Colin Chapman famously claimed that he made his cars go faster by adding lightness. At about 1,500 pounds, today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Europa is appreciably light. Let’s see if it’s worth lightening your bank account to own.
Have you ever seen someone wearing the all-over underwear colloquially known as a union suit? In old cartoons that was often used as a bit of Hays Code-era naughty humor as the back flap would be shown popping open at inopportune moments sometimes exposing some animated aft-views.
I was reminded of that on Friday, when our 1994 Mazda Miata candidate came to us presented with its rear bumper and covering cap unattached, leaving its bare bum open to the world. To the seller, that was the preferred look, but few of you shared that opinion. Fewer of you still liked the seller’s chosen $8,500 asking price for the modded car, and it fell in a 65 percent Crack Pipe loss.
Lotus has a long history of giving the world small, quirky, lightweight mid-engine fun cars. Back before there was the Evora there was the Elise. Before that, came the long-serving Esprit. and preceeding the Esprit, the company took their first stab at a mid-motor equipped road car, the Europa. That’s just four models that can be used as markers on Lotus’ mid-engined timeline, going back over a half-century.
Lotus debuted the Europa in 1966. The road car was a development of a racer the company had proposed to Ford for their nascent GT40 project. That didn’t pan out so Lotus switched gears, modifying the design to meet the needs of the street.
That design was both forward-thinking and backward-looking. The makeup was the same as that of the contemporary Elan—a folded steel central backbone upon which a fiberglass body was saddle-bagged. Notably different, however, was the placement of the motor. In the Europa, it nestles deeply in the Y that makes up the back of the frame making the combo look all the world like a pair of inexperienced lovers consummating their relationship.
The first series of cars had door windows that needed to be removed and stored in pockets below if you wanted a little breeze or to not waste your time in the drive-thru at In-N-Out. To make up for the hassle, the Europa was designed with flow-through ventilation that featured eyeball vents on either end of the dash.
Those were sourced from Ford, and in fact, the Europa was pretty much a parts bin car although Lotus did a good job of hiding most of the adopted pieces.
One of those areas is the double A-arm front suspension and rack & pinion steering. Those could trace their roots back to the lowly Triumph Herald.
The engine and transmission came from Renault with both mill and four-speed transaxle flipped from their FWD placement for use in the Lotus.
Other parts pulled together to make up the car include a front bumper off of a Ford Anglia with the rear unit sourced from the Cortina.
This 1974 Europa Twin Cam is the last generation which is arguably the best. This “Type 74” made its debut in 1971, and eschewed the Renault motors for Lotus’ 1557cc DOHC Ford-based four .
There’s a funny bit of trivia around these motors as they have three camshafts. The two obvious ones are in the Lotus-designed head and which operate the valves. The donor engine having been an OHV design, however, meant that there was another camshaft in the block. That wasn’t needed to pop the rockers any longer, but as it also drove both the distributor and oil pump, Lotus just keep it in.
This car has the “Big Valve” head which is just what its name implies. In much of the world that engine came with a lovely sounding set of Dell’Orto side-draughts giving 126 horsepower. Due to U.S. emission standards, we got a 113 horse engine with Zenith Stromberg CD175s.
That’s just how this restored car is still equipped. In fact, the whole engine bay looks like a blast from the past, right down to the period-correct hose clamps. You’ll note a great bit of engineering apparent here with the alternator facing the same way as the motor, and driven off a pulley at the rear of the intake cam. Fun!
The transmission is still Renault-sourced, but it’s the stronger and incredibly rare 5-speed out of the company’s 16TX.
The bodywork on this Europa looks impeccable and really stands out not just for its fly-yellow paint but also for the car’s funny “bread van” design. That’s been minimized somewhat on these later cars but suffice to say the Europa’s styling was improved upon by the succeeding Esprit.
Inside, you’ll find a lovely bit of British burl making up the narrow dash. Inset into that are six Smiths gauges and the aforementioned eyeball vents on the corners. The windows in these later series cars do go up and down in traditional fashion, with electric motors no less. The vinyl upholstery looks to be in excellent shape and the beige color makes the incredibly tiny space feel a little less claustrophobic.
The seller describes the car as being in excellent shape overall, and that seems borne out by the pictures. The title is clean and the ad claims 31,000 miles on the clock, although keep in mind that it only has five barrels in the odometer.
The asking price is $25,000 and before you crow about all the “better” or “more modern” cars you could buy for that much, please understand that’s not the point. This is a classic car that’s also a crazy cool bit of history. It represents the first mid-engine road car Lotus ever sold, and in fact, one of the first-ever offered by any company. That’s a pretty big deal, and not just in Japan.
With that in mind, what’s your take on this Europa and that $25,000 asking? Does that seem like a deal to you? Or, does that price make this just a big Eur-nope-a?
Seattle, WA Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.
H/T to Dave Gipp for the hookup!
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