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Tarp Life is No Life: 1974 Lotus Europa

Lotus Europas have a reputation for being rather fragile.  Part of that is due to Colin Chapman’s never-ending desire to make his cars as light as possible.  Another part of that is Chapman’s perchance for being parsimonious.  When you combine these traits with long-term storage under a tarp(or cover) sitting out in the elements, then you end up with either a bargain or a headache depending on your perspective.  This 1974 Lotus Europa for sale on Craigslist in Washington D.C. has a great body, but the rest of the car will need attention.  However, if you love Europas and don’t mind ordering parts and working hard to refurbish a mid-engine giant killer, the seller’s price of $6,000 or best offer may be enticing.  Would you be willing to do what is necessary to bring this car back?  Thanks to Mitchell G. for the big valve tip!

We have covered several Lotus Europas in the past few months.  It is as if they are falling out of the sky right now.  When you combine that with the fact that these mid-engined sports cars are an acquired taste and are not as popular in the marketplace as the Elan and the Esprit, bargains are out there to be had.  While the car has that only a mother could love it appearance, the other perennial issue with these cars is build quality.

You can see this on display in the pictures of this Europa.  To be fair, the fiberglass body shell on these cars seems to be about as durable as it gets.  If there is no accident damage, the panels hold up well.  Underneath, the backbone chassis is exceptionally strong for its weight.  The problem is that they are prone to rust and Lotus didn’t do a very good job rustproofing this structurally crucial component.  The other mechanical parts and pieces are a mixed bag due to Lotus purchasing parts from various makers.  They simply didn’t have the funds needed to make everything in-house.  Inside, the components didn’t usually last for the long haul.

This 1974 Europa is a perfect example of these truths with a side of under-tarp storage thrown in for good measure.  The seller tells us that this Europa is a model with a big valve engine, factory alloy wheels, and John Player Special striping on its original but faded white paint.  The car is all original and all of the parts and pieces are there.  The car has never been in an accident and the original front spoiler has yet to be torn off by encountering anything taller than a gum wrapper.

We are told that this Europe has been sitting for 15 long years and requires a full restoration.  The engine turns freely by hand and in the picture above we can see that the Lotus prepped Ford twin cam engine will need a bit of refurbishment despite the possibility that it has traveled just 42K original miles.  The car will come with service documentation, manuals, and other paperwork to help complete the car’s story.

While almost every Europa will need a full restoration by now, it is the combination of the tarp or heavy cover seen in pictures two and three and the climate of the D.C. area that gives pause.   Tarps and covers that don’t breathe well trap moisture.  Moisture is the devil for cars like this.  Add to that years of storage and the temperature and humidity swings this Europa must have gone through and you can see where there could be problems.  Emphasis on could.  This might be a decent car.  Like every other car for sale on these pages, you need to inspect it in person and bring an expert if you can.  Problems and bargains are both discovered this way.

 

Comments

  1. bill tebbutt

    I don’t think that the service history is going to be of much use to the buyer as everything will need to be done to this car.

    However, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t sold by the end of the weekend. It is complete, looks like it has not been hit, etc. If it was close to me……

    best,
    bt

    Like 3
  2. bill tebbutt

    I don’t think that the service history is going to be of much use to the buyer as everything will need to be done to this car.

    However, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t sold by the end of the weekend. It is complete, looks like it has not been hit, etc. If it was close to me……

    best,
    bt

    Like 2
  3. TomP

    Don’t fret on the restoration. These cars are more basic than your riding lawnmower. They are not hard to restore. With all due respect to any cavemen that might be reading this page, even a caveman could restore this car. The only stumbling block on this resto would be if you’re short on time to devote to completing the job, or money to throw at it.

    Like 8
  4. scrapyard john

    I can’t say as if I’ve ever seen one of these. That rear end looks like the deck of a ski boat or maybe a pop up camper. Ah, the 70’s! As I look at the interior pictures, I can practically smell the mildew from here.

