Lotus power can be compared to a force that is fierce and unrelenting as a hurricane. Whether clothed in race car attire or simply as a road-going street version, the name Lotus equates to a serendipitous encounter few sports cars can replicate. The mighty “Big Valve” Twin Cam engine produces fury the competitors envy. It proves the theory that humongous engine displacement with numerous cylindrical configurations are not really necessary to produce prodigious, jaw-dropping, pavement-blistering performance. The first generation Type 74 Lotus Europa Twin Cam Special is a synergistic approach to very, very high performance.
By Gtb2 – Europa S1 1967, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12079462
The Lotus Europa began as the name implies targeting European markets. They were launched initially for French markets as the S1 Type 46 with a Renault engine and gearbox in December of 1966, deliveries started in February 1967. They weren’t available for British and US markets until the S2 version of 1969.
Here’s a word of caution regarding the purchase of the S1 Europa: DON’T! The fibreglass body is bonded to the chassis. The body must be cut away to replace the chassis which is atrociously expensive. The Renault engine is not as good as the Lotus Twin Cam and parts are scarce for a rebuild which is inevitable. Most enthusiasts have switched out the engine to the Twin Cam. The S1 Europas are also very basic. The interiors have fixed non-operational windows, no floor carpeting, fixed seating positions (floor pedals are adjustable), and an aluminum faced dash.
1967 Lotus Europa S1 Type 46
The Europa was homologated as the Type 47 to become a full race version. The engine, suspension, and tires were tweaked to produce 165 hp reaching a top speed in the 143 mph range.
1969 Lotus Europa S2, Elite Garage Zuzwil SG, Switzerland
The following year brought revisions, the S1A & B had removable windows and a wood faced dash. The S2 model introduced in 1968 brought significant improvements to the Europa. A separate backbone chassis made everyone happy from the auto insurance industry to the restoration enthusiasts are tackling today. Electric power windows removed the inherent claustrophobia, adjustable seats, carpeting, and a polished wood dash made the interior more civilized and refined. The most highly desirable Europa models are the Twin Cam variants launched in December 1971. The “Big Valve” Special debuted in 1972. The last of the first generation Lotus Europa models exited the assembly hall in 1975.
The Lotus Europa sports a silhouette like no other car. It’s not an unrealistic, over-achieving, airbrushed, anorexic glam-car at the tracks, it is unregarding, gutsy, and is a real sports car. So it’s not drop dead gorgeous, it’s not perfect – but it is an athletic behemoth capable of awesome, jaw-dropping performance. It’s a low-slung mid-engine dream. The fibreglass body shell has a drag coefficient of a mere 0.29 making it superbly aerodynamic. The Europa’s bold and unconventional design bucks status quo for the day.
The Twin Cam rear body styling is trimmer than the Renault Europa which not only improves rear visibility but also makes them more aesthetically appealing. The Europa’s compact dimensions aided stability and aerodynamic efficiency. Twin Cam versions are stretched 1” longer to accommodate the larger engine.
The 157.5” overall length is augmented by a 92” wheelbase and 64.5” width. The Lotus Europa is only 42.5” in ride height. Its handcrafted fibreglass body shell has rigid torsional strength with a separate steel backbone chassis. This manner of build is void of squeaks and rattles. It also makes restoration easier; as with all first generation Lotus models – the chassis must be replaced at some point in time.
Initially, the Type 74 Europa Special was to be limited to 200 vehicles. Response to this new car was so great it continued through the end of production. Out of a total of 4,710 Type 74 Europas, 3,130 are built as Specials. The first 100 Big Valve Europa Specials were painted black with gold pin striping honoring the Team Lotus 1972 F1 World Championship title. This is the livery color of the GP cars for the sponsor which the models are named “John Player Specials.”
More color choices were introduced later on during the production tenure. Twin Cam models present a sportier appearance with signature features such as lower profile rear buttresses and a small front air dam under the chin. Twin fuel filler caps for the Twin Cam Europas are another distinguishing feature. The two fuel tanks total 12.5 gallons which is an increase over previous models.
