REVIEW:// Lotus Europa TC

This 105 hp Lotus Europa TC configuration of only 740 kgs plus driver are likely to go places in a rapid way. With a bit of luck and craft this little British sports hits 60 in about 8 secs and steams on up to a nice 120. Do take care though: this lightweight will lift her nose at speeds like that. There's a tiny front-spoiler trying to reduce just that. Still, impressive figures for a 1.6 mill powered car.

History

In line with 60s Lotus racing cars the Europa was among the first streetcars to have 

the engine behind the seats and in front of the rear axle. At those days the choice of such a lay-out was limited to the Matra Djet and 1965 Lamborghini Miura. The development of the Europa started in 1963 with drawings by Ron Hickmann. A team of 

skilled and experienced Lotusmen came up with the light and polyester bodied Type 47. Powered by the 165 hp 1.6 Ford Cosworth twincam injection-engine these raced in Sportscars Group 6. Only 55 were build.

The '64 streetcar type 46 - or Europa S1 - came equipped with a slightly hopped version of the 1.6 engine from the frontwheel driven Renault R16. With the reverse position of this 82 hp lump the housing of the 4-speed gearbox was attached to the inboard ends of the lower suspension links. About 650 were built. The smooth S1 is a real drivers car with an almost completely closed underside. By bonding body and frame it has a noticeable tighter drive compared to the S2. Those 'modified' and more comfortable Europa versions Type 54, and Type 65 for the US market, were produced from '68 to '70 (3.615 cars).

The car described here is the Lotus-Ford-powered Type 74 or Europa TC (1971, 1.580 cars). By then the Renault gearbox in Lotus-housing was capable of taking 150 hp. Enough for the final and most popular Europa, the 126 hp racy Special Big Valve (3.130 cars). The Ford 1.6 was a forced choice. Le Regie could've squeezed the same performance figures out of the R16 but used that engine in their Alpine, also a lightweight streetracer and thus a mere rival. Ironically TC owners have the option to swap the Lotus-Ford for the lighter Alpine R16 making their car even faster.


 

Racing Green JPS

The beautiful example featured here is the only Dutch rolling TC. Owner Hans Ruiterkamp did restore with immense care for detail and he says it's now near finish. You'd expect some of the agressiveness of Lotus' racing heritage in the looks of this TC. The low slung aerodynamic silhouette (Cd 0,29) and the handsome partial black 13" racing wheels would presume this indeed is a viscious little thing. But peeping into the cockpit by opening the lightweight door by the Jaguar MK2 doorhandle, there's a surprise: this is a gentlemens club for two where I expected a spartan interior with only the essential needs for driving. Hans is chief mechanic at the Dutch Bentley dealers and used royal materials to compose a very classy office. The dash is in Burr Walnut, the bucket seats are in green 'Spruce' and yellow 'Tangier' Connoly leather. My feet rest on green 'Connifer' 'Wilton' carpet. The electric window is only a fingertip away. Classy.

Drive

Once calmed down from all this exuberance Hans explains the dials and buttons to me. The inboard computer behind the locker and the Tripmaster between my knees show this car is fit for whatever rally. This Lotus is modified to be the better car than it was 30 years ago but it's as original it needs to be for historic rally events. Simple black tumbler switches explain the no-nonsense character of this TC. The Triumph Spitfire steering column, the Volvo 440 electric windows (a standard feature on the S2, the 440s is a replacement / the S1 had fixed windows!) and the Arnage starter button make clear this is a multi-cultural chap. Now let's hit that red button. Just a little hesitation and the 1.6 behind us stuuters to live and runs a steady idle within secs. After only a few yards we get out of the car: the 2 inch electric fence lock is a too high obstacle! We get in, not an easy task BTW, Hans leaves his shoes behind and shifts into 1st. Just a little throttle and off we go for a saturday morning trip. It's instantly clear this Europe isn't the streetracer you might mistake it for. Hans loves his car and couresses it. But every now and then the right foot goes down and moves this little basket in fast forward mode.

The engine

Lotus europa engineOn the better side of 4000 revs the TwinCam loosens up and hammers all the way up to 6.5k where the limiter comes in. Hans' limit is 5.5 and that's enough to keep most traffic at a safe distance. There's no rawness, even at higher revs the two Dell'orto DHLA 40mm's keep the Ford behaving sweet. At lift a decent pop adds some extra flavour to the clean soundbyte. Boring? Not at all. It's just not the racy thingy I had in mind.

The enginebay pic shows the intake bending just in front of the boot, which is reasonable for such a small car. Funny detail is one of the cams driving the alternator. The upside down 'Lotus' embossed in the camcover I'll never understand. Lotus well considered the position of the engine so IMO they'd've made a special Europa camcover.

Economic use of space

The picture shows the big boot, with the extra square space for the Lockheed servo assistance to replace the original Girlings. On both sides two 30 litres fuel tanks provide for an amazing range. One litre delivers about 12 kilometres average. That's 60 x 12 = 720 kilometres = 450 miles! Lotus Europa specialist Banks delivered a common modification for the fixed-length drive shafts which support the structure. Colin Chapman's brain may've had some brilliant and economic solutions, they're not always that smart. Banks made a supportive bridge that allows the shafts to run more freely. Three tiny locks give entrance to the radiator on the right and the spare wheel on the left. Separated by a space behind it is a neat space for a first aid kit and some tools. Standing in front of this just 107 cms low car I had to get on my knees to take a look at the plate. The original is replaced by punched steel figures on Bentley grating. An elegant solution that fits Hans' original and precise procedure.

Back home

Black clouds predict rain and we're hitting the road back home. What struck me was the lack of roadnoise. There's just the pleasant throb of the fourpot behind us for which I kept the window open. There's no doubt this is an honest car. What is put in, you'll get back. Cornering is snake-like without body-roll and with easy accuratesse. Strange but true the low position doesn't feel that low at all. And it's not only the luxurious cabin that gives me a very satisfied feeling: this racing car derrived Europa will get you a tankfull's distance in utter comfort.

At increasing speeds the bad road - bumpy tarmac - rocks the car. The TC's stiffness and tightness together with the though Koni's and 185 HR 13 tires offer a rigid ride with a modern touch. Tight fit seats keep you in place. Driving needs a third eye for speedbumps, bridges and potholes. A bang on the polyester ridges will set you back . . . The S2's body is removeable from the chassis while the S1's is not.

From all angles this Lotus has its own peculiar looks. The boxxy back with the E-type rearlights, the distinctive silhouette, the boatdeck roof, I can't think of a car that's so original and yet hasn't any epigones. Can you think of a car that does follow the Lotus Europa's lines?
At increasing speeds the bad road - bumpy tarmac - rocks the car. The TC's stiffness and tightness togheter with the though Koni's and 185 HR 13 tires offer a rigid ride with a modern touch. Tight fit seats keep you in place. Driving needs a third eye for speedbumps, bridges and potholes. A bang on the polyester ridges will set you back . . . The S2's body is removeable from the chassis while the S1's is not.

Words and Pictures: Albert Mensinga