Two-Owner 1973 Lotus Europa Twin-Cam Special

If you need a Lotus Europa, you have some choices to make. Do you want an early car, a really early car, or a twin cam car? Those are the basic categories of Europa. If you settle on a twin cam, there are a couple more choices. The Europa was first fitted with a twin cam in 1971, and it was a vast improvement over the 1470 cc Renault four-cylinder that preceded it, but it was still wheezy. Still, these Type 74 cars are great, with about 100 bhp on tap. A year later, the Big Valve twin cam arrived, and suddenly the Europa was a rocket ship. Power went to 126 bhp, and the cars shot from zero to sixty in just over six seconds. Here on eBay is a 1973 Lotus Europa Twin Cam Special big valve car, bid to $12,300, reserve not met. This car is on its second owner who purchased it from an estate after it was stored for eleven years. The car is located in Conway, South Carolina.

The engine displaces 1557 cc’s and is paired with Stromberg carburetors as per US specs. Since the head and the intake manifold are integrated, that popular switch to Webers you might have heard of can only be achieved by changing heads – a pricey proposition. More fun is in store if you need to replace a water pump; this requires the partial dismantling of the engine. This car is equipped with a four-speed manual; the five-speed was a common option and more desirable. (The first hundred John Player Special twin cam cars were supplied only with the five-speed.) The gearshift routes in a tortuous manner to the transaxle, and it’s fragile. The wiring in this engine bay looks non-original. So despite this seller’s video showing the car running, a buyer could face some challenges, particularly with a car that hasn’t driven in eleven years. The seller has already mentioned the brakes need attention.

The seats and carpet are in decent condition despite Lotus’ tendency to use low-quality materials in the cabin. The wood dash is a poor fit and the wiring is a work in progress. I’d be willing to bet those gauges are not operational. The seller reports that the driver’s window is stuck in the “down” position.

For some unfathomable reason, the exhaust was routed through the back panel. Lotus cars have enough trouble in stock form (Lots of Trouble, Usually Serious) without begging for more. Yes, that trunk lid is representative of typical panel fit. Fiberglass bodies are not known for tight tolerances. But now it is time to say something nice about the Europa: they drive like stink. Think of the most thrilling carnival ride you were ever on. That’s the Europa at speed. Just treat the car like a motorcycle, because there isn’t much protection from traffic, rocks, wandering squirrels, or much of anything. Are any of you Europa fans willing to tackle this one?

Comments

  1. Mark Tilton

    I sold Europas new, at our dealership. When you can pass a car on the interstate and feel the 4 tire drift and know that the car is beyond your greatest expectations!!

    Like 2
  2. Steve

    At the time that the Twin-Cam Europas made their appearance in the US “Road and Track” magazine said it was the best handling car they had ever tested. It’s been on my dream car list since I read that article, somewhere in the early 70s.
    The only other problem beyond what has been documented is (in my case) the probable problem of getting out of the car!

    Like 3
  3. Editor_Reid Member

    It’s a cliche to mention ingress and egress of small cars, but it’s a real concern with the Europa. Getting in one isn’t completely humiliating, but getting out of the thing is a spectator sport, and you’re the guy who just dropped the handoff when it’s fourth and goal at the half-yard line. Don’t be that guy.

    Like 2
    • Steve

      I would be that guy. I had an MGB/GT for 40 years and near the end of my ownership getting out was spectacular. Getting out of the Europa (as you said) would be humiliating, to say the least.

      Like 1
  4. Howie

    I had a 69 years ago, wish i still had it, no doubt this is not even close to the reserve.

    Like 6
    • Frank Barrett Member

      Well, yes, once you’ve had a 69, it’s hard to forget!

      Like 2
  5. Frank Barrett Member

    There’s a lot of potential here but a lot of work, too. These are interesting collector cars and will only become more rare (and valuable, if that matters). Great fun to drive, relatively simple to work on, with good club support. This is the kind of car that in 10 or 20 years you’ll kick yourself for not buying!

    • Euromoto Member

      Perhaps I’m a contrarian but, I think a lot of cars that today we think are going to be worth a lot will not be. The youngsters like 80’s BMWs, Subaru and Mitsubishi rally models, etc., etc. Oldsters (like us) will likely find that our vaunted long-hood Porsches, tri-five Chevys, first-gen Mustangs, et all will be curiosities, much like Model A Fords. Hell, you might have to search to find gasoline in 20 years. Tesla, anyone?

  6. matt

    I never drove a Europa, but they are low ( having stood next to a few),
    And I believe what you guys are saying about ingress egress on this one.
    That makes me think of the crack of doom on the MGB !

    Over the years, do all of you remember telling people – don’t slam the door- it will close, don’t use the wing window to close the door,
    don’t put your hands in the middle of the boot (deck lid) to push start my car, don’t sit on the hood (bonnet) etc. etc

    Like 5
  7. matt

    Michelle,

    I think that was a nice write up on the Europa !

    Like 3
    • Michelle Rand Staff

      Thank you! These keep cropping up and it is a bit of a challenge to find something new to say, so I appreciate the kudos.