Lotus 72 F1 in John Player Special Livery colors compliments of http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2010/01/16/great-f1-cars-in-pictures-lotus-72-autosport-international/autosportinternational_lotu/
By now, you can clearly see the Type 74 Twin Cam Europa is the best of all models. The Special is equally as feisty as the formidable Elan Sprint with the “Big Valve” powerplant. This naturally aspirated 2-valve per cylinder in-line 1558cc 4-banger is equipped with Twin Dell ‘Orto DHLA40 carburetors. The Big Valve engine has a cast iron block topped with an aluminium head. It’s equipped with a DOHC and the crankshaft runs in five main bearings.
This version of the Twin Cam cranks 126 hp @ 6,500 rpm with 153 Nm of peak torque @ 5,500 rpm. It redlines @ 6,800 rpm. The gearbox is mounted behind the engine and final drive forming a transaxle. It is inverted to provide forward gears. The Big Valve Twin Cam produces more torque; therefore, requires the heftier type 365 heavy-duty 5-speed manual gearbox.
Longitudinal acceleration is rated as: 0-60 mph in 6.1 seconds, 0-100 mph in 15.7 seconds, 0-120 mph in 28.3 seconds with a top speed in the 124-128 mph range. It does the ¼ mile @ 94 mph in just 14.7 seconds. The gearbox is a bit awkward and takes a bit of getting used to because of the cable linkage. It’s a mid-engine rear-drive rocket.
The Europa Special has a separate fibreglass body shell and steel box-section backbone chassis as the Elan. It is a different configuration since the engine is longitudinally rear mid-mounted. The engine sits just behind the cockpit. Europas have a 56/44 rear-biased weight distribution. A 4-wheel independent suspension uses basically the same front suspension as the Elan. The front has upper and lower wishbones, spring dampers, and an anti-roll bar for stability. Lotus Europas use a lengthened version of the Herald-derived Alford & Adler rack and pinion steering system with a modified coupling to the Herald column.
The rear suspension features a large box steel trailing arm on either side anchored to the chassis in line with the cockpit bulkhead, fixed length drive shafts, coil springs, and telescopic dampers. A steel crossmember is bolted to the chassis above the gearbox to provide the mounts for the spring dampers. Europa Specials are equipped with the Girling brake system 9.5” discs fitted to the front axle and 8x 1 ¼ “drums to the rear. There are conversion kits available today to convert the rear brakes to disc type. Servo assisted brakes are standard for Twin Cam and Special models. The Lotus Europa continues Colin Chapman’s basic lightweight theory.
Lotus Twin Cam and Special models have more civilized cockpits than their Spartan predecessors. The foot wells are a bit larger and lower due to the extra 1” longer wheelbase. More sound deadening materials insulates the cabin. A new oatmeal color was added as an option. The last of the line Europa Specials incorporate cord inserts into the upholstery.
Carpeting and wood veneer dash accents makes them more upscale. Electrically operated windows, and comprehensive instrumentation adds to their more luxurious stature. The Lotus Twin Cam and Special models offer excellent overall performance, outstanding handling attributes, and a more relaxed attitude at high speeds as it adheres to the pavement like a magnet. This fierce Lotus flexes its muscles…as it minds its manners –
Lotus Europa Type 47
Lotus Europa S2 Type 54
Lotus Europa Type 74 Twin Cam Special
Colin Chapman’s forward thinking made the Lotus brand ahead of the pack for the day. The Europa Twin Cam Special with its mid-rear longitudinally mounted engine came about when Lamborghini and Matra were the only auto manufacturers to use such daring innovation. The most desirable Europa models are endowed with the mighty “Big Valve” Twin Cam engine. It moves the Europa with aplomb. This sleek, low-slung, brute has its own unique panache; there’s nothing else on the road quite like it.
The ultimate addition to your classic muscle car collection would be an Elan Sprint and a Europa Twin Cam Special – talk about a sophisticated power couple…this is the epitome. The Europa models are true to Colin Chapman’s philosophy regarding his minimalist approach with lightweight construction, aerodynamic efficiency, and ingenious component consolidation. What the ugly duckling lacks in appearance…it more than makes up for it in inexhaustible power and outstanding performance. The Lotus Europa Twin Cam and Twin Cam Special models are in a league of their own –
Lotus Elan Sprint
Special thanks to Conceptcarz, Favcars.com, F1 Fanatic, Wikipedia, Wallpaperup, and Elite Garage Zuzwil SG, Switzerland for the use of their photos of these extremely rare sports cars.
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