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Like the Elan, the Lotus Europa also used a “double-Y” steel chassis which also served as the main support for the car’s mechanical components. However, instead of mounting the engine at the front, the Lotus Europa had a mid-mounted engine, the first for a mass-produced car.
Originating from Colin Chapman’s pioneering ideas, the Lotus Europa was designed with independent suspension on all four wheels. The system was very similar to the one used on the Grand Prix cars of the time. The body of the Europa also made use of advances in engineering materials at the time, being innovatively moulded as a single-piece fibreglass construction. For the engine, Lotus turned to the French manufacturer Renault, opting for their 1470cc four-cylinder unit from the Renault 16, which Chapman coupled to a four-speed gearbox. Delivering 82hp, the French engine was enough to propel the 686 kg Europa to 180 km/h.
In 1971, the TwinCam version of the Lotus Europa, the most powerful variant, was presented to the public. With the 1558cc four-cylinder big-valve engine and double overhead camshafts, the new Europa Type 74 outputted 115hp, giving the 730 kg car an excellent power-to-weight ratio. A Renault 4-ratio gearbox was chosen to accompany the new engine. Additionally, the body underwent design changes which gave greater visibility through the rear window.
A few months after the Europa TwinCam was introduced, Mike Kimberley, the Chief Engineer responsible for the Europa TC project, gave the order for the new cars to be equipped with Dell’Orto or Weber carburetors, a combination much celebrated on the Lotus Elan Sprint. Baptised the Europa Special, the updated model, fitted with a Renault five-speed gearbox delivered 126hp. Weighing in at 740 kg, the Special had a top speed of 198 km/h and could accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in just seven seconds.
In Honor of the Formula 1 World Championships won in 1972 and 1973 by Team Lotus, a small volume of the Special was created, named the Europa John Player Special. Launched in black livery with the famous gold leaf bands the J-P special has become synonymous with the Europa name. It is still one of the most sought-after cars today.
This car was donated to the Museu do Caramulo by Francisco da Cruz Martins.