Not For Hobbits: 1971 Lotus Europa For $3k

1971 Lotus Europa

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I got pretty excited when I first saw this Europa that Jon sent in! The striping made me wonder if it was a John Player Special. The ’71 production date probably rules that out, but this could still be a cheap entry into Lotus ownership. There is some crash damage on the driver’s side front fender and the seller hasn’t bothered to check the engine. They just wanted the sun visor brackets for their twin cam… So, you will have to source those and whatever else might be missing. They are including some parts to help with the front end repair and as long as the frame is solid, this might end up being a fair deal. It’s listed here on craigslist with a $3,000 asking price. People with big feet need not apply!

American Racing Libre Rims

The paint scheme still has me dreaming that the car is actually a JPS, but since the seller already has a twin cam, I’m sure he would know the difference. The Special was introduced to celebrate Lotus’ F1 victory and each car featured gold pin striping and a big valve twin cam. The damage and missing title are going to make this seemingly affordable project a challenge. Still, those American Racing Libre rims are pretty sweet!

Auctions Ending Soon



    I always thought these were odd looking cars. They look like station wagons or something but prolly fun to drive. You’re better off buying a finished one for the $ you’ll sink into this car.

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    • Tim

      The Europa’s styling may not be universally appreciated, but I like it. However, it’s looks become irrelevant when you drive it. Nothing drives like a Europa, and the only cars that come close all wear Lotus badges. I would give up my Europa, though… for a Type 47.

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  2. Van

    I wanted one of these back in the day when I was more nimble. I had a GT6 and that was small. The triumph weight was less than 2000 lbs. Anybody know the weight of the europa.
    And I really want to know what happened to the europa built on overhaulin.

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    • T

      Less than 1570 lbs.

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    • Tim


      The S2 weighs 1470 lbs, the Twin Cam was 1565 lbs, and the TC Special was something over 1600 lbs. My S2 used to autocross at 1200 lbs.

      The seller has agreed to buy a set of sun visor brackets from a friend of mine, so he no longer needs to remove the S2’s.

      The Europa on Overhaulin’ wasn’t operational at the end of the show. They started the engine, but the car couldn’t be driven. It took quite a while to complete it, but the owner did eventually take it home.

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      • Van

        That’s light.
        Doesn’t take much power to push that.
        I would imagine 250 hp would make this a super car.

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  3. Tim

    This Europa has been ignored for over a decade, and it shows the usual signs of neglect. But the good news is that it’s all there. I hope someone who will put it back on the road buys it. It deserves better.

    For anyone interested in originality, it left the factory white, and a PO painted it the current burgandy.

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  4. Jimmy Holt

    That was a car, from what I was told by an owner that they would make you a driver or kill you and you’d better be a fast learner! Would love to have one if I had the time and money for it.

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    • Tim

      That sounds like a broad statement/ exaggeration made for effect. The Europa is not difficult to drive at all. However, it has very high limits, and if you do manage to push the car beyond those high limits, you’re going to be in pretty deep when it leaves the road. That’s not a failing of the car, it’s a lack of good judgement on the part of the driver. Don’t blame the car.

      In a single car accident, the Europa has an amazing safety record. Fiberglass does fracture, but it absorbs a lot of energy in the process. However, in a one-on-one with a Ford F350, you’re going to be a little out gunned.

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  5. angliagt

    Driving these is like riding a motorcycle – people don’t see you.
    These are totally cool to drive,& steering is very quick.

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  6. Tirefriar

    How hard is it to phot the damaged areas or the interior or the engine bay? Or does the seller feel this is such a low price that he doesn’t need to muster up the effort? The same goes for checking to see if the engine spins…

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  7. Roger Owen

    Don’t you have to BE a Hobbit to fit one of these? I used to drive a bright orange one around Central London in the late 60’s. Renault engine had horrific overheating problems in City driving. Think they might have been the last Lotus car that you could buy as a self build project. The one I drove belonged to my boss at the time who was a close friend to Colin Chapman. I think it was a 47, but it didn’t last long and was replaced with a Lotus Cortina Mk II.

    Always remember not to park the Europa too close to the kerb – as you would not be able to open the passenger door. Lowest delivery van ever!

    I have a feeling that there was a black GKN version with the Rover (sorry, Buick) V8, and white leather trim.

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    • Tim

      > Don’t you have to BE a Hobbit to fit one of these?

      The Twin Cam’s floor to ceiling height is 1.5″ taller than the S1 or S2, so it would be the better choice for a taller person. I’m 6 feet tall, too heavy, wear size 11 EEE shoes, and I’m comfortable in either model.

      My son is 6′ 2″, wears size 13AA shoes, and drives my S2.

      I have a total of about 260k miles spread over four Europas. I put 180k on my first S2 without a rebuild. So, if well cared for, they’re neither unreliable nor uncomfortable.

