Shop Manual Included: 1969 Lotus Europa S2

The Lotus Europa may limit its potential owners due to the low-slung driving position and cramped quarters inside, but for those that can fit inside, it’s a fine driver’s car for not much cash. Of course, like any enthusiast brand, there’s a hotter trim level that is truly the one to buy, and packs a DOHC Ford-derived four-cylinder engine. This S2-spec Europa here on craigslist is not a desirable twin cam, but is instead an S2 with the standard-issue 1.5L Renault engine on board (and in pieces.)

The asking price is $5,500, which seems ambitious for a project car that’s not a Twin Cam. The body has clearly been repainted, and I don’t think the rear fenders are intended to sit that low over the American Racing Libre wheels (a great period look, and perfect for a car like the Europa). The seller notes the engine require re-assembly, but doesn’t specify what, if any, work has been done internally.

The interior is a high point as things look quite tidy inside. As a ’69 model, this edition should have power windows (to replace the cool but potentially frustrating) fixed windows of the earlier models, along with increased space around the pedals. The engine also developed more horsepower to contend with increasingly suffocating emissions requirements, and there was more space for luggage in the engine compartment.

While all Lotuses suffered from some issues around build quality, the later cars were slightly easier to repair thanks to the body being bolted to the chassis as opposed to bonded, as in the early models. There’s some level of detective work needed here to ascertain just how far the engine work went, and whether the next owner will be re-assembling an engine with fresh components (doesn’t look like it) or just hoping some sort of catastrophic meltdown didn’t force it into its current state.

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Comments

  1. bobhess Member

    The ride height is controlled by the length of the coilover springs so it could be assumed that a stiffer, shorter spring package was installed, which I highly recommend. Owned two S2s and the factory springs were for the road and nothing racy. Checking the frame condition is important as there isn’t much of it. New ones are available as are suspension parts. The front is all Triumph Spitfire and the rear is easy to repair and get parts for. There is an excellent registry on line for the entire Europa series of cars. By the way, I’m 5′ 6″. Anyone over 5′ 8″ is going to be snug in these guys.

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    • JagManBill

      I’m 6’4″ – its VERY snug in my 70 S2..but I still love it.

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      • bog

        JagManBill –
        I was nearly 6’4″ when I had a new ’68 model in Germany. Was lovely once inside, but the trick was getting in….right ?? Fold at waist, plant butt in seat, swing in right leg then drag in left. Absolutely fantastic on those twisty German secondary roads, especially hilly ones ! It was even more fun helping a mini-skirted date in or out….

    • Tim Engel

      The Europa S1 was the most no-compromises version. It was the lightest at 1350 Lbs, had the most handling-biased suspension settings, and it was as close to a street legal race car as you could get. The UK/Euro S2 added some weight via power windows, better interior trim & insulation, etc — civilized stuff. But it was still pretty true to it’s original mission.

      The Federal Europa S2 (the model in this auction) was saddled with the early Federal emissions standards, and jacked up on it’s suspension to meet bumper and headlight height regulations. The handling suffered a bit compared to the Euro models, but it was still arguably the best handling car in North America at the time, with it’s main competition coming from other Lotus models. However, dropping the ride height back down to it’s original design-spec ride height makes a very noticeable improvement in handling.

      By comparison, the Twin Cam was less sports car, and more mini-GT. Still a wicked sports car compared to anything else of the day, and even today; but within the Lotus family, the TC was the GT of the pair. The TC has longer wheelbase, 1.5″ taller cabin, it’s heavier via more luxury, and the flyweight Renault engine was replaced by the iron-block Lotus-Ford Twin Cam. Plus, Nader had happened, so the Twin Cam picked-up a bunch of understeer.

      So, is the Twin Cam the more desirable Europa? That depends upon what you want… a boyracer, berzerker sports car, or a mini-GT. I’ve had two of each (S2 & TC). I can say from experience that the S2 is the better ‘driving’ experience and puts a bigger smile on my face. But the Twin Cam is more refined on the comfort side of the equation… better if you’re taking your lady for a ride. People who grew up with front wheel drive cars might be more comfortable with the Twin Cam

      While the Europa uses Alford & Alder components that are shared with the Spitfire (uprights, spindles, ball joints, trunnions, etc) the suspension arms and geometry is all Lotus. The big plus, now that the car is vintage and rare, is that all those front suspension and steering components are still readily available from all the Britcar suppliers, and inexpensive. The only real problem in North America is finding ‘sporty’ tires in the original 13″ rim sizes. The selection is dismal, unless you run DOT road race tires on the street… which is what I do.

      Interior space and comfort is a matter of personal opinion. Disappointment is a function of expectations. I’m 6′, 230 lbs, and one of the secondary things I like about the car is it’s comfort (handling is ‘primary’). True, it takes some flexibility to enter such a low car, but after you learn the moves, it’s not a problem. I’m well north of retirement age, and still drive my S2 as my daily driver during the snow-free months. My son is 6′ 3″, and he drives it. If you’re someone who thinks you need a dining chair seating position with a minimum of 6″ of headroom, forget it.

      The seat is laid back so far it’s like I’m in my Lazy-Boy. With my right arm laying on the padded arm rest (top of the chassis tunnel), the gear lever is right in my hand… no reaching is required. The wheel falls right at hand, and with so little weight on the front, it’s two-finger steering.

      I often have people follow me into parking lots to tell me my brake lights aren’t working. They work fine, it’s just that I rarely touch the brake pedal. Lack of power? If you don’t have to slow down for the corrners, it doesn’t matter how fast you accelerate back out of them. And it’s all effortless. At LeMans or Spa, it would be a different story. But in a race around the living room, a Chihuahua will beat a thoroughbred every time.

