Twin-Cam Special! 1974 Lotus Europa

A Lotus Europa is one of those cars that you recognize the moment that you see it. Its raised, extended rear section/flying buttress design, surrounding the mid-engine bay, is most distinctive. While a fairly low production volume car, I can recall a time when it wasn’t unusual to encounter one out and about motoring around. This Twin-Cam Special is located in Foothill Ranch, California and is available, here on eBay for a current bid of $7,700, reserve not yet met. There is a BIN option of $14,950 too.

The Europa was in production between 1966 and 1975 with just shy of 10K units being assembled over the ten-year model run. The Twin-Cam Special, such as our example, was good for about 3,300 copies. One of the Europa’s most remarkable features is its weight, or lack thereof, tipping the scales, on average, at only 1,450 lbs.

The seller states, “THIS CAR was stored for years, it was discovered and brought back to life. No attempts were made to disguise or hide anything by polishing, waxing, painting, etc…The car was washed, cleaned and that’s it. What you see is what you’ll get.” This Lotus shows well, the finish is a bit faded but other than that, it is a very presentable driver quality car. The seller adds that this Europa is rust free, unmodified, and unrestored. Of note are the chrome bumpers, they still have a strong shine and are well aligned but they appear to be pre-Federal, five MPH rammers that were required by ’74. Images that I have been able to find of “Federalized” Europas appear similar to this example so Lotus must have found a way to make these slim bumpers comply.

The seller is adamant that this lotus is a roller, though not because of its 113 HP, 1.6 liter, twin-cam, four-cylinder engine. The seller mentions that the carburetors have been rebuilt, a new fuel pump added along with new spark plugs, and an entirely new exhaust system. The seller claims, “The engine runs well, no knocking or anything else.” The problem is with the brakes, they don’t work. Apparently, the line distribution block has been removed and he offers a warning that should be forwarded to the selected auto transporter. He also provides a list of items that need attention such as a battery, throttle cable, filter replacement, cooling system flush, lug nut replacement, and the previously mentioned brake issue. Gear changes are courtesy of a four-speed manual transaxle. Here is a video of this Europa being driven, not exactly sure how stopping was accomplished. It’s a brief video and my takeaway is that the valves sound like they are way out of adjustment.

The interior is in surprisingly nice condition. While the driver’s seat has a seam split, it appears to be minor and the rest of the presentation shows very well. As mentioned before, light beige cloth interiors are a dickens to keep clean but this 46 year-old environment is still bright. The very British looking instrument panel is still, well, very British looking. There are no missing gauges or switchgear and the gauges appear to still be clear.  Same story with the wood trim, it has weathered the test of time well. The Pioneer radio/tape deck is a non-OEM unit, the outline of the original receiver is still impressed on the wood instrument panel. Other than the noted driver’s seat split, this interior appears to require nothing.

The seller concludes with, “These are fantastic handling cars, the last version of the Europa has nothing to do with the earlier Renaut powered versions. This is the Europa model/series to have!” There are obvious mechanical items notated that still need attention but this Europa comes across as a pretty fitting example for existing Lotus fans or those who would like to be. I know little about Lotus ownership (I have a friend that has a ten-year-old Elise but he’s not a car guy and he told me I was too tall to fit in it) so it would be great to hear from those who have ownership experience. Any good stories?

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Comments

  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    I’m 5’6″ and fit in the two S2s that we had. Much taller than that and you need to hire a short, skinny person to drive it for you. Great fun, nice looking, and a car you don’t want to hit something or have something hit you. Great autocross cars and, with proper roll cage, fun vintage race cars. Other than that, weekend car shows etc. This is a very nice example.

    Like 4
  2. angliagt angliagt Member

    I stored an S2 Europa in my garage for a friend years ago.
    After driving a ’65 Ford F100,I jumped in (well,I actually contorted
    my way into it).I drove it around the block,& almost hit a parked
    car while turning a corner.
    Seems that the Europa has a more precise steering system!

