Something for the weekend – the Lotus Europa

| 5 Oct 2012

Like many of the best cars on the market, the Europa came about thanks to the dream of its maker, in this case Lotus founder Colin Chapman's desire to build a mid-engined sports car for the masses.

Sadly, it didn't work out quite like that, as costs – and the car’s price-tag – spiralled and owners demanded more than fixed side windows and utility trim, meaning that the final Europa Twin Cam Special version ended up costing £20 more than the Elan Sprint.

Neither was Britain’s answer to a mini-GT40 particularly pretty.

We’ll assume that John Frayling, who styled the Lotus, was having an off day (and forgive the packaging issues of an early mid-engined road car).

I know there are plenty who will disagree, but to me the front looks fine and things go downhill from there with a rear end that’s a touch bulky.

If my own curious take on aesthetics doesn’t put you off, what can you expect from the Europa?

Well, as Alastair Clements discovered (C&SC, September 2010), steering that’s ‘as sharp and as accurate as your wrists can cope with’ is a good place start. It should feel perfectly at home on the track, too, with flat cornering and plentiful grip.

Known problems include chassis rot, temperamental electrics and cooling issues. Nothing the numerous owners’ clubs (such as Club Lotus and wouldn’t be able to help with.

This £16k example (above) should avoid many of those issues. The sales pitch may be brief, but a scout of the dealer’s website tells us its 78bhp Renault engine has been completely overhauled. Better still, it’s an S2 that does without the better-avoided permanently bonded body and chassis.

Even the portly rear can be avoided by opting for the later model Twin Cams (from ’71 onwards). They featured clipped rear pillars and a Lotus-Ford engine with 105bhp.

In Pistachio Green, this near £20k example (pictured) looks as good as its 12-year restoration sounds with ‘a huge A4 file of invoices, bills and various documentation’ coming with the car.

Or, you could have a gem such the car pictured below. For £29,950 it may not be cheap, but with only 5536 largely dry (we would assume) Californian miles, neither should it be. It’s certainly the best car we could find.

In a time when pure, back-to-basics sports cars are increasingly becoming a thing of the past, the Europa makes a compelling case for itself.

Further reassurance, if it’s needed, can be found in our free-to-download Buyer’s guide