Truly Special: 1974 Lotus Europa

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We often weigh classic car projects on their financial merits and how much of your investment you will get back when the time comes to sell, but some project cars aren’t really about the numbers and whether they make sense. Take this Lotus Europa Special, yes it’s rare and they can fetch decent money these days, but that isn’t why you take on a project like this one. You take Lotus’s Bread Van because of how much fun you’ll have driving it and the reward of not only telling people that you saved it but what the heck it even is! With a $7,500 asking price, it isn’t necessarily a steal, but it also isn’t crazy for a running and driving Lotus Special. You can find it here on craigslist in Raleigh, North Carolina. Special thanks to Rocco B for this tip!

If this car is structurally sound, the body lacks any major issues and the interior isn’t too bad you technically might be able to make money on it when the time comes to move it along, but I honestly hope whoever buys it does so to simply enjoy it! These aren’t particularly easy cars to get in and out of, the cockpit is a bit cramped and build quality is about what you’d expect from a ’74 Lotus, but few cars have as much character as the Europa.

So what makes this a “Special”, you ask! When the Europa was first introduced, it was powered by a rather weak 1.5 liter Renault engine. Eventually, Lotus updated the car with a slightly larger Renault engine and a body that was bolted to the frame rather than glued to it. While these were welcome improvements, things didn’t really get interesting until Lotus decided to install their Twin Cam engine into the Bread Van. In 1972, to celebrate the victories of their F1 team, they decided to finally drop their big valve version of the twin cam from the Elan Sprint into the Europa. They initially built just 100 of these John Player Specials, but they proved so popular they went ahead and built more that were badged simply as Specials. This engine produced 126 horsepower, increased the top speed to 125 and made these much more competitive at the track and on the street.

As I look this Europa over, I really am surprised with how clean it looks. A previous owner has added some silly scoops on the engine bay cover and rear quarter panels, but hopefully, they can be removed without too much work. It’s a fiberglass body, so it shouldn’t be impossible to fix. I suppose you could leave it as is and enjoy all the questions and shocked looks from purest. Regardless of what the next owner does with the body, the main thing is that they drive and enjoy it the way Colin Chapman intended!

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    I’ve always liked them and aspired to own one someday but after getting in and out of my lowered Karmann Ghia today I may want to rethink that. This looks like a good start “running” and it might even be more special than most as I don’t recall seeing one with extra scoops.

    Like 3
    • SubGothius

      I’m only 5’8″ and sat in a Europa once, can attest it’s absurdly low and tiny, and a car you don’t so much “get into” as “put on”.

      Like 8
      • DRV

        Run away….

        Like 0
  2. TimM

    I remember these as a kid and they were always a quirky little car but the style is one that stands all by itself!! Don’t see many of them around anymore!!

    Like 2
  3. PDXBryan

    I actually kind of like those rear fender flare/scoops. With the right wheel/tire combo and ride height, it might end up with a mini Lola T70 vibe!

    Like 5
  4. Kevin Harper

    I have seen this car and talked with the owner.
    Car needs a lot of work, and the owner was hoping to learn how to work on cars on this one. I guess he figured he was in over his head.
    I think this one is called a Type 62 in lotus parlance.

    Like 5
    • Mark Looman

      Type 74

      Like 0
  5. Jack Hammer

    I wonder if the previous owner used bacon fat for the oil changes.

    Like 1
  6. SMS

    Yes these are nice, just don’t lean on the door to get in or out.

    Had a twin cam. Fellow had an S2 and we traded cars for a run around.

    His had the Renault engine with the cross flow head. Not only was it lighter, and tighter, it was also more powerful.

    If I was to get another I would get an S2 and work the engine over.

    Working on Europas is a bit different from other cars. They are so low and the foot wells are so small you kill your back and arms working in there.

    Driving Europas is also a bit different. You rarely have your head higher than the top of the car tire next to you. Braking and turn in points are so much later it is almost funny.

    Like 6

    Seems like you should be able to shoehorn a boxer 4 from a Subaru or a Porsche in this thing. Rework the suspension. Wider tires and wheel wells. Paint & interior.Only if I can get it for under 3k.Basically a total restomod.

