Recently Uncovered: 1969 Lotus Europa

Lots Of Trouble, Usually Serious. Here’s hoping that this isn’t the case for the new owner of this 1969 Europa, available here on Facebook Marketplace in Monroeville, New Jersey. Many thanks to Dawson Hittle for the tip!

As high-end sports cars go, the Europa has an interesting history. Following the success of the legendary Elan, Lotus decided that it was time to bring their expertise with mid-engine F1 cars to bear on the question of their next offering for the road. The result was the Europa, which some reviewers at the time hailed as the closest one could get to the F1 experience in a street-legal car. Others said it looked like a bread van. By all accounts it’s a driver’s car, sparse on creature comforts but peerless when it comes to handling and road feel. This example from 1969 would have been one of the earliest representatives of the S2 variant imported to the United States, either a “federalized” Type 54 or a Type 65, built expressly for the American market. To tell which, you’d likely have to pull back the covers on this classic.

The engine in this car is a Renault inline-four, 1.5L or 1.6L, depending. The gearbox is a four-speed manual transaxle, also sourced from Renault– albeit with some major modifications. The engine produced around 80 horsepower and the car was capable of a 0-60 time in the nines. Unfortunately we don’t get a look at the engine here, though the ad seems to indicate that it’s with the car, and all we know about the gearbox is what we can discern from the shift lever in the interior photo. It is a long way to travel from there to the rear axle, and linkages on these cars are frequent trouble spots. It’d pay to have a look before committing to the project. Speaking of the interior, it’s looking rough. Several components are out of place, and with a car as rare as a Europa, that’s not reassuring. One does get a sense of the appeal, though: the car brings driving position to a whole new level. The bottom of the seat is just inches from the pavement, and the whole thing is less than 43 inches high.

At under 1,700 pounds and with an engine that can be modified to yield an impressive power-to-weight ratio, there’s a lot to recommend the Europa to an enthusiast. It’s hard to imagine another Lotus that is as accessible to the average car guy. They offer an engaging driving experience on the road, and can produce respectable results on the right track. But there’s a lot to be wary of with this one. The missing trim and badges, the lack of pictures, the parts that might or might not be there– all these could render this quirky machine a never-ending conga line of nigh-insurmountable obstacles. Much depends on what the seller might have in boxes on the shelf, sitting in either of the two trunks, or still concealed beneath the blankets. An interesting car, though, if only it can get back on the road.


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  1. Matt in L.A. Member

    Steed, Tara King you’re needed! (Linda Thorsen didn’t know how to drive and had to learn so she could drive the Europa. Get out of the way!!) If you don’t know who I’m talking about, you weren’t a young guy watching TV in the 60’s!

    Like 4
    • TouringFordor

      And Emma Peel had an Elan and a GT6

      Like 1
  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    Not a lot of information to work off of. New jersey car with a frame prone to rust can’t be a safe buy unless you can look it over first. Owned two of these but I’d stay clear of this one.

    Like 1
    • Derek

      New chassis are available.

      Like 3
      • Jay McCarthy

        Anything is available for the right price

  3. mrobin

    I liked Ema Peel better and her Elan also…

    Like 3
  4. luke arnott Member

    The Europa was designed by the late Ron Hickman,who also invented the Black & Decker Workmate.Clever man!

    Like 3
  5. JMB#7

    There is an engine/transaxle photo in the Facebook listing. Looks rather complete, but plenty of surface rust & corrosion. I doubt that it has run in a very long time.

    Like 3
  6. Howie Mueler

    I had a 69 myself, why post any photos with the blankets on it. Yes it needs a lot of work!!

    Like 1
  7. Bruce

    I own one of these from the exact same year and I have restored many cars professionally with a firm when I was younger from MG’s to Packards, and even helped on an Aston Martin repaint and Ferrari. This lotus is one of the easiest cars to restore I have ever seen. First of all lets get the facts right the cars weight should be 1375± pounds and combined with one of the lowest drag coefficients the base 80 horsepower does just fine. The later ones with the Ford Twin Cam engines would get as much as 125 HP.

    That is not the point of these cars. Handling is the point. I have only felt such direct steering in race cars. Light and very direct. The brakes are just fine even for a disk / drum combination. Comments about the shifting are correct but with time you can get it to near butter smooth if you are willing to put in the effort. The clutch tends to be heavy as can the throttle but many drivers including me drive them with their shoes off because you get a better feel.

    As for parts and rusty frame. I suggest you go to a Europa web sight on FACEBOOK or on the internet you can get almost everything. The glass on the sides is expensive but the Europa is much a parts bin special. Triumph, MG and all the rest were purchased (looted) and used. Even the front and rear bumpers are from other cars. Most are very low cost however some Lotus Suspension parts are rather breathtaking in terms of price. A fiberglass body and a sheet metal frame that is very well protected have held up well over the years for most people. Even if there is a failure you can purchase new frames or find a manual and you will be able to build or patch a frame yourself as it is mostly sheet metal. I would not suggest sandblasting of the frame but chemical stripping welding and then repainting.

    IF YOU FIT and anybody above 6′-2″ will most likely not fit it can be amazingly comfortable too drive and ride in. The wind noise is extremely low and those reclining seats while not thick are very comfortable. I have taken more than a few 1000 mile trips in mine. Speaking of long trips I have on such trips seen milage of up to 45 MPG. Steady cruising on the interstate and sucking up behind a tractor trailer will make an amazing difference in your fuel economy. As for the danger of that you can look below almost anything that is out there. Especially big trucks and you can almost certainly stop faster than they can.

    My biggest problem is that the top of this car only comes up to the bottom of most Corvette windshields. You should assume that if you are in a wreck you will be dead or crippled. DRIVE THIS CAR AS IF EVERYBODY IS OUT TO KILL YOU. Even if they are not they so easily could.

    These photos are not great but there is enough to salvage and turn into a near new car. PS if you have a serous case of GO FAST you can pull up to 110 to 130 HP out of the Renault engine and still have a street drivable car. With that light weight it think it will impress.

    Like 8
    • John Walsh

      Thats the best responsive reply I have seen here in terms of Lotus. So many people come out with the nonsense. Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious. And I’m betting most have never owned far less driven one of these cars. I’m fortunate to say I’ve driven most, from the early lotus 7 to the Evora GTE and all models in between. I have yet to find a better, more responsive car in their price range. Yes, they can have issues like any other old car. But work on them, get them up to a standard then follow with regular normal maintenance and they are as good as, or better than most others. Don’t ask me how I know. Check out my Facebook profile. LotusRescue John Walsh. So I kind of know what I’m speaking about. Buy and enjoy.

      Like 4
  8. Preston L Wise

    Emma was hot!

    Like 1

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