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      • james

        The Chihuahua/Thoroughbred analogy made my day! Wish I had thought of it!

      • KarlS

        Well said, Tim Engel. I’ve loved these early models since I saw my first one in 1969. As far as hard to find items besides decent tires, I always heard (read) that it was engine parts for the Renault engine that were the hardest to fine.
        Oops, I just saw one of your later posts on parts availability on the Renault engine so thanks in advance!

  2. UJ

    The cylinder sleeve seems to have disappeared on the rear cylinder. That can’t be good.

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  3. Oilyhands

    For the picture of the engine, is the box in the background with the word “reliable” meant to be some sort of subliminal messaging? “No,really,this car never breaks down …… it’s so reliable!”

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    • Dean

      Battery methinks..and perhaps it is

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      • Bruce

        Dean yes that is one of the locations for the battery by the factory. Good Call

  4. Brian

    I already contacted the seller on this one, as it is nearby, and interested me. He sent me a very weird email back saying that if it was my first project, it wasn’t for me. I simply asked if the engine turned and whether there was any rust in the chassis. I responded that it wasn’t my first project, and not even my 12th. No response. Good luck with this guy.

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  5. Bruce

    I am restoring an S2 myself and the head is one of the hardest things to source. There is a group out of Canada and can get parts for Renaults and these and there are numerous sources of parts out of England. Generally the prices are not that bad. But RUST is a big issue. I would have somebody check the frame as this car is from the Detroit area and while the fiberglass body will not rust the sheet metal frame will. This car is extremely light. I have carried the frame of mine over my shoulder to have it tank stripped before repainting it. About 100 pounds plus or minus it is also prone to cracking at the front cross supports for the suspension.

    The cooling pipes that run within the frame should also be checked as if they are rusted and needing replacement it is almost a total engine out rebuilt to replace them.

    Youtube has a good owners club there will much help and I have posted methods of strengthening the body with almost no additional weight at that site.

    I must disagree that 5′-8″ Is the limit to drive one. One of my friends who is 6′-1″ Has one but I do not think he is all that comfortable driving it any distance. I am 5′-9″ and it fits me perfectly. I love the handling but remember you are the smallest and most fragile thing on the road. Anything and Everything out there can kill you so drive one as if you are paranoid. They are also blind out the 3/4’s and that does not help. But when running right God are they fun to drive and on long trips I was getting 40 miles per gallon.

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    • JagManBill

      Stock frame weighs 78 pounds. I just sold a Spider replica chassis that was all steel and weighed 145 pounds. Thats one corner of a 55 Chevy chassis….

  6. Chuck F 55chevy

    I had a S1.5 for a short time in NE Indiana, I’m 5-11 and it was a tight fit. It had removable pop out side windows, Weber carbs and a header, pretty quick the few times I drove it a few blocks. A local guy saw me in my 91 Elan and told me he has a Europa in his garage, it was left there by a previous renter, and he hasn’t gotten rid of it, I keep forgetting to call him and go look at it.

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  7. Gaspumpchas

    hMM Lotus with a Renault engine. Sounds like trouble. Hopefully an expert can sort it out and have a decent car there. Good luck to the new owner!
    Cheers
    GPC

    • Tim Engel

      The Renault engine is solid and reliable. Not a problem. Parts are a little harder to come by in North America, but they can be ordered from France, Australia and even Mexico.

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  8. TimM

    Might need a little more than a shop manual for this one by the looks of the motor. Might be a parts source nightmare!!!

  9. JagManBill

    Want to see something really cool? Google Zetec Europa…

  10. bobhess Member

    Bruce… Didn’t say you couldn’t drive them over 5’8″, just that it’s a snug fit. TimM… maybe a chance to put a Ford based engine in?

  11. Tim Engel

    Seller… What is the VIN Number?

    This appears to be a Type 54 S2, not the Federal Type 65 S2. In my book, that’s a plus.

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    • JagManBill

      Are you sure? The 54 I have doesn’t have warts.

  12. Blaney

    Curious, Could a later model more reliable (i.e. Japanese) engine be retrofitted? I know this would be sacrilege to the purist but, Lotus themselves went to a Toyota power plant years ago.

    • Dean

      And Toyota uses BMW..🤔in the new Supra, so I don’t see why not.

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    • JagManBill

      Toyota 4AG is a common swap. Personally, I’m probably going the Zetec route. You can still get a low mile 2.0 from almost any wrecking yard for $200+- and with a TC bellhousing, its about as close to a bolt in as a swap can get.

      1
  13. Brakeservo

    L.o.t.u.s – Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious

    • Kevin

      A Lotus can be a very dependable car if taken care of properly. If this were closer I might consider a Zetec swap, hopefully finished before my wife found out I bought a second one..

  14. Victor Anderson

    IF (and ONLY IF) the chassis has no rust issues, the asking price of $5,500 seems reasonable.
    I was hunting for a Lotus Europa (wanted a twin cam version) a couple of years ago — the nice ones were so expensive that I picked up a Lotus Elise instead…figured it was a lot more car for about the same amount of money.

  15. james

    My daughter and I are rebuilding a 70 S2 from the frame up and are under no illusions that this will be a major collectible. Given that, we have toyed with the idea of a rotary swap. With the super light weight of the car, low end torque isn’t an issue, and the HP to weight ratio of the rotary seems like a natural.

    1
    • JagManBill

      you can find a couple of rotary swaps on the web. It looks like the only issues they have is heat

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