1973 Lotus Europa Is Today's Bring a Trailer Pick

1973 lotus europa twin cam special
1973 Lotus Europa Is Today's Bring a Trailer PickBring a Trailer
  • With a willing twin-cam engine mounted amidships, the first generation Europa is the ancestor of the beloved Elise.

  • It's also incredibly small and light, as are all the best Lotuses.

  • A well-preserved California car recently mechanically refreshed, this Lotus is ready for its next driver.

Nearly every exotic sports car these days is mid-engine, and for good reason. Locating the heaviest part of the car near its center allows for better handling and off-the-line traction—it's why the C8 Corvette adopted the layout to hunt down Porsches—and the results are even more evident in racing machines. In the 1960s, Lotus built several winning mid-engine F1 cars and the first mid-engine Indy 500 winner. The obvious thing to do was bring that race-proved technology to the street.

1973 lotus europa twin cam special side
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Today's auction pick at Bring A Trailer (which, like Car and Driver, is part of Hearst Autos) is a classic combination of Lotus simplicity and ingenuity, a 1973 Lotus Europa. Finished in blue with gold pinstripes with a black vinyl interior, it's smaller than one of Shaquille O'Neal's shoes, yet is hummingbird-quick on its feet and powered by a fizzy twin-cam engine. Although its looks may be more of an acquired taste than those of the lithe Elan, the Europa is pure elemental Lotus at its best.

1973 lotus europa twin cam special rear
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Originally, the Europa was intended only for the European market, as evidenced by its name. It was first powered by a 1.5-liter Renault engine with just 82 horsepower, but its combination of boxed steel backbone chassis and fiberglass construction kept the curb weight to under 1500 pounds. Simplify, and add lightness.


Better yet, add a twin-cam 1.6-liter Ford four-cylinder engine. That's what powered later models, like this 1973 example. This engine is freshly rebuilt with twin Zenith-Stromberg carbs, an aftermarket header and exhaust, and slightly (0.030-inch) over-bored pistons. When new, in U.S. federalized form, this engine would have made just over 110 horsepower, and it might be making slightly more in this application.

1973 lotus europa twin cam special engine
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In a car this light, that's plenty. Despite skinny 185-series Kumho Solus tires out back, this little Lotus will really scoot.

You a buy a Lotus for its handling, and there's more good news on that front, with a comprehensive overhaul of the front and rear suspension and fresh bushings for the steering rack. This car reportedly was stored from 1985 until 2021 in California, which kept the delicate chassis intact. It was then mechanically recommissioned to bring it back to former glory. There are a few cosmetic issues here and there, such as tears in the seats, but overall, someone has helpfully done all the work needed. This Europa just needs a driver.

1973 lotus europa twin cam special interior
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While the driving experience will be nothing like a modern mid-engine car, it'd be hard to touch this 43-inch high Lotus for pure delight. Hear the twin-carbs honking away behind your head, feed that manual steering into a corner, and murmur a silent prayer of thanks to Colin Chapman for his signature ethos.

As for the mallard-ish looks, well, those will grow on you. A modern Emira weighs twice as much. It is not twice as good. In Lotus land, less is more.

This no-reserve auction ends on June 11.

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