    Like 2
  8. Blk63vette

    Every Lotus Europa I have ever seen whether it be in a garage or at a SCCA event. Either was broke down, over heating, needed alot if work. I never seen one that didn’t need some fixed or repaired.

    Like 3
  9. SebastianX1/9

    Unless you’re a Little-Person or race car driver, ignore Lotus. They make 80s Ferraris seem roomy. Every Fiat I have ever owned (124, 125, X1/9, 130) had more leg room and better ergonomics.

    Like 0
  10. Jonathan Warren

    I’ll never understand the appeal of these cars. They look home-built by an amateur fiberglasser; the rear end reminds me of a pedal boat.

    Like 1
  11. Bruce

    The scoops are silly. Someone spent a great deal of time and money to make something work worse and look bad. I have been a Lotus owner since the late 1970’s and have put over 200K on mine with only one problem event. The biggest problems with Lotus cars is the owners not knowing that these are more race cars than street cars and need the same attention that race cars need. Frequently checking, fighting of bolts, lots of LOCKTIGHT, and care.

    They go well because they are really light and when running right are a blast. Frequently the radiators need cleaning, the long pipes running from the engine to the front mounted radiator can after this time be leaking, but if taken care of are excellent drivers. This body can be fixed back to what it should be, patch panes are available from England but they will be expensive. I would suggest a chrome front and rear bumper while you are there.

    Find a buyer for the wheels and put back something like what was meant to be on them. They look to be too wide and I expect that unless the suspension is locked up some how they will rub especially the front wheels. Mini lights look good and can be purchased in the right sizes and bolt patterns.

    There are so many photos not taken and the ones that I can reference are not that good but I think the asking price is about double what it should be for this car in this condition. It can be saved and if you fit an amazing car one that will out perform similar street versions with ease.

    Like 5
  12. That Guy

    Craigslist posting is “deleted by its author” now.

    Like 0
  13. Martin Horrocks

    Engine and box are worth the asking price

    Like 1
  14. Little_Cars

    Agree about the stance and those wheels have to go. Could the scoops have been added to assist in cooling? I don’t like them either, but they aren’t a dealbreaker IMHO. Agree too that this thing needs added chrome bumpers and Minilites to get the proper period look.

    Like 1
  15. Pacekid

    I got in one at my brother’s body shop over 50 years ago. I remember that it was such a low roofed automobile. And once in it it felt like a coffin. I never drove it, but I’m sure is was close to what a Hi Po go-cart feels like.

    Like 1
  16. John

    I loved my 74 Europa S. But “Perfect Lotus” is an oxymoron. Its vacuum cylinders for the braking system are missing so I hope the requisite TR-4 master cylinder has been fitted — it won’t stop otherwise. I also see an electric fuel pump. but most importantly, I see a lot of corrosion on the frame rails on the driver’s side near the motor mounts. Its matched by corrosion on the alternator pulley and on the frame diagonals. Couple the rust with the innovative loose wiring scheme at the front of the engine bay, and you have a recipe for hours and hours of restoration. I’d love to have it, but I won’t live long enough to restore it back to where it needs to be. I hope someone does.

    Like 4
  17. steven M Sammut

    I have a Mk2 Cortina. That engine would look great in it. As mentioned previously, just the engine and trans are worth the $7500. I’d want to hear it run and then start the financial onslaught at $5k.

    Like 0
  18. Jack Hammer

    The best Europa I’ve ever seen was parked across the street from where I was parked. It must have not been not running properly, because the driver was severely bent over fiddling with the engine. She had a very short skirt.

    Like 1
  19. Robert Park

    I met a guy a few years back that had found in a barn a JPS Edition Europa. I could tell that he was selling it cheap but those doors…how do you get in and out without rolling on the ground. Never made it to the negotiation process. I’ll pass.

    Like 0
  20. Steve BushMember

    There’s a white 1972 Twin Cam I see frequently at auto shows around Cleveland. It has twin webers and headers and is a nice driver. Although it looks small and cramped to me, the longtime owner, who is about 5-9 and very thin, says he is very comfortable driving it.

    Like 1

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