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LOTUS Europa Models/Series Timeline, Specifications & Photos

Generations: 2
First production year: 1965
Engines: Gasoline
Body style: Coupé (two-door)
LOTUS Europa S photo gallery

The 2006 Europa was the Lotus interpretation of a GT car. Unfortunately, its interpretation was not quite what a GT owner would expect from a long-journey vehicle.

Lotus Europa was a big name in the automotive industry. The first model was produced between 1966 and 1975. It was a nimble car with a small engine placed in the middle. In its top-spec model weighted just 710 kilos (1570 lbs). It was a true sports car and it was manufactured in 9230 units. But it wasn't a GT and it didn't have a sequel until 2006. The successor for the original Europa was the Esprit, which was closer to a GT vehicle.

The 2006 Europa was based on the light platform shared with the Elise. It was a closed coupe and it was claimed to be a GT. The car-maker stated that it lowered the side sills and installed a higher roof to allow better access inside the cabin. The unusual look of the headlights and the taillights were different than those on the Elise. The side air-intake for the engine compartment was similar to the one found on the Elise.

The interior was fitted with some sound-proofing materials, leather seats, and air-conditioning. That kind o amenities were not installed on the Elise, which was kept lighter. But still, the interior looked almost like a stripped-down premium-coupe. Unlike the Elise, it featured a bigger trunk, for long journeys.

The engine was a carry-over from Opel. It was a 2.0-liter turbocharged unit that produced 200 hp. It was mated to a standard 6-speed manual and there was no automatic gearbox on the options list.

full description and technical specifications
LOTUS Europa photo gallery

There were not too many cars on the market with a mid-engine configuration when Lotus introduced the Europa in 1965, and this model surprised everyone since it came from the British car manufacturer.

When Lamborghini launched the Miura in 1966, the Europa was already a year old, and before it, the French automaker Matra made the Djet. The whole idea of a car with its engine placed behind the cockpit was new, but it proved successful on racetracks where it was used on Formula 1 race cars. Colin Chapman noticed the advantages resulting from the weight distribution of these vehicles and considered launching a model made for the streets. So, while in the U.S., the Mustang dominated the sports car segment with V8 engines, in the UK, Lotus made the Europa with a small-sized, inline-four engine made by Renault, albeit with Lotus cylinder heads. The new model followed Chapman’s “Simplify, then add lightness” principle, and it was a commercial success. Lotus made the Europa in a few series until 1974 when the model was withdrawn from the market and replaced by the Esprit.

The car’s exterior intrigued customers, especially the first series. At the front, the round headlights and orange turn signals were mounted above the chromed front bumper. Lower, the automaker didn’t consider installing a proper apron, but it made a sloped area. While the car wasn’t particularly beautiful, it wasn’t that much of a design disaster for those times.

It was Lotus’ first mid-engine production vehicle, and the automaker didn’t know exactly how to shape the rear side of the car. After the low nose, the car manufacturer installed a raked windshield with one wiper and a short roof. Behind it, the Europa featured side panels that flanked the engine compartment. Due to its unusual look, it was quickly nicknamed “the bread-wagon” car. Later, the automaker reshaped those panels, but it still didn’t look like any other vehicle on the road. Out back, the chromed metallic bumper was placed in an unusual way above the taillights, while underneath the rear apron, the automaker placed the exhaust pipe.

Inside, Lotus still considered that its customers deserved the best materials, so it placed a real wood panel on the dashboard and a pair of bucket seats. These were separated by a tall tunnel that housed the gear stick and the handbrake. Fronting the driver was a simple instrument cluster with round dials for the speedometer and tachometer, while the center stack housed several other gauges. None of the over 9,000 units made were fitted by the factory with an air-conditioning unit. Later models were equipped with power windows.

When Lotus introduced the vehicle, it powered it with a 1.5-liter engine from the Renault 16. However, the automaker considered improving the powerplant and upgraded it with a Lotus cylinder head. The only problem was fitting the engine and the transmission in the same limited space. Since the French vehicle had the gearbox placed in front of it, Lotus had to rotate it 180 degrees and then make some modifications. Most of the vehicles were fitted with a four-speed manual transmission. At the same time, later versions came with a five-speed one, carried over and adapted from the Renault 12 Gordini. After a while, Lotus inked a deal with Ford as an engine provider.

full description and technical specifications