    Like 9
  3. Mike

    Way back a friend and I drove from Los Angeles to the Indy 500 in his ‘73 Europa. I did maybe a third of the driving. On one of those long stretches on the interstate I remember thinking the steering was so quick that if I sneezed we’d go off the road.

    Like 5
  4. Blyndgesser

    Hmm. I can’t decide. Lotus Europa or Porsche 914? The Lotus is faster in factory trim, but it’s relatively easy to make more power with the VW Type 4 engine, not to mention the flat-six possibilities.

    • Armstrongpsyd Armstrongpsyd Member

      I just sold my driver ’73 914 1.7. I was great, but the easy engine access of the Lotus looks awfully nice.

      Like 3
  5. bobhess bobhess Member

    Blyndgesser..Owned two S2s and two 914s. S2s were something to play with and the 914s were something to drive. Second 914 had a full custom suspension and a 130hp 1.8 type 4 engine in it along with an a/c. It’s what you plan on doing with the cars that should determine what you buy. We compromised and bought both…

    Like 5
  6. Jack

    I owned one of these for several years in Europe, it was the 126 bhp big valve Special. They are lovely cars, yet simplistic in many ways. The handling is to die for, the only thing that you need to remember is that the front tires need to run at 10 psi lower than the rears.

    Like 2
  7. Hale Irwin

    As a young USMC pilot in the early seventies I owned a used Renault powered Europa. After the engine seized when a weber air cleaner bolt sheared off and was ingested it was repaired. I then did a really smart thing and traded it for a brand new John Player Special twin cam version. These cars were very quick and handled incredibly. By the way, even though single i always had a back up car just in case!!

    Like 5
  8. Bruce

    Well I put over 200,000 miles on my 1969S2 Europa and I used it as a daily commuter car for many years. I have owned my for over 40 years. The biggest problem with these cars is the owners. The design is fragile if not treated well by ham handed owners and mechanics. IF YOU FIT it is extremely comfortable for a long trip and you can get some amazing gas milage. I have seen a maximum of 45 MPG once and over 40 MPG on many long trips.

    Parts can be expensive but most of the parts for the car are common to many other much higher production cars. Special bespoke parts can be extremely expensive but there are not many of them. The fiberglass body is a big help and there are total replacement frames available that are not as expensive as you might think. The engine and transmission are French on the S2 and the TWINK like this one just the transmission is. The engine was detuned and up to 130 HP is available with minor changes. Those parts will be hart stopping in price.

    I have driven both the 914, all versions, and I like them but they are a totally different animal. The removable top is worth its weight in gold but the body when the tin worm gets started can be a nightmare to fix. The battery box and rear fenders come to mind. I have also seen one or two where the spot welds on the body were not sealed properly and those cars dissolved along every seam and were death traps.

    The Europa is a far more comfortable ride than the 914 and as noted by others the steering is more like a formula race car than a street car. Because of the light weight the tires an corning capacity of this car will shock most other cars on the road. I have been chased more than once and when I hit a corner I do not need to slow down where other do. Some have not and gone off the road.

    These are remarkable cars but you need to know their limits in terms of performance and reliability. As noted earlier do not hit or get hit as there is almost no structure around you. Consider the car to have the safety of a motorcycle. The good thing is you can drive around most accidents.

    I have other rare sports cars including a 928s, BMW 330, AH 3000 MKIII, MGA, TR-3, 4. 6 over the years and this is one of the most special. I am doing a total frame off restoration, I am spending the money to make that engine get to at least 120HP. With the Minilite wheels and slightly wider tires it should be even better.

    The biggest flaw is that the front end is so light. It WILL HYDROPLANE without the front mounted spoiler that this one has. If you are the one that purchases the car test it in the wet on a empty school or shopping center parking lot to learn the limits. Those limits are very real and can be dangerous if you do not know where they are.

    This looks to be a good one, First thing REPLACE THE WATER PUMP, and check the water lines to the front mounted radiator. The seam on the seat is a easy fix and any interior shop should be able to fix that within an afternoon. The other problem is the wiring, Check ALL OF IT. Some of the insulation in those years was not as good as today and that can be a total pain to get right.

