Colin Chapman began a new ambitious project. This was after having giving notoriety to the Lotus brand with the Mark VI, as well as the Seven and having developed sales with the Elan. It was the beginning of the sixties, he wanted to create a sporty car more affordable than the Elan in order to increase the potential of this small English brand. England knew the Lotus, and now it was the continents turn with an iconic model, the Europe.
All began with a the study for a sports car with a central motor destined to seduce Ford, thus in full reflexion on how to produce this type of car to compete with Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France (24 Heures du Mans). Lola actually won the contract (despite the regular collaboration between Ford and Lotus, such as with the Cortina) but the study of the Lotus Type 46 would not stay in the closet gathering dust. Of course the future little Lotus was more modest than the Ford, with a much more humble motor than the V8 motor.
The little lotus was content with 4 cylinders. This 1470 coupé-cabriolet bloc with 78 horsepower is French. It is a renault motor, present in the recent Renault 16 and slightly modified for Lotus’ needs. This choice, made from how lightweight and compact the French motor was, but also from its relative low-cost from the fact that it was mass produced. The Cleon-Alu that was welded to the 4 gear transmission was also from Renault, therefore you could say that the Europe carried well its name being it is a French-English collaboration.
For the rest it is a lotus : an embedded steel rods in a polyester casing frame, suspensions inspired by the competition and a feather weight (612 kilos empty). The Europe car revealed itself as being a particularly efficient sports car because of its rigidity, lightweightness and despite a power slightly under 100 horsepower. Launched in 1966 the Lotus Europe rapidly knew its humble success.
In terms of its visual profil, the Europe does not please everyone, everyone either loves or hates it today. The front does not have the retractable headlights as the Elan does, but instead headlights that are “free as the wind”, implanted in rounded wings. It does keep a very strong Lotus look. The back is where the Europe is the most original with its full and pointed flanks which gives it an estate car look.
The Lotus Europa gave a particular design to the time, but above all handled the road like a race car which could almost create regret about the power of its motor. One would have to wait 1971 and the Europa Twin Cam (74 type) to pass the 100 horsepower bar with a 1558 coupé-cabriolet motor under the back-hood. In 1972 the Europa Special won more muscles with 126 horsepower and a 5 gear transmission as an option.
In the meantime in 1968 the S2 repaired one of the Europes principal problems; since the straight bar frame teamed up with the bodywork guaranteed an incredible rigidity, therefore the car became unrepairable when an accident occured. The S2 changed things with a separate and dismountable bar frame.
Produced for almost 10 years, the Lotus Europa seduced 9,882 clients with all of its versions (638 for the S1 and 4,294 for the S2, thus 4932 cars with a Renault motor). Not bad for a little English builder who was able in this way to take on a new dimension, despite a perfectable finition. Today the sizable production makes it even more accessible. Its quotation varies between 15,000 and 20,000 euros depending on the versions. This is a substantial sum, but which is raisonnable considering the true gem it is to drive.