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Contortionist Coupe: 1970 Lotus Europa S2

Lotus founder Colin Chapman said, “Simplify, then add lightness.”  The Lotus Europa epitomized that sentiment, weighing no more than 1,570 lbs. across the entire production run. Models ranged from affordable sports coupes to highly-tuned competition models, but every trim level featured the basic principles of Chapman’s vision: light, cheap, and superior handling. This 1970 S2 model has just emerged from 20 years of garage captivity and is now available here on eBay with bidding at $1,225 and no reserve .

To keep costs down, Lotus took the backbone chassis from the Elan, flipped it around, and installed a modified Renault 16 inline-four mated to a four-speed gearbox. Using the Renault motor required some innovative engineering, but Chapman realized that rotating the engine 90 degrees and reversing the final drive would give him the solution he needed for his mid-engine sports car. Even with only 80 horsepower, the car’s light weight made it possible to go from 0-60 in under 10 seconds. This was further helped by the Europa’s slippery shell, which recorded an impressive 0.29 drag coefficient.

Although the S2 listed here isn’t as stiff or as raw as the S1, it did make headway in creature comforts. Adjustable seats, electric windows and a wooden fascia for the dashboard were standard. Other changes were driven by the insurance industry and Deptartment of Transportation, such as bolting the body to the chassis rather than bonding it, and raising the height of the front fenders to position the headlights at the required level. This 1970 model is the US-market specific Type 65 with additional emission controls.

Though the seller is tight-lipped on the details, the Europa is said to be in good condition with only 34,200 original miles. It’s unknown if the car will run, but the engine compartment appears clean despite its hibernation. The bumper chrome is clearly in rough shape, but the body looks straight enough. It appears some surface rust has made its way into the trunk compartment behind the engine, so we would want to do a up-close inspection of the steel frame underneath. Reproduction chassis are available, but the switch might not be worth the effort.

The view behind that classic three-spoke steering wheel is pure 70s, and we’d gladly twist our way into the low-slung cockpit to check it out. Although it is going to need some work and a color-matched engine lid, the car’s overall completeness could make this no-reserve auction worth bidding on. Would the lack of information in the listing keep you from taking a chance on this Lotus Seven replacement?


  1. Jim

    I love Lotus cars except this model. Godawful ugly.

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  2. Roberto

    Dated a girl in Toronto back in 70 who had been given a Europa by daddy. Most terrifying car to drive in big city, downtown, traffic that you can imagine. The roof was about as high as the bottom lug nuts in the wheel of a Toronto Transit Co., bus. Once out of the city and on the open road, Lord it was fun! Thanks Noreen for the memories, where ever you are.

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  3. Stephen

    Not the prettiest Lotus ever but my god was it quick. Lovely quick motor since Lotus didn’t bother all that much with power just made the car so light so the power to weight ratio sorted it out to play with the big boys.

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  4. Ron Southan

    I doubt that the plastic boot liner is rusting. I’m guessing that the rust present had transfered from that rusty jack.

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  5. Dolphin Member

    Roberto, I haven’t owned a Europa but your comment made me laugh and I think you nailed it. These are for the open road, preferably two lane roads, and not for big cities or truck stops. I have sat in one—they are *very* low and tight.

    But Noreen’s dad sounds like the kind of guy you would want to know and have a few beers with.

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  6. erin

    I drove this car in red in the 80s to high school and thought I was one cool cat. My brother is in the slow process of refurbishing it after taking up space in the garage for years and not moving. Lots of good memories. Got a photo of my brother looking like 007 with it on Prom Night. It was a car you could drive under semis.

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  7. Anonymous

    You can find 2 examples of this Lotus sitting in my garage, one a yellow 1970 Europa with a Renault engine and the other an uber rare red 1970 Europa with a twincam weber head engine in it and a body similat to the type 47 racing Lotus.

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  8. TGM

    Why is this website stuck in “mobile theme” mode on my desktop PC?

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    • Jesse

      TGM – look for a button at the bottom of the page to turn the mobile theme off.

      Like 0
  9. cardog

    I LOVE the looks of these! I guess to each his own, eh. If I could start a project car now that wasn’t Italian this would be it.

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  10. sunsync

    If it’s of interest to anyone, I purchased new what looks to me the exact color (desert tan) S2 from a Lotus dealer in Tring, Hertfordshire, UK during the summer of 1969, complete with the black Lotus logos mourning the recent death of Jim Clark. At 42 inches high, it was definitely touch and go driving a left hand car in London traffic. I remember cruising down Kings Road in the company of Marcos, TVR, Morgan, Elan, Elite, Reliant, Gilbern, Elva, Ginetta and other fiberglass sportscars. Well in the case of Morgan – steel and wood – and in the case of Marcos – wood chassis, although this was the year they switched to steel. With Rolls & Bentleys, Jags, Bristols and Astons adding some upper crust class to the scene. After shipping the Europa stateside, I hit a rock in downtown Worcester that sent me airborne in front of city hall, drifted very controllably around my favorite curves and one day ended up on top of some boulders because of fog (and stupidity), but 6 people carried the car back to the road and it started right up. Driving it in the rain was akin to being in a boat – especially with the hole in the floor cause by one of the rocks – as water constantly swept over the car. In the snow, it had no go. No one told me that a perfectly balanced mid-ship car would need a good push to move forward on level ground, and forget the hills until the roads were plowed. But this was my daily driver for several years, and man did I fly everywhere – especially my express route between Mass and DC. It may have had little power, but it would cruise all day at over 100. Or until a fuel hose came lose pouring gas over the exhaust manifold. But just plug it back together and wait for the next adventure. My favorite machine shop handmade several parts that Lotus failed to supply. Painted the car Deep Purple when I repaired the hole in the floor, and sold it to a lady on the street dressed all in purple that just had to have a purple Lotus to go with her outfit. At the right price, I would recommend this car for anyone who just loves to drive and doesn’t care that the back of the car doesn’t quite carry off the beauty of the front. Oh, and once you get in it, the most comfortable seats you’ll ever experience – assuming you’re reasonably trim.

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  11. Michael Rogers Member

    As usual– being a BRITISH car of that era, the mechanicals are inexpensive, being from run of the mill lumps. Even the TC is basically from a Pinto/Capri/Cortina .What else seems to be a super car for so little!

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