How Bad Could It Be? 1971 Lotus Europa

What are the chances that an old English sports car built by one of the most notable of Marques in the world, currently has an owner nearly begging someone to take it off his hands? Is the seller’s desire to get rid of it an indication of a bad omen, or rather the desire to pass on a car to someone who wants to finish a restoration project? Pardon my skepticism, but as we all know, sometimes the devil is in the details. Unfortunately, when talking about a 47-year-old Lotus Europa that has been sitting, my pessimistic side comes to the forefront. However, my sentimental side of wanting to save English and Italian cars from being forgotten also stirs my brain’s grey matter no matter the risk or cost. Maybe this is the seller’s diabolical plan! This Lotus Europa is for sale in Nobleboro, Maine and can be found here on Craigslist, for the modest sum of $4,500 with offers being accepted.

While the seller notes that it does have a rebuilt 1.7-liter engine with good compression numbers and “excellent tires”, the car never the less has been sitting for at least 10 years. I would seriously recommend checking the DOT dates on the sidewalls of the tires. If they are over 5 years old replace them. Having been in the tire business I can attest that they will degrade from non-use rather quickly.

This Europa desperately needs some love. The single interior photo shown indicates the need for a total overhaul. The dashboards wood fascia has deteriorated and the center console looks a mess. No shots of the seats are shown, however it is likely they need some work as well. As these are fiberglass-bodied cars, it is difficult to assess the state of the condition without actually seeing it up close. While the fiberglass that was used during production was good quality, the steel frame that runs down the middle of the vehicle is very prone to rotting out. Early S1 cars had the body bonded to the frame, but thankfully this S2’s body was bolted on. Fixing chassis rust is still a difficult and expensive process, so you will want to take a closer look at the frame.

This Lotus is an interesting find. While not necessarily pretty, they are great fun to toss around. A friend of mine had a nice one, and the handling is incredible. The BWA wheels look great and the engine sounds promising. Depending on the frame situation and how badly the fiberglass body needs attention, this may be worth a look. The seller seems very anxious to move this along, so talking the price down is a real possibility. Considering it resides only about 20 minutes from me, I may have to check it out myself!

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  1. hatofpork

    Replacement frames are available in stainless or galvanized, I believe. Could be a rewarding project if you have the time, skills, funds, and space. The Twincam is the more desireable power plant but this should be a load of fun anyway. If it were me I’d just leave the dash and interior as is and drive it while I source affordable parts (if they still exist). Someone will get a nice project!

    Like 3
  2. JACKinNWPA Jack in NW PA Member

    A Europa is on my list and I do have the skills, just not the time, funds, or space. Too bad.

    Like 2
  3. wuzjeepnowsaab

    If you’ve ever been in one of these in modern traffic…the coolness factor wears of quickly when you’re surrounded by SUV’s doing 80mph and darting around while the driver is looking at their phone.

    Like 3
    • Rick McKee

      Hey I drive an SUV and those morons scare me. But the point of a classic like this it is usually not driven as a daily driver but rather on the weekend to shows and coffee and cars. At least that is when I get my MGA’s into Texas traffic.

      Like 1
  4. bruce

    The dashboard is a far easier fix than you might think and the interior as well. Most parts are available and far less expensive than you might think. I know as I have restored one or to be more accurate are in the final stages of a restoration. The bumpers are not there but are not expensive the biggest problem is the fender flares on the front which do not help the look or function of the car.

    The seats are amazingly simple to fix if the basic sheet metal seat frame is not rusted. In favor of the Renault engine it is far easier to service as all the belts are where you can easily get to them and with better carb’s you can get very near the performance of the stock twin cam.

    Color is critical with the Europa as it is so small and so vulnerable. The comment about driving between SUV’s and the foolish talking or texting on phones while driving makes this a serious problem. You need to drive these cars as if everybody else is trying to kill you. They are not but if anybody makes a mistake they can easily cause your death.

    But Fun, more like being in a race car than you might expect and well worth the risk for the pleasure.

    Like 1
    • Britcarguy

      Bruce- I agree about the fender flares being the biggest problem. I am helping my friend’s son restore his S1 Europa as I have been through two Europa restos. Previous owner flared the rear fenders. What I found was that the guy not only cut out the original wheel opening, but used plywood as a base for the fiberglass. After we cut out the plywood, there was this gaping, ragged hole. The original contour had to be formed from scratch using measurements from a correct car as well as factory drawings. We made the replacement pieces off the car and then grafted them onto the body.

  5. xrotaryguy

    Lots Of Trouble, Usually Serious.

    A buddy of mine just got rid of one of these. He’d been racing a Morgan for years and the competition between he and I was great!

    Then he stepped up to a Lotus. He showed up at the track with it a couple times. It was constantly either broken at home or broken at the track. And the trouble was always serious and expensive.

    He’s racing the Morgan again this year. Welcome back! Good to have competition again!

