortably) fit in them. The design doesn’t bother me all that much, and they are indeed tiny devices.

    Leaving the price aside, the “blown” engine rings some warning bells. The Renault 16 engine (I’ve rebuilt one, back in the day) is aluminum — block and head — so overheating can be a bit moire, well, problematic. The first thing I’d look for (don’t ask why) is a cracked head, which can lead to water in the oil and worse….

    Not sure how easy it is to get R16 parts these days. When I was looking, the local Renault dealer could still get the basics, but that only tells you how long ago I did the job. This one appears to have an aftermarket carburetor swap, so I’d wonder if there are any used-up unobtainium hop-up bits inside.

    Neat cars, but not worth the money/effort for me.

    Like 2
    • tonywa28 Member

      Ray is correct on concerns with overheating as well as availability of parts. The engines are primarily R16, but have a few Lotus proprietary bits. Cam, exhaust valves, and a few others. I have just completed a full S2 engine rebuild and found that there are very few parts resources, the best being Renault R16 shop and Der Franzose. I sourced parts from the UK, France, Italy, Australia and the U.S. to get everything I needed. Engines are straightforward if not warped and can be modified to get quite a bit more HP.

      This car appears to be equipped with a Weber DCOE that could be part of a period correct upgrade kit called a Hermes kit. My current project has one of these.

      Overall this car looks pretty darn good as far as I can tell (other than the sunroof cutout, which could be repaired….).

      Yes there were Europas that had engines that shared components with the Ford Pinto (the later Europa Twincams).. The Lotus unit was a much better performing twincam engine where the Pinto unit was an overhead valve engine.

      FWIW that same “Pinto” engine powered Formula Ford racecars that many, many famous race car drivers cut their teeth in. Many of the FF cars are still out there racing today (saw some at Daytona SCCA races yesterday)..

      Also, you can not just drop in a Ford engine into the Europa S2. It has a different chassis than the ford based twincam nodel that came out sometime 1972.

      Like 3
      • tonywa28 Member

        forgot to mention, that the interior is unlikely original (the tan bits). I also have only ever seen black vinyl in the type 54, but you never know with Lotus….

        Like 2
  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    I’m 5’6” tall and the two S2 we had came to my waist. The European Ford is a good swap into these cars as you can get the dual overhead cam head for the block and wind up with a pretty healthy car. On our list of “grab a chair and a beer and sit down and just look at it” cars.

    Like 7
  3. Robert F Gressard

    I bought one in 1969. It was two weeks old so I am almost the first owner. After about six months it overheated. At the time it was a air lock in the long pipes that run the length of the car or so I thought. The problem happened many times after that. Had to plane the head. Sold it in 1970 and bought a MG TD that I have to this day. I liked the Europa but won’t buy another. It had a black badge not yellow. The Jim Clark death badge so I am told.

    Like 3
  4. Gerard Frederick

    Lotus plus Renault equals nightmares.

    Like 2
    • bill tebbutt

      Is your statement based on your own experience? I am curious, as I owned an S2 for many years with Renault power (and still own a 1965 Elan S2 and did own a new 2005 Elise for 7 years, as my DD) and my own experience as an owner/driver would be the opposite of your “experience”.

      As a previous poster stated, the Weber sidedraft may be indicative of a Hermes engine kit – mine had this as well. Typically, this came with the carb, a header, and a selection of cams to choose from (mine came with the original correspondence from the original owner and Hermes, discussing cam choices, etc). So equipped, the car was darned quick with no vices whatsoever.


      Like 2
  5. Steve Clinton

    The seller is an ignoramus.

    Like 3
    • Gordo

      I agree, Lotus did not make the S2 in 1972, a 72 Europa would be a type 74 Twin Cam.

      Like 1
      • Steve Carlsen

        According to the last Type 65 (US spec S2) was built Dec. 1971, so sold as a 72. Apparently they had some old parts to use up because Twin Cam production started Sept 71 to satisfy the 72 model year. Makes this a bit of an anomaly I’d think.

        My dad had two 69 S2’s. He was a traveling sales rep and used them as a conversation starter at the farms he visited. One day he gassed up at a truck stop and the truckers were out measuring this diminutive ride against their trailers. He did it as well, made a lap around the pumps and right out underneath the trailer to cheers from the truckers. Yes – they are that small.

        Like 6
      • Vcbio

        I’ve owned 3 Europa’s. 72 is cross over, year last for the S2 and first for the twincam with a 4 speed. Later years had a 5 speed. Blocks were aluminum but had wet cast iron sleeves. Heads would warp when overheated. Never had an issue with overheating.
        Interior on all S2 were black vinyl.

        Like 2
      • Gordo

        I recant my previous statement as Steve and Vcbio point out 72 was a somewhat of crossover year.

        That information jives with the Europa S2 registry which lists Dec. 71 as the last year of production, those cars were most likely sold as 72s.