      >I think it was a 47

      He should have kept the 47! They’re selling in the $140-150k range on those rare occasions when one shows up for sale. I’ve got four Lotus and would trade them all in if I could get a 47.

      > I have a feeling that there was a black GKN version with the Rover (sorry, Buick) V8.

      The GKN-47D was a one-off that GKN used as a show piece to demonstrate their wares. It was stretched something like 4 to 6 inches through the engine bay to fit the Rover V8.

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  8. HoA Howard AMember

    Just a wonderful collection of informative photos here. Guess people really don’t want to sell their stuff. Always liked the Europa, except, I heard, it’s like driving a car with horse blinders on. Really cool cars ( I’d expect no less from the Brit’s.) On an episode of “Emergency” once, ( I know, totally lame show, but love the carspotting) they responded to an accident scene and one of the cars was a Lotus Europa,,,,NOOOOO!!! ( btw, I wouldn’t haul a hay bale on that trailer)

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  9. JW454

    One of the ugliest ill conceived designs of a car I’ve ever seen. I’m surprised more than one was ever sold.

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    • Roger Owen

      Bit harsh! But, judging by the other comments you may be out on a limb here. I’d rather think it to be one of those wonderful (slightly quirky) motoring milestones – Smilestones?? Epitome of swinging ’60’s design and a desire to be different.

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      • JW454


        Like everyone else, I have to call them as I see them. Ugly pile of junk.

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  10. Britcarguy

    This is a Series 2 car. The notch in the rear deck didn’t come until later as did the pinstriping. On the early cars, Lotus commemorated their earlier John Player Gold Leaf connection with a white/red paint scheme. Also note the funky “air vents” on the buttresses. Definitely not original but easily removed. Photo of my first Europa gem the day I picked it up around 1990 for $900 – complete with frozen Renault engine. For some reason the seller didn’t want to be photographed.

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  11. John B

    I remember zipping around the back roads of Hilton Head Island S.C. in a local mechanic’s Europa back in the summer of 1978. As a teenager with an older brother who was well connected there (hence that rare opportunity), this was NIRVANA. I had to take my shoes off to drive it confidently, but boy-howdy…it remains the most fun I have had in a sports car!

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  12. John

    This is not a Ford powered car. This is one of the Renault motored versions. They were not good cars. The motor was finicky on a good day. The had very dodgy shift linkages attached to a fragile transmission.

    The “frame” was a welded up sheet metal backbone. It was subject to corrosion. If the front suspension attachment points are bent, just having new suspension arms will be of no value.

    But the cars were easy to work on and the entire body can be rather easily lifted off of the backbone frame to allow complete access to the chassis. The cars had a really weird braking system with dual vacuum boosters in the engine bay. But a TR-4 master cylinder could be adapted to eliminate most of the problems.

    The Fiberglas repair will be quite simple compared to what it may take to make this into a roadworthy car.

    But at $3000, a good DIY mechanic can accomplish most of the work. The cars are light and they were wonderful on the rare occasions when everything was actually running. And the one strange thing is that the car may well have had the most perfect driving position ever devised in a sports car. They were very comfortable to drive. I drove mine from Santa Barbara to Washington DC. I have never made a more comfortable trip.

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    • Tim

      > This is one of the Renault motored versions. They were
      > not good cars.

      My experience is the direct opposite of yours. The S1-S2 were blessed with the most pure handling, and the lightest weight. The Twin Cam picked up some ‘luxury’ weight and the iron block Twin Cam engine, along with a Naderesque dose of understeer. If you want a driver’s sports car, buy an S1-S2. If you want a mini-GT, but a Twin Cam Special.

      > The motor was finicky on a good day.

      The Renault motor is very trouble free, with the exception of the ’emissions’ carburetor used on the Federal cars. Replace it with a Weber DGV or Holley-Weber 5200, and all those issues go away.

      The radiator is small, and the system will overheat in slow traffic on a hot day. The S1 & S2 have a manual over-ride switch for the radiator fan. As soon as you get into slow traffic, or stop at a long light, flip the switch to turn on the fan without waiting for the thermo-switch to do so. The fan can hold the temp down if you start it early, but it’s hard pressed to pull the temp back down if you let it get hot before turning the fan on… as in waiting for the thermo-switch to do it. The Twin Cam deleted the over-ride switch, and it’s a good thing for an owner to add.

      The only mechanical repair I ever had to do to a Renault engine was replace one head gasket. And that’s easy to do on the Renault… much easier than on a Twin Cam.

      > The had very dodgy shift linkages
      > attached to a fragile transmission.

      The S1-S2 shift linkage had bell crank, and a lot of pivot points/ spherical rod ends to step around the engine. When tight and properly adjusted, it worked well and was far better than the Twin Cam’s shifter. As the shifter wore and picked up some slop, most owners ignored it, preferring to complain in stead. Maintenance was a simple as unscrewing a worn rod end, installing a new one, and tweaking the adjustment.