    Like 2
    • luckless pedestrian

      Colin Chapman’s bread van…

      Like 0
  5. Joe Mec Member

    I you are redoing a Lotus Europa or Elan by yourself, it is good to start with a complete car. This one looks complete. If the engine turns, those twin cams are not hard to get started. Just give those Stromberg carbs a good cleaning. Some good elbow grease, an acrylic enamel paint job and some interior work and you can have decent driver. That’s the road I enjoy taking. A full ground up restore right now doesn’t seem to be a good investment on these. The Lotus market appears to be softer than years ago so just getting back to a clean driver is better than a bank breaker!

    Like 8
  6. Howie

    We have all seen these much worse. It is not $6,000 or best offer, it is best offer over $6,000.

    Like 4
  7. Frank TA

    I fell in love with these when I saw Tara King driving one in 1969.

    Like 3
  8. Michelle Rand Staff

    Sometimes I feel like we’ve covered more Europas at Barn Finds than Lotus ever made. “Falling out of the sky” for sure. Lotus didn’t do itself any favors with things like power windows in the Europa, and the knuckle-busting choke pull. The interiors were so inconsitent – velour one day, vinyl the next. It’s like they picked up fabric at Big Lots and just slathered it around.

    The motors are great. The handling is world-class. But of course, Lots of Trouble, Usually Serious.

    Like 7
  9. tvrpaul

    as far as I know they all came with the Pin striping and it was not called JSP, striping

    Like 1
    • Howie

      jsp?

      Like 0
      • bobhess bobhess Member

        John Player Special. It’s a cigarette brand in the UK.

        Like 0
  10. Mark Ruggiero Member

    That ad has been up for two weeks, and per the listing, if it’s still there, it’s still available. Wonder what people are seeing that prevents this from moving. Looks pretty complete to me, as good a starter Europa as you’re likely to find.

    Like 2
    • Victor

      I owned one brand new in 1971. Unfortunately they require lots of work and they are not really cheap to renovate or you might have to manufacture some of the parts. I am a glutton for punishment so I would buy it if I knew how to get a hold of the seller, but I would only offer $2,200 knowing it it would cost about $15 to $20 grand to bring it a decent life and lots of hours particularly the electronics and the wiring

      Like 0
  11. JCH841

    I got in one of these when I was a svelte college student. Sixty pounds later I doubt it. But the light weight meant less engine. brakes, suspension, wheels, and tires and it was a quick ride.

    Like 1
  12. Joeee

    This is a steal, worth much more.

    Like 2
  13. ChingaTrailer

    Awful, terrible cars. I worked for a Lotus dealer in California 1973 – 1976. Fiberglass was cheap, flimsy, easy to tear – saw a mechanic go to open a door on a Europa – he pulled up as well as out – the door TORE IN HALF and he stood there with most of the outer door skin in his hand, the inner part still connected to the hinges. Saw another where the bulkhead between the engine compartment and passengers was corrugated cardboard encased in fiberglass, then I saw one where the customer tore the entire side of the car off by parking too close to a very high curb, another customer bent his frame when his right front wheel touched a curb while parking . . . let’s not even get into the electrical gremlins, the upholstery and trim that pulled away in the California sun even before the car was sold and on and on it goes.

    Like 1
    • luckless pedestrian

      Yup… Lotus of this vintage leave much to be desired in the build quality / durability departments… They were basically a factory built kit car… However, when you got them on the road, that is where they shined… and that’s why people bought them. They weren’t grocery getters…

      Like 2
  14. jwaltb

    Penchant, not perchance.

    Like 3
  15. lee roberson Member

    IF it were a steal, we wouldn’t be seeing it. I completly agree with Victor $2200. 2-3 years $15-20K later. I really think the seller should relist it as $6K or BO

    Like 1
    • Bill tebbutt

      I will buy every single twincam Europa you can find in this condition for that price and pay you a $1000 finders fee. Seriously folks, give me a break. I can sell the twincam wheels for $1500 alone.