        Like 1
  6. Jef Fowler

    Make a good restomod. Seller probably needs to be a bit more flexible. Maybe ask for $15K and take an offer.
    Looks like it is well worth $10K. Most of us want to deal.

    Like 1
  7. Ralph

    40 years ago I saw one of these for sale at a buy here, pay here used car lot. Same color. $400 bucks. So I looked it over.
    The car still had the original interior, with the same cloth seats as this one.
    The dealer said the car was non running but had an engine. I opened the rear hatch and saw an old Pinto engine block, no head, intake, distributer, etc.
    As much as I was tempted to buy it and begin the rehabilitation process, quickly realized that was not a road I wanted to go down. (back then there were very few folks here (Mobile, Al.), who even knew what a LOTUS was. Finding someone to order parts was even a bigger deal, in the late 70s there was a real love/hate attitude going on with foreign cars here. Many felt the foreign makes were stealing good American jobs and owning a import was something a Commie or hippie did…Got to love that redneck attitude.
    The true deal breaker was the holes in the floor pans, someone had drilled several holes on the floors to drain water. Closer inspection revealed the car had been under water to near the roof, as a result of Hurricane Fredrick.
    Hated to walk away, but sometimes a man needs to know his limitations.

    Like 5
  8. Gordo

    I purchased an estate sale 1970 S2 around 1974, previous owner had died in a plane crash in Hawaii. The Lotus was my daily driver for 15 years, overheating was never a problem. I use to regularly drag race a 356 Super 90 during my daily commute, we had a pretty even win/loss record.
    Interior door cards and seats were covered in black leatherette. I’m 6’2″, 190lb at the time and never had a problem with interion space once I got in, the seats were semi reclined. Only reason I sold it is my kid was approaching driving age and had her eye on that car.

    Like 5
  9. Howie Mueler

    I had a 69 many years ago. This is just a few miles from me, only 7 poor photos, when on Craig’s List you can have 25. The Renault powered ones do not bring $25k in great shape. Many things are not right, including the seller.

    Like 2
  10. Jeffrey Glace

    I love a Lotus Europa however his car was destroyed when the fiberglass shell was cut in order to install a pop up / removable sunroof.

    Like 1

    In California, there first two questions, that I would ask. Is the registration paid up to date? Is there a DMV Non-op on the car? I had a friend that bought, at a garage sale, a prefect 1967 Honda CL125, with only 1525 miles on the odo. The last time that it was registered was in 1969. When he went to the DMV California wanted ALL of the back fees paid up to date, because there wasn’t’ a no-op on the bike. The back fees were several times what he paid for the bike and the collector current value, in pristine condition. The seller wouldn’t give him his money back. So, he finally ended up selling it in Arizona but, at a profit. He used the money to buy a Honda 305 Scrambler, in Arizona. Go figure.

    Like 2
    • angliagt angliagt Member

      Sometimes you can get a DMV office to waive
      the fees.I’ve heard of it happening.Of course it won’t
      happen if you don’t ask.

      Like 1
  12. Old Car Guy

    Was in a recycling yard in the mid-60s, saw something yellow, unrecognisable, said to self “What the h*** is that?” Looked at it for a good 5 minutes, and can now tell you that these cars are low enough that a dump truck, running a red light, can drive right over the passenger compartment with the LF wheel, which is exactly what happened. Some of the lady victim’s groceries were still in the luggage tray. Not much survivability built into these cars, same as Chapman’s race cars. Motto: keep lightening until something breaks, then back up one step.

    Like 1
    • MitchRoss Member

      Sadly, Jim Clark was one of the things that broke

  13. Goatsnvairs

    Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious

    Like 2
  14. Blaney

    Just wondering. What is the possibility of swapping in a later model (carburetor) Ford, Toyota, Nissan/Datsun or even British Leyland (TR7) reliable power plant? Take a cue from modern day Lotus.

    • Bainford

      Great possibilities there. Many Europas have been fitted with with alternative or modern engines. There are a number of choices, with the Ford zetec being the most common. The path to fitting a 180 200 hp zetec is well travelled, carbs or FI, and adapting components exist. There is also great support for Europa ownership, maintenance, and modification on a couple of online forums.

  15. britcarguy

    Guy takes a buddy for a ride in his freshly-restored Europa. They are going down a street. Buddy says “I don’t remember a wall along this street”. Owner says, “That’s the curb, man.” Had two of them and loved them.

    Like 6
    • douglas hunt

      now that’s funny …………

      Like 2
  16. Ric

    I wanted one of these in the worst way when I was young and could physically contort myself into one. The twin cam was out of reach but I spent some quality time with with this version. A friend owned one and I’m convinced I’m alive because I did not.

  17. Jay McCarthy

    Beautiful cars but 10k and you still have to source a motor GLWA

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