Lotus Europa 1966: design and Renault engine to create a trend

He Lotus Europa 1966 It is one of those cars that you see from the front and make you smile with pleasure, but that you see from the back and it is difficult to digest. It’s a car specialwith a very special design and that mounts in its entrails a renault enginemore specifically that of an R16.

The information about this engine makes it even more special since the Europa was the pioneer of the engine in central arrangement. Although it was criticized like a book for its cover, this car that turns 58 in 2024 has not ceased to fascinate us despite its double design cut.

Evolved several times from its original version, the S1 through the Series 47 and 62 to the 2006 versions, this car was one of those concepts of bravery And despite facing sales challenges at its launch, it is undeniable that its impact on the industry was significant, laying the foundation for this mid-engine configuration that Lotus continues to use in contemporary models.


The design of the Lotus Europa is a living testimony (especially at auction) of the innovation and daring of Lotus in the 60s. Ron Hickman, the designer of the Europa, challenged established conventions by creating a body that stood out for its wedge shape and low profile. Although he initially received criticism for his peculiar appearancetoday it is appreciated as a case study in industrial design that dared to be visionary and broke bases in the decade of free love.

The fiberglass body Not only did it contribute to its lightness, but it also allowed Lotus engineers to explore more advanced aerodynamic shapes to improve performance. The raised side panels and distinctive “”cradle» Not only were they aesthetically unique for the time, but they also served a crucial function in improving stability and handling at high speeds.

With the engine located just behind the seats, a almost perfect weight distribution, which contributed to the Europa’s quick agility and response in corners. He steel chassiswhich incorporated a high central tunnel, not only provided structural rigidity, but also served as a mounting point for the fiberglass body, creating a lightweight and robust package.

Design details such as the retractable headlights and fluid lines that flowed from the front to the rear were aesthetically appealing and contributed to the aerodynamic efficiency. Although the Europa may have seemed peculiar compared to other sports cars of the time, its unconventional design was a precursor to future trends in concept car design in the 1980s.

To close this part, we highlight that the cabin The Europa was a symphony of simplicity and functionality. Although entry and exit required a certain agility, once inside; Occupants experienced a sporty driving position with low seats and a posture that invited action. The minimalism of the interior highlighted Lotus’ dedication to the pure driving experience: a less is more manual.


In 1966 Lotus chose to turn to Renault for the development of the engine for the Lotus Europa. It was considered to include a Ford engine, but the general performance and the match between the idea and the performance were the culmination for its arrival on the roads.

The Renault engine gained in lightness and if you work with a design like that of the Europa you have more opportunities to achieve your goals. Furthermore, the construction of the engine itself made it very suitable for introducing it in a central arrangement. With this match of functionality and construction, it was born in Europe, with a car weighing just 700 kilos in running order with a 1.4-liter displacement engine that, with a few small adjustments, increased its original power from 63CV to 82CV thanks to the ratio of weight, to a larger carburetor and a redefined cylinder head with larger valves.

Later, the transition to engines Ford Twin Cam Not only did it increase power, it also contributed to its reputation as an agile sports car. With a weight/power ratio greater than 100 HP per ton, the S2 version of the Lotus Europa delivered more exciting performance and exceptional maneuverability when compared to that of the Renault engines.


The Lotus Europa began to accumulate kilometers from 1966 until its production ceased in 1975 and these were its different versions:

Lotus Europa S1

The first iteration, with only 296 units manufactured, stood out for its extremely light and minimalist construction. Fixed windows, unadjusted seats and unadorned details made it a purist model. This version evolved into the 1A and B series which included removable windows, wood panels and door covers. The 1B series also modified its rear lights. Together, 350 units of these last two versions were manufactured.

Lotus Europa S2

Introduced in 1968, this version added mod cons such as electric windows and adjustable seats, maintaining the essence of the Europa S2. The transition to bolting the body to the chassis simplified repairs and eased production. This version kept the Renault engine of 1,470 cc and its small changes led to slight improvements in performance.

Lotus Europa Twin Cam and American version

Starting in 1971, Lotus offered the Europa with engines Ford Twin Cam, taking power to new levels. The introduction of a 5-speed gearbox improved the driving experience and kept the Europa a relevant car in terms of performance. The Europa Twin Cam expanded its capacity 1,557cc engine and 106 HP of power. In 1972, when the spare parts for the original gearboxes ran out, they manufactured a new four-speed Renault gearbox, a modification that gave way, after a change in chief engineer, to 126 HP “Big Valve” engines.

The arrival of a Twin Cam engine was partly due to the export to the US of several batches of Lotus Europa that were «federalized» with aesthetic and performance changes, evolving the Renault engine to the 1,565 cc and 80 HP of power (R16TL), in this case 0-60 mph was achieved in 9.6 seconds.

Lotus Europa Type 47 and 62

Launched at the same time as the Europa S1, the body of the Type 47 It was thinner than the standard Europa and had larger wheel arches. Side vents were added to the engine bay after early cars experienced problems with engine temperatures. The engine, gearbox and rear suspension were completely different to the standard Europa.

He Type 62 It was also built as a mobile test bed for the new 2-litre Lotus 907 engine being developed for the upcoming Elite and Eclat models. Only two cars of this type were manufactured. They were cars with a space frame and F1 suspension to support the 240 HP engine. Although it was intentionally made to look like the Europa, in practice the only connection to the Europa was some of the body panels.

As we see a car of the brave, ones that we like and those that laid the foundations for more daring designs that made it escape the ostracism of the time. Did you know this model?

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