      This car is worth the money

      Bt

      Like 0
  16. John

    The only issue with these is the sheet metal backbone frame. This particular car is a later model which was bolted to the frame, not bonded like earlier ones. That will allow repair at a more reasonable level, even including replacing the entire frame (they are available). The rest of the ca is little removed from a go-kart and most of the parts and pieces came from other readily available sources. The most difficult issue on mine was replacing the dual servo brake boosters which are located o the rear of the car along with enough brake piping to confuse a nuclear power plant engineer. The problem is that once you have fully restored the car, it will be worth only a bit more than you are paying here. As to its size, I’m six ft and 230 lbs. Its not very pretty to get into it, but, once inside, there is more than enough room to be very comfortable.

    The car will only make complete sense after you have driven it. Then you may find that its resale value and restoration costs are meaningless because you will have no intent to ever sell it. Lotii are a labor of love. Get it brought right, and you will have perhaps the best handling street car ever envisioned. I drove mine from LA to Washington DC and back to Colorado. All I wanted afterward was more time off to go again. But you WILL need to take tools and a few spare parts if you make the trip. It will dump you more than once. You will repair it more than once. You will love every minute of it.

    Like 5
  17. Chris A.

    Regarding this one, a more accurate description is remanufacturing, not restoring. $2,000 is just a start, get a fat wallet out, even if you are doing all the work.

    Like 0
  18. Lonny

    John Player Special maybe

    Like 0
    • Lonny

      Does contact information exist for this vehicle?
      My IPad doesn’t open any site, email address, name of seller, or phone number.

      Like 0
      • Howie

        Lonny, yes hit reply in the upper left hand corner, no phone number listed, but email info.

        Like 0
      • luckless pedestrian

        It’s a Craigslist ad… One needs to inquire through that app…

        Like 0
      • Robt

        Like Howie said. No app. Just copy and paste the email after you hit the reply button.

        Like 0
      • luckless pedestrian

        Yes… but you have to go to the Craigslist listing to get the alias email… you are communicating via Craigslist…they anonymized the address…
        which is what I meant by “app”…

        Like 0
      • Robt

        No problem ‘luckless…’ , but calling it an ‘app’ is still misleading. Craiglist is one of the easiest methods available to connect buyer to seller and visa-versa. I much prefer it to most other options online.

        Like 0
  19. Ralph

    When you want a sports car but it should also look like an El Camino……

    Like 0
  20. Robt

    Nice project.
    As mentioned ‘a labor of love’ is the way to look at this as a way forward. Reminds me of the triumph 650 twins I used run back in the day and the old ‘prince of darkness’ label attached to the Lucas electrics. Rarely had any trouble with them, all you really needed to know is what they were and what made them go. Like any machine.

    This one with all parts in place is hard not to look into. Too bad my pockets are drained and I have no space. I’ll just have to stick with motorcycles, which these days lean towards ironhead sportsters. Cheap for the most part, easy enough to understand and they take up a lot less space.

    Like 0
  21. TomP

    I have one of these in my driveway. It’s all complete and original too, and has been sitting since 1979. The engine is seized, the paint is gone, the frame has rust holes, the interior and cardboard firewall are literally shredded.

    So doing all the resto/ mechanical work myself (except for paint), I’ve calculated $3250 for all the work, including parts, excluding labor (which is free because I don’t charge myself for labor). So people that are either charging themselves for labor, or people paying someone a blank check to restore a car, must not be good with finances if they think it’s going to take $20k to restore this white Europa.

    Like 0
    • luckless pedestrian

      Hmmm… Well, I’ll assume you have your own full machine shop to do the engine work, your own spray booth (and support equip) to paint, your own welding set up to fix those “rust holes”, etc., etc… …and you’ve already fully depreciated the cost of all that stuff… and you get your electricity for free….

      Like 0

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