Project Car Hell, Lotus On A Budget Edition: Elite or Europa?

Welcome to Project Car Hell, where you choose your eternity by selecting the project that's the coolest... and the most hellish! Doesn't everyone want to own a Lotus at some point? Hell yes!

Thing is, these newfangled Elises and whatnot seem to be contaminated by engines built by Ssangyong or Sony or some such place where all the focus is on reliability. As true Lotus pilots know, a real British sports car should be built in a shed, preferably with a dirt floor, and powered by an engine with as much character as the most gratuitous use of italicization can convey! That means you need to get an old Lotus, and- whoo-EEE!- those suckers aren't cheap! Fortunately for you, the same economic meltdown that's turning huge swaths of the country into a 21st-century Dust Bowl is also knocking the hell out of project Lotus prices, and so we've found a couple of projects you can buy for about the same price as a 15-year-old Tercel with a couple of burned valves. Welcome to Project Lotus Hell!

In 1974, a new Elite would cost you close to 20 grand, depending on options. That lofty price tag was more than 5,000 bucks higher than a shiny new '74 Porsche 911 Carrera's, so you figure there's no way on earth you could get an affordable project Elite, right? As we say here in the Hell Garage, there's always a way to get that nightmare dream project into your life, regardless of financial limitations, and this '74 Lotus Elite (go here if the listing disappears) is the proof! Would you believe $500 or best offer? Hot damn! The seller knows the kind of jewel he's got for sale, so he doesn't waste his time or yours with lengthy descriptions. It's a real Lotus, it's yellow, it has a "repaired motor and trans" that "just need installing" and it "needs some restoration." So, you take that repaired motor and trans and twist a couple of wrenches, spend a few hours doing some restoration, and there's your daily-driver Lotus. Easy!

We like the Elite, but it's a little on the bulky side for that true Lotus experience. 2,000 pounds? What a battleship! You need to add some lightness and get a Lotus that scales in at more like 1,300 pounds, and that means a vintage Europa. As we know, demand for the Europa is higher than what you see for the Elite, which means prices are going to be a bit higher. Would you pay a grand for one? Do we even need to ask that question? Here's a '70 Europa with just 56,000 miles on the clock (go here if the listing disappears), and it looks to be a hopeless solid basket case restoration candidate, just waiting for the right sucker buyer to invest his or her entire bank balance and/or sanity a few quality hours in the garage! The Europa came with a high-strung Renault engine, which you may or may not get with this car (the seller drops the intentionally ambiguous statement "Does not run, however, have all body parts"), and a fiberglass body (which means that you only have to worry about rust on the chassis and suspension). Hey, if you can drop a Cadillac 4.9 V8 in a Fiero, why not a Europa? We say it's a great idea!


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