By Richard Anderson
I had once owned a bug-eye Sprite for five years, an Alfa Spi-der for five years, and a desire to own a Lotus. This was mostly because it would be fiberglass, but also because it would be the epitome in sports car handling.
So I flew to England six weeks after ordering my Lotus Europa Super Safety. I put 6,000 miles on it the fifty days I drove in Europe. That’s a lot of miles there. A hectic trip but fun, I also wore out two pairs of shoes. If you wish to tour Europe in your Lotus, I hope this account will be helpful.
I collected the Europa June 29, 1969, at the Lotus factory in Hethel, telephone Wymondham 3411 (pronounced wind’m). The much delayed plane landed at Heathrow. We took a train to Lon-don and traveled the “tube” under London to another train headed for Norwich where I phoned to find no answer at the factory (Friday, 4:55 PM). No answer on Saturday AM either, so my new wife and I took a cab to at least see the factory at Hethal, which surprisingly was open for mid-year inventory.
I asked if my insurance green card had arrived from the USA as it was supposed to. “No, but let me check today’s post” said the Lotus man. Luckily, there it was… Especially as insurance for 2 months there had cost the equivalent of 1 year in the USA and “You can’t put your bottom in the seat without it”. I bought a parts list and drove off.
It was a challenge to drive on the “right” side of the road in Britain as the USA spec Europa (with steering on the left side of the car) was supposed to be driven on the “wrong” side in America. If you don’t understand this, ask an Englishman.
The Lotus windscreen had an aberration that made the white line down the left side of the road a constant wave. We had to stay in England five days for the appointment to return to the factory to get the windscreen replaced.
They did not want me in the service area at the factory, but I
stayed so they would mount another Sebring mirror on the right door. I asked about the motor hesitation when first setting off from rest. Then two service managers drove the Europa around the oval test track and said “It’s one of the best we’ve ever driven”, and that I’d have to wait five days for another appointment to thoroughly check out the carburetor. Later I bought a screwdriver at a dime store and set the points by eye as they were not opening. Didn’t set the timing, but that solved the hesitation.
I had a list of Lotus service places. The free 300 mile service was done at Leigh-on-the-Sea, England. The 1,000 mile check was 1,800 miles in Dublin.
The car ferry boats were exciting to be on. From England to France we took the Hovercraft. It was a half-hour trip, but I did not like the way they released the strap down buckles to chip the Lotus’s paint near the wheels.
This “Grand Tour of Europe” was our honeymoon trip for fifty five days. I had a list of about one hundred places I wanted to visit from my art history book. We got to many, especially in Italy. A few times on the Autostrada, I held the Europa at 100 to 110 MPH for a half-hour at a time. Some places in Germany, Italy, and France we found driving was good from 6 to 10:30 AM and then nearly impossible. If I go again, I’d skip everything but Scotland and Ireland. I like small villages.
Italy was so hot in July. Each time we’d return to the Lotus, the windscreen would be just full (really) of handprints. The attention we attracted got to be too much. Also, the week I collected my car, Lotus had just run many ads in the media saying the Europa was to go on sale in Britain for the first time that week. So we were a smashing hit in England too! But they were so more polite about it than the Italians.
Other thoughts about this trip:
- Women changed to bikinis right on the beach in Nice, France.
- Mountain switchback roads and no speed limits were fun in France. Hard on tires, but who cares?
- Food in Britain is bland.
- Bed and Breakfast lodging is the best.
- Insurance green cards are always checked at borders… Some-times passports.
- Move over for 150 MPH Lamborghinis on the Autostrada.
- Beer in vending machines on the Autobahn was colder and cheaper than pop.
- Venice was disappointing… Florence had much more to offer and see.
- Could have used a little more room in the Europa for a long trip (a little more room??? – Editor).
- The Lochs in Scotland are beautiful.
- Next time, I’ll do it on a motorcycle and stay only in Great Britain.
- Restaurants are open only at very specific meal times, and times vary in each country.
- There are many ways to flush a toilet.
- Telephones are difficult to use when you can’t understand the Englishman’s English.
We learned a lot on our trip. I learned a lot maintaining my Europa for 12 years. I sold it 2 weeks ago… Maybe with some regret.
I started building a car from scratch in 1971. The frame and body are done. I call it the Vulture because it has parts from so many different cars in it and it eats up so much of my time. The Vulture has 800 miles on it and I have an open car again… some-what resembling a Super Seven. Now for a tour of the USA?