      As to ingress/egress. I have a not so great hip and a 72 twin cam (my fuel pump hurts, I am too hot, I am too cold, it is Thursday, my brakes are bleeding where they shouldn’t…. So I don’t wanna start). I am 5’6″. I basically sit on the seat sideways with knees at a 90 degree angle to the car, tuck my knees toward my chin, rotate right on the seat and let my legs go under the steering wheel. For anyone much taller your knees will not go under the steering wheel using this trick.

      On the other hand once you get in there, it is surprisingly roomy.

      Like 2
  8. The Other Chris

    In the early ’90s, I seriously considered buying a red Renault-engined Europa at a car show. I think it was about $7500.

    Considering the stupid driving risks I took back then as a young man back then, I have to assume I’d be dead today had I bought it.

    Really cool cars though, especially this Twin Cam.

  9. Panchotus

    I’m 6’4” and can get in and out of my ‘73 reasonably well, and the driving position is acceptable for the short to medium length drives I take it on. Pedals are tight but fine with a pair of driving shoes. I haven’t tried to fit into an earlier model but don’t let it the reputation discourage you from a TC if you’ve always wanted one.

  10. John

    I had two. Both were John Player Specials (5-speeds) They are horribly unreliable cars if you don’t like tinkering. They are unreliable if you do like tinkering. They are the best driving car I have ever known. They are also very comfortable cars — once you get in it. I drove mine from Burbank to Cape Cod.

    This particular car has a safety issue that needs to be looked at carefully. Its dual power brake boosters are missing and the brake lines are joined with simple connectors. This only worked if you also substituted a different master cylinder (TR-4 type comes to mind). Otherwise, you need to source a pair of replacement boosters (unobtanium) or you must have the ability adapt another type of power option. Lacking that, you have a very fast little car which will take 400 feet to stop from 70 mph. If you survive the first panic stop, you will never try another.

    These little cars are really very simple to work on. But there will never be a time when every single part of the car is working perfectly. And you will get to work on them a lot. Some of the things that go wrong are unique to this car only. As an example, the windshield wiper motor is very poorly attached and you will find a time when you turn on the wipers to find them remaining stationary while the motor bracket and motor mover back and forth under the front hood instead. Its an easy thing to fix. Except when you have to do it on the side of an interstate in a driving rainstorm in central Utah. And then there is the shift mechanism, which the author mentions only briefly. It has a “u-joint” in the middle of it which is held in place by a spit pin. The split pin is not hardened. It will break regularly. It can be put back with a small hammer, even on the side of the road. But it is fastened to the motor by a bracket attached to the exhaust manifold. Learn to carry a lot of spares and plan on at least an hour cooling time before attempting a repair. It has a second u-joint at the very back of the transmission (look carefully at the pictures and you can see it at the end of the curved shifter shaft). That one can be repaired easily. You’ll get to do it about 50 miles after replacing the first one. And there is the water pump. It will fail every 30K miles. It’s a $15 cassette. But it requires removal of the engine to install. Seriously. The motor is so close to the front “firewall” that it will not allow the pump mechanism to slide out. Fortunately, its easy to take the motor out. You have to remove two frame members and a transmission mount. But them, you have to lift the back of the car over the motor and push the car forward or pull the motor backward. Plan on needing a long garage.

    But drive a Europa on a twisty road and you will instantly forget all of the mechanical absurdities. It drives like a go-kart with a heater and a windshield. Actually it drives better than a go-kart.

    I loved Europas. You will, too. Just be sure to have a lot of friends that you can call to come get you from exotic locations. You WILL need them.

    Like 3
  11. Howie

    Went to $13,601 reserve not met. The is a photo of a chrome mirror on the car, but all the other photos show no mirrors on the car.

    Like 3
  12. Big C

    These cars are made for guys that like to be seen. In their garage. In the repair shop. On the side of the road, etc. Call me crazy, but I enjoy sports cars that actually can be driven, hard, without stuff breaking, falling off, or frying up. But they are beautiful.

  13. TomP

    After I sold my MG Midget I thought I couldn’t find a more cramped car to have fun with until I found a Europa S2. Not only is the Lotus six inches lower, but your legs are almost straight out in front of you. Also of note is the fact that your legs slant slightly to the right, while the gauges face somewhere to the right of your head. The pedals are also so small and close together that you definately need narrow driving shoes to use them. As with the Midget, you need to take a few practice tries at home in privacy to enter and exit the car so you don’t look like a total fool next time everyone is watching you pull up to the next bar (because they WILL stop what they’re doing and give you full attention when you pull up in this car)… So overall, the Midget was a very fun car, but the Europa is more idiosyncratic and fun. A close second is my 1988 Esprit Anniversary Edition which makes you feel like you’re in the cockpit of an ’80’s spaceship; but thats a story for another day…

    • Howie

      TomP, you say your legs are straight out in front of you? I will then guess you are not very tall, yes i had a 69 S2, and i am 6′ 2″, no straight legs for me.

  14. wuzjeepnowsaab

    I know I’ve said this before but one of the most buttcheek clenching highway rides I ever took was in the passenger seat of a Europa. There’s nothing quite like looking out the window and staring square at the hubs of an 18 wheeler’s wheels ha

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