1966-’75 Lotus Europa | Hemmings Motor News

24 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 1966-’75 Lotus Europa | Hemmings Motor News
Lotus Europa

The ‘Bread Van’ gave Lotus a slice of the European market

Feature Article from Hemmings Motor News

The Europa was a true trailblazer, being not only Lotus’s first mid-engine car, but also the first British production car with a mid-engine layout. Just as important, it was that manufacturer’s first big attempt at finding buyers across the English Channel, with a name that perfectly reflected the company’s target market.

After gaining experience with series production with the Elite of 1959, and introducing its hallmark folded-steel backbone chassis with the Elan of 1962, Lotus teamed up with Renault, one of Europe’s largest automakers, in the production of the Europa. The new car used a tuned, 78-horsepower version of the 1,470cc four-cylinder engine used in the front-wheel-drive Renault 16 sedan, as well as that car’s four-speed transaxle. Lotus’s engineers turned the powertrain around 180 degrees and mounted it behind the Europa’s snug passenger compartment, driving the rear wheels.

The fiberglass body, designed by John Frayling, is no doubt the most controversial aspect of the car, its tall sail panels and high rear deck earning it the nickname bread van when it was new. What was lost in rear vision was made up for in aerodynamics, and in the marginal utility of a fiberglass storage tray mounted over the engine, where small pieces of luggage could be kept toasty warm. In the Series 1 cars, the body was bonded to the backbone chassis.

Lotus Europa

Series 1 cars were spartan, even by Lotus standards, with fixed side windows and non-adjustable seats. All Series 1 cars, about 650 in all, were exported to Europe. Home market buyers would have to wait for the Series 2 that arrived in 1968, which carried a number of improvements: adjustable seats, higher quality trim and power windows–a necessity, given the impossibility of turning a crank while seated in the tight cockpit. Bodies were now bolted to the chassis.

Lotus offered the Europa for sale in the U.S. beginning in 1969, boring the engine out to 1,565cc and carrying out modifications to meet federal safety regulations. Road Track recorded a 0-to-60 MPH time of 9.4 seconds and a top speed of 116 MPH, terrific performance from so small an engine.

The Europa Twin Cam arrived in 1971, blessed with Lotus’s own 1,558cc, DOHC inline-four. Based on the English Ford Kent engine, the four was rated at 105 horsepower, although that figure was probably 10 to 15 horsepower optimistic. Lotus took aim at a number of the car’s other drawbacks at the same time, trimming down the sail panels to improve rearward visibility, and creating additional room by reshaping the seats, lowering the floor and widening the footwells.

The last of the line was the Europa Special, which was equipped with a big valve version of the four rated at 126 horsepower everywhere in the world but the U.S. where emissions controls dropped output to 113 horsepower. Total production reached 9,300 or so; no one’s sure of an exact figure. Prices today range from $10,000 for a Series 1 car in excellent condition to twice that for a Special.

This article originally appeared in the April, 2009 issue of Hemmings Motor News.

Lotus Europa
Lotus Europa
Lotus Europa
Lotus Europa
Lotus Europa
Lotus Europa

Tagged as:

Other articles of the category "Lotus":

Our partners
Follow us
Contact us
Our contacts


Born in the USSR


About this site

For all questions about advertising, please contact listed on the site.

Car Catalog with specifications, pictures, ratings, reviews and discusssions about cars