The seductive trap of the Lotus Europa, Part 1


Two weeks ago, I told you the story of my 1982 Porsche 911SC, the car I never should’ve sold. Here’s the story of the car I never should’ve bought.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2017/10/24/lotus-europa-part-1


I love Europas; nearly bought a brand new one upon returning from Vietnam back in the early seventies; but was shocked when I bought a mint JPS version thirty years later to find that normal size American size 12 shoes do not fit on the pedals and I had to drive barefoot, spearing the gas pedal with my toes & right foot twisted sideways. These cars are not sized for Americans.


4 years ago I bought the Twin Cam Europa that I fell in love with 40 plus years ago. I immediately began to regret and dread what I had done. It was different and intimidating. Now I, like other Europa owners, have come to appreciate Mr Colan Chapmans’ engineering vision and racing prowess with reverence. Somethings we do shake our heads and wonder, but this is a thinking man’s car. It turns those of us that are not engineers into quasi engineers by proxy. Whether you prefer bone stock or the endless customization’s possible, Lotus cars get in your blood.
Lotus is not for everyone. I know of Rob Siegel. I have read his stuff. He is a very good technical writer with a sense of humor. Which is good, he will need one to own a Lotus. But he is BMW guy. The ultra logical car marque. This Lotus is the antithesis of his BMW’s. You see, the exact things that he see’s as “What?!?”, we see as “Wow!”


I’m an American and fit just fine. So does everyone in my family, just not all at once. When I drive I can not wear my size 11.5 running shoes, but my other types of shoes work well. No heel - toe. It’s more like big toe - little toe, which is more efficient.


I bought a used 1971 Europa S1 in 1973, loved the car. By 1980 it was looking a bit shabby, spider cracks in the glass body, cracked windshield, cracked varnish on the wood dash and split dash pad and various other flaws so I decided do a restoration. I removed the dash and started removing the paint, a time consuming process as paint remover would attack the fiber glass and so did power sanding. Eventually the project got side tracked by a Harley Davidson.
It sat for several years with the intention of getting back to it. Eventually I realized I never would and sold it as is to a couple.
A year or so later the wife calls and asks if I would be interested in buying it back as she had divorced and had received the Lotus in the settlement. I was interested if possibly any significant work had been done but none had so I declined the offer.
About 1995 I saw a local ad for a 71 Europa for sale, I called and inquired about the previous owners and my name came up.
Apparently it was still in need of some work but I didn’t pursue it any farther.
I wish I had the VIN so I could do a search for it in the Lotus registry or Carfax.


Mark, I’m glad that your feet fit but my size 12-Ds weren’t even close when wearing everyday shoes. It wasn’t even close - and I’ve owned two different Europas. The footbox was simply too small and the pedal placement too narrow even when wearing moccasin-style driving shoes. I had to drive without shoes (which is a real PITA) and there is no way to enlarge the footwells. I love Europas (the driving sensation feels like my old Sports 2000 Lola); but I strongly suggest that any prospective owner try one on for size before taking the plunge.


I never met Rob Siegel, grew up in the Amherst/Northampton area in the 1970’s, love to write to the point that I have been a professional auto journalist on and off for years and bought a 1972 Europa TC in 1987. My Europa experiences have been vastly different. In 1985 I joined the regional and national clubs and sought advice on what to buy. The TC I could afford was, shall we say, a mess, but the bones were good and I had the support of friends who understood that I should not have a wrench in my hand without adult supervision. The TC had 168,000 on it when I bought it. Before water pump failure and pending divorce sidelined me and the car I used the Europa as a daily driver, in non-winter conditions. When it went off the road for a long slumber it showed over 355,000 miles. Sure, it was quirky, but I drove it like a car, and found out about what I had to watch out for over what time span and what to listen for. For me, once sorted, I found that there was nothing magical about keeping a Europa on the road. Yes, the handling is sublime. A current Caterham has similar feel and dynamics, very, very few other cars come close. I have not brought the TC back to life yet as a 1970 S2 fell into my lap a few years ago and my now 17 year old daughter is leading the restoration of the S2. She is more patient than I and has better mechanical sympathy for the car than I do. My 18 year old son has been eyeing my TC and that is next up. Our S2 was heavily “modified” by the previous owner and we are 100’s of hours into the S2 to bring it back to near original state. But again, we are getting help when needed from a supportive Lotus community and the car is expected to be moving under its own power by Spring 2018.