  6. John

    While it is true that almost every part of these cars is easy to fix, it is equally true that almost every part of these vehicles will NEED to be fixed. The need for repair parts increases exponentially with every mile travelled away from your garage. They are wonderful to drive. As you drive, you will get to see the undersides of almost every other vehicle on the road. Have you ever looked UP at a tractor trailer hub? But they are a blast to drive. You will need lots of friends. You will require a ride home on a regular basis. You will LOSE a lot of friends for the same reason. In the world of sports car people, you will find many many people who have owned one of these. You will find very few who CURRENTLY own one. You will only find three people whose Europas are currently running perfectly. One of those will be calling a friend before the sun sets tonight. But they are a blast to drive. I can only imagine how rewarding it must be to return home after driving one on a long twisty road. I can only imagine, because in the three years that I owned two of these, I seldom ever returned home after driving mine on a long and twisty road. I drove mine up to the top of the Tail of the Dragon. …and part way down. tow trucks are VERY expensive on the TOD. As is a ride back to Virginia.

    Like 3
    • xrotaryguy


      The ONE time my buddy’s Europa actually ran well at the track, he beat me handily. I prefer when he races the Morgan 😁


      Like 1
      • John

        I had two. one was Renault powered, the second was an S model with twin cam ford power. One was a four-speed, the other a 5-speed. Both ran well. The Twin Cam was obviously quicker, overall but the Renault powered can had arguably better overall handling and turn-in response. When they were running, there was really almost nothing from the era that could catch them easily. When they were running properly, there is almost nothing from ANY era that could catch them on a short twisty road. They were truly wonderful and capable cars to drive. I loved driving mine. That being said, they were horribly unreliable and non-durable. The chassis backbone would rust in very short order. The body sealing was so poor that passing trucks inflated the interior and pushed the tops of the doors outward widely enough to see daylight and to admit rain (and worse – slush).The power brake system had almost no hope of survival (twin vacuum chambers located in the rear to the left of the motor and just above the exhaust header) and a master cylinder remotely located in the front near the brake pedal. The windshield wiper system was anchored to the fiberglas firewall only. If the wipers were frozen to the windshield, or even had severe drag on the windshield, the wiper motor would tear itself (and parts of the firewall) out of the firewall and the wiper motor would move back and forth under the front bonnet rather than the wiper arms moving. The water pump was a cassette unit located two inches from the front bulkhead of the engine compartment. The pump cassette was four inches thick. The motor had to be removed to replace a water pump. The pump had to be replaced at about 25K intervals. The fuel system used natural rubber parts which were quickly degraded by pump gas that contained any amount of alcohol. The cooling system had plumbing that ran from the front of the car to the rear of the car and had several soft rubber connectors along the way. Those connectors were in accessible unless the car was almost completely disassembled. The connectors came loose at regular intervals. The water temperature sending unit was a simple plug inserted in a friction fitting located in the lower right hand side of the radiator. It had no threads to hold it in. It could be dislodged by hitting a bump, releasing all of the coolant into the trunk. The shift linkage had numerous split pin connectors. None of the split pins was hardened so spirited shifting (almost a given in a performance car) would shear the pins leaving a shift linkage that was no longer connected to anything. The car had two sizes of tires. The spare would fit on the front. It would also fit on the back, of course, but the mismatched sizes made the differential chew itself up. But the larger issue, should you have a flat in the rear, was that the rear tire would not fit back into the front of the car. It was too big. Nor would it fit anywhere else except in the passenger seat. If you had a passenger, he, or she, would get to hold the hot wet dirty tire with a greasy wheel, all the way back to where the tire could be repaired. My wife held one from Leadville all the way back to Colorado Springs one afternoon — in the winter. The car had twin gas tanks. In some instances, the twin tanks were not connected to one another except through a narrow balance tube. This necessitated fueling the car on both sides to get a full fuel load onboard. And those were the small things. The car was, and is, a wnder to drive. It will make a Jim Clark out of a grandpa. But the car was, and is, completely unreliable in its stock form. You will love it but you have to overcome its quirks and you will have to be ready to do roadside repairs along with regular garage maintenance. Eventually, most owners get tired of never knowing if the car is going to get them to where they are going. Sure, there are owners who will love them and tolerate their habits. But this is NOT a car that a secretary, or a school-teacher, or any other non-mechanical minded owner can hope to have as a regular daily driver. I loved mine. I miss them. But I moved on from them to something that I could just drive and not tinker with. YMMV.

        Like 1
  7. Lance

    This car is about as butt ugly as is possible. No wait, the was the Pontiac Aztec. OK it’s a runner up. No wait there was the Yugo. OK it’s just really bad .

    Like 1
    • Mike Hawke

      Brilliant, well-researched and thoughtful comment! Bravo! How do you come up with such wit?

  8. Steve Sammut Member

    Now, If it had the twincam for $4500…….

    Like 1
  9. JagManBill

    $4,500, while I hope he gets it, is unreasonable. I quit marketing a collection I have several months ago. 2 and a half cars, one a former racer set up for a BDA, one a rust bucket from the NE that had its nose knocked off, and a third car serving as a parts body and new, custom chassis. Admittedly no engines, but I couldn’t get $1,700 for the lot.
    Everybody wants one, but no body wants one…

  10. Tom

    I blame my affinity for Europas on the Matchbox toy company. I have let a few slip through my fingers…but one day…say Bill…

    Like 1
  11. Shredne

    I’ve been in contact with the seller via email. He says that he’s “motivated” to sell, but the only compromise he’s willing to make is to deliver the car to my location at no extra cost IF I pay his asking price.
    The tires and the wheel arches are a problem. The front end has been modified, (no bumper), and the interior is a mess. He says that the engine turns over and has compression, but who know for sure?
    I’m very tempted, but also very wary of a car with such glaring issues.

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