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maschinenbau UltraDork
9/6/21 6:00 p.m.

This is it, the legendary Free Lotus Europa. Passed around between forum users and enthusiasts for years, if not decades, for the simple low price of $free. Though I don't know the full history of the car, I do know it was intended for the GRM $2000 Challenge since at least 2009. That is still this car's destiny, and I'm going to take it there. 

How did this happen to me? Pretty simple. I saw the ad and bought it. SVreX's for sale posting. He even delivered it to my house! 

I like to think I got more than I paid for, but this free car actually came as a package deal. I also had to buy his totaled 2006 Toyota Avalon. The previous owner's intention was to pull the Avalon engine and swap it into the Lotus. Despite its humble packaging, this Toyota engine is potent. It's the 2GR-FE, a 3.5L aluminum DOHC V6 that makes close to 300 hp stock. In fact, this is the same engine used in the modern day Lotus Evora, so it makes perfect sense to use in a vintage Europa. 

So that's 2 cars for $900. Not a bad starting point for any Challenge car. Due to lack of time, there was no way the Lotus would make it to the Challenge in only 2 weeks. So I did the only logical thing and hastily chopped up the Toyota until it resembled a racecar. The "Roll-Ovalon" $2000 Challenge car

What better way to shake down a donor car? After the 2020 Challenge, I finished the job of cutting it apart and stored the powertrain under a tarp next to the Lotus for the better part of a year.

At this point it seemed the curse was still weighing on this car's potential, until this past weekend.

gumby Dork
9/6/21 6:05 p.m.

And then?

maschinenbau UltraDork
9/6/21 6:07 p.m.

A little more about the Europa. This was Lotus' 2nd road car, and their first mid-engine one. It directly precedes the Esprit, which has a similar construction: center backbone frame surrounded by a lightweight fiberglass body. That's about all I have left of this Lotus - the frame and body. The front suspension is there, but rusty. The interior is trashed. The fiberglass has many large chunks taken out. No windshield, no interior, just a rusty seat frame. And of course no trace of any drivetrain. 

I worked myself up to organizing the parts and cleaning off a workspace for it. For some reason, the Lotus arrived to me attached to a tall welding table, so I figured the first step is to get it off from there and separate the body from the frame. I asked for help lifting it from a few other car enthusiast friends. All I wanted to do today was lift the body off the frame, but I should have known better than to invite such enablers. Within 4 hours we had trimmed enough Toyota and Lotus to almost fit the engine.

And that's where we're at. Fear not, the stance and wheels are temporary. I have a lot of competing ideas, but the general plan to get it rolling is:
- Restore front suspension and brakes
- Cut or modify the rear half of the Lotus frame to fit the engine, using either the Avalon subframe or tube frame
- Fabricate some kind of rear suspension
- Keep the automatic trans for now (I do have a Camry/Solara E153 5-speed)

Robbie (Forum Supporter)
Robbie (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
9/6/21 6:24 p.m.

Righteous! Righteous!

Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
9/6/21 6:28 p.m.

This makes me very happy after laying hands on the other free lotus this weekend. 

maschinenbau UltraDork
9/6/21 6:44 p.m.

In reply to Dusterbd13-michael :

Did we just become Challenge rivals again?

Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
9/6/21 6:52 p.m.

In reply to maschinenbau :

Nope. The other free lotus was merely doing a relay at my house. 

egoman Reader
9/6/21 7:04 p.m.

That's the stupidest idea I have seen in a while......... Keep us informed would you?

chandler UltimaDork
9/6/21 7:09 p.m.

I'm definitely watching

Mr_Asa PowerDork
9/6/21 7:15 p.m.


nocones UberDork
9/6/21 7:16 p.m.

I am so excited to follow this along.  

Have you put any thoughts into how you both make a Europa NHRA legal and also legit safe if it meets a guardrail at the pointy end of the course?  

I am very pleased with the ease of working with not stupid weight and inherent rigidity of the NHRA spec 2x2 .083 SQ tube.  That plus a simple 6 point hoop tying to the strut towers should do the trick.  Adding this onto the stock backbone should work and be able to tie into the front cross member.

Andy Neuman
Andy Neuman SuperDork
9/6/21 7:19 p.m.

I like where this is going 

edit: going to drop the $40 spitfire off at your place because you get things done. 

Mr_Asa PowerDork
9/6/21 7:22 p.m.

I just had a mental image of the Rice Rod with this on a trailer behind it, The Lotus painted the Rice Rod's color.
I know the Rice Rod wouldn't be able to tow it, but the mental image was a good one.

maschinenbau UltraDork
9/6/21 7:29 p.m.

In reply to nocones :

I have given it some thought and remain undecided on adding a roll bar. It would be very difficult to add one and keep the body removable. It is currently NHRA legal without one, since it's a hardtop. Of course, it's an extremely thin and somewhat translucent hardtop, so it's not actually safe. But also, it's just a Challenge car and the risk exposure is quite low. But also also, driving it on the street has a much higher risk. At the same time though, it'll be just as (un)safe as any other Europa out there. So, I'm not sure yet.

Brotus7 Dork
9/6/21 8:43 p.m.

Yes! I can't wait to see what you end up doing.

As a fellow Europa owner, I struggle with the safety issue. I think it's as safe as riding a motorcycle without a helmet - so safe as long as you never need any safeguards. Banks has a nice cage design that still allows the body to be removable. Are "bolt in" cages able to be NHRA complaint?


Smitty54 New Reader
9/7/21 6:36 a.m.

Is the Toyota V6 an iron block?  How does the weight compare to stock ? Are you going to be keep the balance the same?

BarryNorman Reader
9/7/21 6:58 a.m.

In reply to Mr_Asa :

Nonsense, just add a turbo and voila! A dream realized.


¯\_(ツ)_/¯ PowerDork
9/7/21 7:03 a.m.

I love that it's getting an Evora engine.  Sure, it was sitting in an Avalon but it's an Evora engine.

DrMikeCSI New Reader
9/7/21 7:05 a.m.

The idea of a free Lotus Europa is mind blowing and there are 2 of them!

Stampie MegaDork
9/7/21 7:22 a.m.

In reply to DrMikeCSI :

One is an Europa. The other is an Elite. The shooting brake one.

dherr (Forum Supporter)
dherr (Forum Supporter) Dork
9/7/21 8:55 a.m.

So watching this!

Clifton New Reader
9/7/21 4:35 p.m.

So much work ahead but it will be murderous when it's done.

vwcorvette (Forum Supporter)
vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
9/7/21 4:41 p.m.

Please downsize the tires to something more appropriate to the Lotus. Other than that. DON'T. EVER. STOP.

sleepyhead the buffalo
sleepyhead the buffalo Mod Squad
9/7/21 7:21 p.m.

you might look at the "D47" tab of the Palatov's development site:

for some ideas/thoughts about getting a cage under the fiberglass body

pimpm3 (Forum Supporter)
pimpm3 (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
9/7/21 7:27 p.m.

This is a terrible idea.  I love it!!!

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