      The S1-S2 shifter’s one real flaw was the (Ford ??) sourced pivot at the base of the gear lever. It was a plastic ball in a rubber socket. The rubber would get old, crack and crumble, then things really got sloppy. The Twin Cam used a metal-on-metal spherical bearing that solved the problem, and that part is an easy swap into an S1-S2. Problem solved.

      The transmissions are pretty much trouble free. All I ever had to do to mine was replace leaking output shaft seals on two occasions in the last 260k miles.

      First & second gears use Renault-style baulk-ring synchros, and there’s no rushing them. Be patient, apply pressure without trying to jam it in, and they’ll shift when they get around to it. Third, fourth, and fifth (if fitted) use Borg-Warner style synchros, and feel most ordinary transmissions.

      The S1-S2 rear suspension’s U-joints and wheel bearings are on the small side (you can’t build a light car with heavy parts), and only give about 15,000 miles service life. Knowing that, change them at your convenience comfortably before that limit, and don’t tempt inconvenience by waiting for something to go wrong.

      Europas don’t respond well to neglect, and it’s the occasionally driven Garage Queens that account for the unreliable reputation. Drive them regularly, keep up with maintenance, and they’re very reliable. The Renault engine is more reliable and easier to fix than the Twin Cam. The Twin Cam makes more power, but it also has to drag around a heavier car.

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  13. Chris A.

    Tim described the situation well. The one I drove was in good shape except for a leaky window frame that needed a redo. You don’t “get in” an S1/2, you wear it. I’m at the top end of being comfortable in it @ a long legged 5’11” with 11 wide feet. As mentioned above, it is a great driving position. However I wouldn’t leave it in burgundy but repaint it white or yellow. They are so low the pickups, soccer vans and SUV’s just won’t be looking for you. I was surprised with the great steering and smooth, soft and well controlled suspension. The frame is an issue, there is an internet site on how to restore one. Also the Europa support group has a good site. To me, with the work, body damage and frame issues, this is a DIY @$2k at most.

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  14. Tim

    > As mentioned above, it is a great driving position.

    Yes, it’s a wonderful driving position. The S1-S2 seat back is laid back at about a 45 degree angle like your Lazy-boy recliner, the headrest position is great, the top of the chassis tunnel is the perfect height for a full-length arm rest, and your hand falls right at the gear lever. You’re pocketed between the door and the chassis tunnel, so you move as one with the car during aggressive driving. Not at all cramped, but well placed. My only complaint is that the arm rest cut out in the door is a little lower than the top of the chassis tunnel, and the top of the door is above the chassis tunnel. so wherever you put your arm on the door, you end up one arm low, one high. Minor, you get used to that quickly.

    > I wouldn’t leave it in burgundy but repaint it white or yellow.

    This car left the factory in white. I hear what you’re saying in terms of high visibility colors; however, Mustard Yellow or Chrome Orange also scream, “Give me the ticket, give me the ticket !!” When you beg for attention, you can’t be selective about who sees you.

    >They are so low the pickups, soccer vans
    > and SUV’s just won’t be looking for you.

    Any vintage Lotus is small, and must be driven with the same defensive mentality you would use when riding a motorcycle. Presume no one sees you, and it’s totally up to you to compensate for their lack of awareness. Total defensive driving.

    Never drive next to one vehicle for long periods of time… you become invisible to the driver. Movement catches the eye, so adjust your speed so you’re always slowly passing, or being passed by the other car. Make eye contact with the other driver. Paying attention to the other car’s front wheel gives you the earliest notice of an incoming lane change.

    Install air horns. The stock horn Lotus used was called, ‘The Clear Hooter’s Horn’. “Meeerp”. Really? :-/ When someone starts to change lanes toward you, you want that 3′ long honker off of a Great Northern locomotive! To heck with subtle.

    Avoid driving next to semi tractor-trailers or big box trucks; their mirrors look right over you. On the other hand, pro-drivers are pretty good about looking before changing lanes. The scary ones are the cell phone talkers/ soccer moms with kids/ businessmen doing paper work in minivans/ SUVs/ stupid-big pick-up trucks who change lanes first, look later. That’s what… about 90% of freeway traffic?

    > I was surprised with the great steering
    > and smooth, soft and well controlled suspension.
    Lotus are masters at providing both a supple ride and stellar handling. Other manufacturers usually give up one to get the other.

    > this is a DIY @$2k at most.
    The seller bought two Europa projects last summer, and is now selling this one on. I suspect he probably paid too much for it, and now doesn’t want to take a loss. You may be right that, for what it is, he may be a ‘little’ ambitious in his asking price. On the other hand, no one ever negotiates you up in price, so start above where you want to end up.

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  15. Van

    I think a Gulf racing paint job would be the more visible and safer option.
    Along with a turbo, so you can out run trouble.

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