Lotus Europa at the Track

By Phil Zamlynski

Over the past several years, about three or four years actually, a silent revolution is becoming evident. This revolution became clearer in part, with Bob Herzog’s Europa renovation/restoration article. There are several others who have labored in silence on their Europa. Some are in process of getting updated too. And there are others who just stored the car for a few years (20, 25, 30– years) with plans to get to it later. Well, it looks like the “later” part is happening now for several cars. Oh, the joy of driving a Lotus Europa!

It is only proper to begin with the oldest and perhaps the most known racing Europa for Lotus Corps members and how the car was rediscovered.

While at Grattan for the 2005 August VSCDA meet. I spied part of a drivers front fender of a RED Europa with white numbering hidden next to a van in the small creek/pond in the infield. It was numbered 144. I spoke to the driver only briefly as be was getting into the car for his turn at timed laps. Looking at the car up close, the workmanship of the roll bar seemed familiar. His son did say that the car had been in storage for 30 years. A singular name leapt to mind… It must be Bill Trusdale’s (ala Apex Engineering) old car? No way! The answer came back “Why’?”. No one could have guessed that this Europa had found its way to the racetrack after 33 years or so!!!!! But who’s counting?

Several of the Lotus Corps members who have visited Apex Engineering for their engine work have seen Bill’s Europa in the center of the shop. The obvious question many have asked of Bill was “When are you going to get this car together?” Well, it’s not there any more. The new owner is Peter Taft. He is in the process of sorting out the car on the racetrack and making additional improvements. Peter and his family are having lots of fun at the track with a race ready Europa.

Bill started racing his Europa in 1967; its racing number was 48 (see picture below). That’s Bill behind the wheel. The car was raced at local tracks from 1967 through 1971. Its most successful campaign was in 1970 when Bill drove it to an SCCA Central Division Regional Class Championship for D Production. Some of the original modifications and technical data on the car are listed below:

Updated non-crossflow engine to 1565cc
Air ducted directly to the radiator.(fan removed)
Full roll cage
Larger tires (Goodyear “Sport” tire)
Weight was 1250 lbs.
4 speed transmission
Six inch wide, 2 piece wheels
Forced air to Driver

The idea of going racing, you know the serious stuff, took hold about 1973/4, resulted in a tear down of the entire car. And, as many of us have experienced, things happen to delay or put off getting the car back together. Soon time is flying by with years turned into decades. This Europa has so many modifications that a list of them would take up a book. Custom built everything like all of the suspension, improved roll-cage, brakes, chassis and engine. To get a better idea of the modifications, just picture the car with everything being custom built and improved over the stock machines. However, the body looks stock except for the fender flares.

Although there is a history of a love/hate view of the Europa, there are some (and I’m one of them too) that just have to have a mid-engine power car that looks like it’s moving even when it’s parked. And a 0.29 drag coefficient doesn’t hurt either.

Over the years, many have raced a Europa and have done very well. A history of many recommendations for improvements and upgrades have been made to make the car go faster and to be safer (see table below).

Also listed are some of the books and articles I have found that documented some improvements. The sources of this information are listed below:

“The Lotus Elan and Europa, A Collector’s Guide” by John Bolster: 1980, 1981, 1985. Several Chapters have improvements listed.

“Building A Racing Europa” by Peter Harholdt, Lotus ReMarque, April & May 1976. Several suspension and setup modifications.

Lotus Europa Twin Cam Competition Manual: by Jensen Motors Inc. Complete setup and specifications.

Golden Gate Lotus Club on the WEB; this is a great resource for parts and technical articles.

Elan and Europa body parts, all kinds, Gerry Foley at Custom Design Association. (253-565-2175 or gfoley@scn.org). Gerry does many Lotus fiberglass/kevlar body parts.

Also try Dave Bean and Sports Car World on the web. All of the personnel contacted have been very helpful with parts availability and costs. By all means go to the Lotus Corps web site too. There are also many more references on the WEB; more than can be listed here.

Listed below are several of the major improvements to have more fun and improve safety.

Problem Area Solution
Clutch cable Hydraulic operation (5/8 @ pedal and 3/4″ or 1″ slave
Driver is tall Remove cushion, lower the seat, or have some vertebrae removed? Lower the floor…
Front end lifts at 70 MPH or so Small/large front air dam
Only have 4 speed trans? Put in a 5 speed. The Fuago is good for 180 Hp
Not enough power? Larger engine, add a turbo, V8 conversion, .. Gordini or now a Vtec. The list goes on and only limited by your $$$$$
Tires How big should/could they be? Still working on this one
Cooling Larger radiator, aluminum, … ? In process
Roll Cage Some all around protection is needed
Driver/passenger cooling Better air circulation
Brakes Dual piston in front and disks at the rear
Steering Wheel Put in a 12/13 inch wheel
Chassis Reinforce weak points (listed in the Ref. 1 and 3)

Many thanks to Bill Trusdale and Peter Taft for their time, comments and pictures that made this article possible.

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