    Like 7
    • JOHN

      Well said. You might also mention that the motor must come out to replace the water pump. This car still has the dual brake boosters and dual master cylinders. They will need to be rebuilt – regularly. Also, of honorable mention is that the headliner will fall on your head. Don’t replace it, just take it out. You’ll get two inches more headroom. Finally, you will need to carry a couple of dozen spare split pins for the center of the shift mechanism (the joint that is located just a couple of inches from the exhaust manifold). Its really easy to repair with just a small hammer and a split-pin punch. But you have to sit for a half hour to let the exhaust cool before undertaking the replacement. I was never able to figure out how to replace it with anything would not break.

      But its otherwise a great little car — I had two. Both twin-cams, both five speeds. I owned one of them when I was too poor to provide it with proper maintenance and the second when I was too fat to get in it gracefully. I loved both of them and I’d consider this one in a heartbeat. In fact, I may put in a bid.

      Like 6
  9. chrlsful

    thanks to Jim and Bruce, John (the final 2 members) a G R E A T write-up !

    I now know what ownership might be like w/this vehicle (comparison 2 other known cars, + and -, character, etc). Hada business acquaintance who switched from one to 2 ‘zuki that he heavily adapted to crawlers (SAS, bigger motors, etc). So well written I think I know his thought process, personality, etc better now as well (I’ve owned a ’66 bronk 38 yrs).

    Like 3
  10. Steve Clinton

    Sold for $13,975.

    Like 2
  11. Cobra Steve

    As a former owner of a 47 and S3, I can attest to their incredible handling manners! Just remember, Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious.

    Like 2
  12. JoeNYWF64

    Huge “vent” windows that don’t open – i don’t understand this at all.
    & the doors are long enough for full length roll down glass.
    The glass may be curved, but so is it on 2nd gen f bodies with their huge doors.

    Like 1
    • Hale Irwin

      These cars were very hot. I even tried dumping ice in front trunk through witch cabin air passes. Not much success. Then there was the time the vent motor burned ip and blasted smoke into the cockpit. Still no car ever handles like my JPS Europa in 1973

      Like 1
  13. Armstrongpsyd Doug Member

    Back in 72 I had a new Fiat 124 Spider. Being in the Army training as a medic, I had lots of opportunity to drive clear across country and back. Every time I’d come upon a TR6 or a 914, it’d be “race on”. Sometimes I could get ahead of either of those cars depending on conditions, but I could never keep up with a Europa.

    Like 1
  14. Bob Morris

    Sold!? I live about 8 miles away and was hoping to go view it. Anyway, I hope the buyer is a Lotus lover and will do it justice. I met Colin Chapman and Jim Clark in 1964 at the US GP then held at Watkins Glen (a college weekend excursion from OH). Colin was driving a big Ford something and almost hit me/brother in the parking area near the team tents/garage (so much different than today). He and Jim came out of their car to see if we were OK. They were gentlemen and gracious. The good old days!

    Like 1
  15. frozenbird

    As was already mentioned these cars are very hot with poor ventilation and no way for the heat to escape. Shorts, t-shirt and bare feet driving is not enough to keep you cool. I even lined my interior with the butyl backed Wire-Ez and that’s still not enough, your always cooking. Fitting in one is not really that big of a deal at 6’1″, it’s the pedal placement that is, driving shoes or bare feet work best.

  16. Phlathead Phil

    Somewhat resembles the 914. I wonder if this Federal bumper thing is what really killed it for Porsche & Lotus.

  17. David M Skelley

    Hi there, Just saw this. This car was once mine! I purchased it in the late 70s and sold it in the mid 80’s. it was originally brown but I had the front signals removed and relocated to the grille and painted it Porsche Peru Red. This looks nearly like when I sold it though a bit more weathered. Even the rust colored upholstery inserts. It was my most favorite car I ever owned and drove it from San Diego to San Francisco several trouble free times. If the new owner would like more history info…let me know! I can’t believe seeing the car.

    • David M Skelley

      By the way this car is a 5-Speed not 4-Speed. I had the head ported and polished by Davie Bean. so it was rather fast…much more so than stock.

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