Powerful though it was, the Lotus Europa was no F1 car. And yet, in a way, that was what it was all about. Colin Chapman - legendary boss of Lotus - wanted a roadster that handled like it was in a GP! Okay, that might be stretching it a bit - but he certainly wanted to simulate the mid-engined layout, which had become such a prevalent part of F1.
In short order, the Lotus 'Europe' was up and running. The name was changed to Europa for trademark reasons. Handling-wise, the car was everything Chapman had hoped for. Road-test reviews were upbeat - at least as far as cornering was concerned. Steering was light - and the Europa felt perfectly poised. The rear suspension - comprised of lower wishbones and transverse top links - was key to that stability. The laid-back driving position made sweeping through bends all the more fun. Brakes were suitably solid.
But the Europa was not without flaws. Creature comforts were in short supply. With a heavy clutch - and jarring ride - the Europa was not exactly user-friendly. Side window-opening problems did not help. And rear vision - or lack of it - bordered on the unsafe. Lotus did address the issues, giving the Europa a mini-makeover. It stayed in production until '75. Almost 10,000 Europas were built, in a nine-year run. Standing just 42″ 'short' - and with a drag coefficient of only 0.29 - the Europa's aerodynamic credentials were never in doubt. Built in Hethel, Norfolk, its goal was to bring F1-style handling to the roads of the UK! And while that was, of course, an impossible task, it came as close to realising it as a sports car had yet done.