Project Sports Car: 1970 Lotus Europa S2

The Lotus Europa was a mid-engine, GT sports car built by Lotus Cars between 1966-75. There were two generations of the car, Series 1 and 2. Models made for the U.S. market had to be “federalized” to meet DOT standards, such as adjusting the suspension to make the front end of the car taller. This 1970 Europa 2 was a driver until it was sidelined several years ago due to a leaking gas tank. That and other repairs will be needed to get it back on the road. The car is in Brentwood, California, and is available here on craigslist for $6,500. Once again, rex m sends a neat tip our way!

Series 2 Europa’s were introduced in 1968 and looked similar except for changes like opening windows. However, more updates were under the skin, like a switch from fully bonded construction to the use of bolt fasteners to attach the fiberglass body to the steel frame. While it reduced the stiffness of the car somewhat, using a separable body was welcomed as it greatly reduced the complexity and cost of making repairs.

These cars were never mass-produced, at least not in the sense of Detroit. Only 3,615 S2s were built and we’re not sure how many of those made it to the U.S. One of them seems to turn up on Barn Finds every month or so meaning they’re still out there. Besides changes to the physical car for export to the U.S., the “federalized” S2s had a slightly modified, emission-controlled Renault 16TL 1,565 cc engine rated at 80 hp rather than the 1,470-cc motor employed elsewhere. They were still quick cars as Road & Track tested one got 0-60 mph out of it in 9.6 seconds at 116 mph on the top end.

The seller has owned this S2 for about five years. He bought it complete with plans to get it going again, but that hasn’t materialized. Though it will need a new gas tank, the previous owner had just replaced the head gasket and it was a good driver at the time. Besides the fuel system, the seller suggests checking out the hydraulics before putting the car back on the road. Body-wise, there is some surface rust, and the car could use a new coat of paint. The odometer reading is under 35,000 miles, which may be reflected by the tidiness of the interior.


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  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Rusty fiberglass ought to be interesting. If you are over 5’10” this car won’t fit you. I’m 5’6″ and it’s snug inside. Fun to work on, fun to drive, lots of parts available supported by a large tech group. Regardless if you put one or two fuel tanks in them get fuel cells. A broadside hit without them will make a huge fire. Takes all the fun out of it.

    Like 7
    • SMS

      Think it is ratio more than height. I’m 6’ and fit just fine in my S2. About even body and legs.

      Several of us feel the S2 was the best of the Europas. Bolted to the chassis and windows that allowed airflow so better than the S1. Lighter weight and simpler motor than those with the Ford.

      Might be a really good deal, this one.

      To be honest if you are hit hard enough in one of these to rupture the gas tank the passenger compartment will most likely be crushed. There is almost no crash protection that I could ever find.

      Like 4
      • bobk

        Agreed re: ratio vs height. I am also 6′ and was able to get in and out of the one that I had the privilege to drive some years ago. I wear pants with a 36″ inseam, so you can see that I am a lot more below the waist than above. That is what I think makes the difference.

        Like 1
    • Tony M. Ta

      Surface rust on frame and suspension. Not fiberglass

  2. sir_mike

    Surface rust on the body?? How is the frame though???

    Like 4
    • John

      These have a “backbone” frame which is welded up from heavy gauge sheet metal. Surface rust on the backbone could be indicative of surface rust INSIDE the backbone. When there is surface rust on both sides of sheet metal perforation can’t be to far away.

      But the good news is that two guys can lift the body off of the backbone and repairs can be made using normal welding techniques.

      I’m 6 ft tall, and I had no trouble getting in and out of my S2 and I once drove it from Califfornia to Washington DC very comfortably (and economically – mine got 30-35 mpg most of the time). They have reliability issues but those are offset by the fun of driving one. They were factory assembled kit cars. Almost every part came from some other mass-produced car. Accordingly, parts are seldom hard to find. I replaced a thermostat in Green River, Utah on my cross country trip. The local autoparts store cross referenced it and gave me a Ford Pinto part.

      This could be a really fun little project for someone.

      Like 4
  3. bobhess bobhess Member

    Sms and bobk.. Ok. I’ll ad 2″ to my height requirement. Fully agree on the lack of side protection. Last one we had was destined to be a road race car so obviously it was going have side protection. Got snookerd by a friend of ours that found a car we wanted even more so the S2 went to Kentucky and the “lifelong project” is still in the process.

    Like 1
  4. Howie Mueler

    Many years ago i had a 69, fun cars. This one is not too bad off, i hope it sells and is back on the road.

    Like 3
  5. Bruce

    I am in the process of restoring mine as I type this. While restoring it I am making CAD drawings of all the metal parts and if asked I will make drawings of the gas tanks which I would guess are rusted out on the bottom. That is a common problem. I have a 1989 Esprit Turbo with similar problems. Somebody was not paying attention in the design process but then nobody expected them to last for 50+ years.

    I have driven mine across country many times and I put 200K miles on it before the restoration process started. Mine is a 1969 S2 nearly identical to this one. I have seen as much as 50 MPG on long trips. Just get behind a tractor trailer truck and into his wind shadow and the air rushing back behind him will actually push you forward some. Do not worry about being too close as you can stop faster than he can and if you look below him you can see the reflections of the brake lights of the car or truck in front of him. Very effective safety feature not generally noted.

    As for side impact the fire wall between the engine compartment and the passenger is a 3/4″ solid piece of marine plywood that is extremely rigid. I have seen other hit from the side and it pushed the car sideways but did not collapse it. I have reinforced my doors and other spots adding a couple of layers of fiberglass and resin over a 1/4″ piece of cotton rope formed in an “X” pattern also dipped in resin. The difference is amazing and it almost completely eliminates stress cracks while adding almost no weight.

    The engines if massaged and with a much better carburetor (WEBBER) will get up to 100 to 120HP depending upon how much you wish to push it. Look for Alpine parts from Renault or many have put in RX-7 engines which work fine. The only alteration from original I have made to mine is a second gas tank on the passenger side.

    I agree this looks like a good buy for the money. A lot of work but nobody will miss it going down the road as it is so different.

    Good luck.

    Like 4
  6. Edward Skakie

    As previously noted, I saw the remains of a Europa, some 50 years ago, that was run over by a huge dump truck, and the lady driver, on her grocery run, did not survive. The LF wheel of the trunk went right through the seats, and the tallest remaining bits were about 14″ in height. In my view, Chapman was responsible for the deaths of quite a number of people, some of whom, admittedly, were racing drivers.

  7. Edward Skakie

    Truck, not trunk!

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