Wednesday, April 22, 2015

10k: Simplify, Then Add A V8: 1970 Lotus Europa, Buick 215 swap

Over time, all cars must be rendered unto forces outside of our control. Late-model Italian exotics must offer penance for their transgressions at the stake. General Motors G-bodies must be shod with wire wheels and parked on the wrong side of the tracks. And flimsy British sports cars must be mated to burly American iron. No English-bred car is exempt from this divine manifestation, and it's here that we have found ourselves staring at a Lotus Europa body with eight gleaming orifices where a tired overhead-valve Renault unit once sat. Find this 1970 Lotus Europa S2 project with a Buick 215 swap for sale in Newberg, OR for $9,500 via craigslist.

In the 1960s, much of the Europa's engineering focus was given to the body's experimental paper mache construction, leaving the power plant as somewhat of an afterthought. The job went to the lowest bidder; a Renault 1.6-cylinder four worth 80 horsepower powered S2 versions, like this one. But like a hulled British cobnut, the excellent F1-based chassis now sits sans engine  or Lucas electronics.

No doubt inspired by the GKN47D, this car answers a question we all ask daily: What would a Ford GT look like if it was styled after the El Camino? The seller could have answered that question by shoe-horning any old small-block V8 into the generous space just aft of the seats, and calling it a day. No, this is much more ambitious. The Elan-based backbone-style chassis now uses a welded-aluminum front, space-frame rear (from a 1988 Turbo Esprit) assembly. The front suspension, hubs, and brakes are sourced from a 1985 Corvette. The rear suspension is comprised of Can-Am-styled rear uprights. A transmission from a different Turbo Esprit handles the power from an Oldsmobile 215, with an assortment of extra parts filling in the rest.

This rolling celebration of Lotus history is far from road-ready, and is even too incomplete to earn "project car" status. The seller calls it a construction project. Your spouse will call it "annulment material." Extra parts will come with the sale, but expect more hand-fab work to complete the project.

Of course, this all assumes a buyer in the first place. The seller is admittedly pessimistic about finding someone with the special interest and ability to get it on the road. If you've ever considered something like this, you surely couldn't get this far for a smaller investment. If you haven't, consider your appetite sufficiently whetted. Your next stage in the addiction process is full of long, sleepless nights weighing a 1,600-lb MR V8 sports car against your welding and machining abilities.

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PhiLOL actually likes the tuna here, but abhors structural rust. Save the manuals.


  1. Normally I don't even like Europa's that much, the builder must have a serious set of huevos to attempt to build this thing let alone drive it when complete.

  2. The original television show "The Avengers" is too obvious, so here's a cool movie with a Europa in it (but not in the trailer, sadly).

  3. Europas are the most disappointing car I've ever sat in. Not because of the low power, or that the flimsy doors break off the hinges if you brace against them when getting in, but because I don't fit in them. I can get in, I can sit behind the wheel, but I can't turn it any further than 25 degrees before I smash my hand into my knee.

    1. ACBC built cars to fit himself, and he wasn't very big.

    2. Full-size humans have to look to the Mike Kimberly-Peter Warr eras to find Lotuses they can drive.

    3. I think it would be funny if Wheeler Dealers did a Europa. I'd like to see Edd try to fit in one. Moyk might find it a challenge as well...

  4. Really a very cool project. the main thing that raised a red flag for me was the phrase "Welded aluminum monocoque", when I worked on vintage race cars all of the aluminum tubs were glued and riveted, not welded. The use of rivets allowed for stiffer aluminum alloys as well as providing some repairability. I'd be afraid that a welded tub may have more failure issues, but I'm not a metallurgist and I haven't worked in the industry for many years so I may have forgotten everything and be getting it all wrong.

  5. ~ 'British sports cars must be mated to burly American iron'
    American aluminum!?! This is the only way to have a Europa. Not a fit for me either.


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