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Healthy Twin-Cam: 1972 Lotus Europa Special

Undeniably, the styling of the Lotus Europa divides opinion. Some people believe it is an elegant classic, while others find its appearance a bit too eccentric for their taste. However, it proved popular enough to soldier on for ten years, during which it sold in respectable numbers. This 1972 Europa Special appears to be a rock-solid classic requiring total restoration. It features a healthy engine and a few new parts to get the ball rolling. If a British sports car has been on your radar, it is listed here on eBay in Cookeville, Tennessee. Bidding on this distinctive Lotus sits below the reserve at $7,600.

I initially thought this Europa was 1-of-100 Specials built to commemorate the company’s success in the 1972 Formula One World Championship. However, the seller doesn’t mention the presence of the numbered dash plaque, suggesting that if the paint shade of Black Gloss is original, this car emerged from the factory in Hethel, Norfolk, after September 1972. However, I wouldn’t stake the farm on originality with this classic because the paint quality is ordinary, even by the most relaxed standards. The buyer faces stripping the exterior completely to achieve a high-end finish, and given the work required elsewhere, tackling it as a frame-off restoration would be the best approach. The underside shots show a few signs of surface corrosion, but we receive no information or pictures of the body mounting points. These are known rust traps, and following a frame-off process would ensure the vehicle remains structurally sound in the future. The windshield requires replacement, as does the back window. The trim is restorable, and the car features a complete set of distinctive alloy “Special” wheels.

Colin Chapman was initially hesitant about featuring too many Ford mechanical components in the original Europa, turning to Renault for the transaxle and a specially tuned version of the company’s all-alloy four-cylinder powerplant. However, he eventually relented, and by the time this car emerged from the factory, the power was derived from a mid-mounted Lotus/Ford twin-cam four producing 113hp and 104 ft/lbs of torque. The power and torque are fed to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual transaxle. Although the Europa had earned a few luxury touches since its original release as a bare-bones sports car, the curb weight of 1,554 lbs guaranteed the modest power output would be used effectively. It could storm the ¼-mile in 15.6 seconds, and if the driver kept the right boot buried, it could nudge 120mph. The seller states this Lotus is far from roadworthy, needing major work on the electrical system, brakes, and other items. However, they have coaxed that sweet twin-cam to life a few times in the last year, and it is in good health. They say it sounds excellent and shows good oil pressure.

I am unsurprised by the general state of this Europa’s interior because it is an aspect prone to severe deterioration. This car hasn’t avoided that fate, although it has a few positive points. The seatcovers and upholstery are new, but the buyer faces a long shopping list and some late nights returning this aspect of the Lotus to its former glory. The carpet might be okay once cleaned, but the wheel is toast, the dash has a question mark hanging over it, and many plated items show corrosion. That is merely the entree because the rat’s nest of wiring hanging below the dash and console doesn’t bode well for the car’s overall electrical health. The winning bidder could spend countless hours tracing wires and diagnosing faults, or they could throw caution to the wind, flick the existing wiring harness into the trash, and spend $700 on a complete replacement harness. I think I know which way I’d go, and it would be money well-spent.

The Europa wasn’t the best-selling model to emerge from the Lotus factory, but it embodied the Chapman design philosophy to the end. The badge was held in such high regard that the company resurrected it in 2006 with limited success. Today, cars like this 1972 Europa Special are highly sought after by enthusiasts passionate about British classics, but the auction action hasn’t been as spirited as I expected. It has only attracted twelve bids, although time remains for the situation to change and for the price to climb beyond the reserve. Do you think it will happen, or is this seller facing the possibility of relisting this classic?


  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    The two S2s that we have had both ran with one needing to finish the repaint started by the previous owner. Paid $1,500 for one, $2,000 for the other. Considering what has to be done to make a complete car again this one isn’t worth more than $4,000 in my mind, twin cam or not.

    Like 2
  2. Bruce Turk

    Whenever I think about one of these, I always envision loose wires hanging here and there and the frustration of getting everything to work. This one does not disappoint.

    Like 1
  3. Howie

    I had a early Europa, wish i still had it. One photo shows with the alternator belt, and the other photo shows no belt. What are the two open ports on the left of the engine? The exhaust ports?

    Like 2
  4. bobhess bobhess Member

    Yes. The eBay pictures show the exhaust coming out the right side underneath the bodywork. Don’t remember the details of where the muffler fits in but the system crosses under the transmission somewhere on this car.

    Like 1
  5. JCH841

    I got into a friend’s Europa in College. At 6′ 2″ it was more like “put” it on. Fifty years and 40 pounds heavier I would not attempt it although they could probably put the whole car in the ambulance to the ER to extract me!

    Like 0
  6. Rw

    This is the only one I have ever seen that they say it runs..

    Like 0
  7. Howie

    Went to $7,900 reserve not met with 15 bids.

    Like 1

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