GALLERY: Go Behind The Scenes On Our 1969 Lotus Europa Film Shoot
Spence Canon already knew his way around a Lotus Europa before he bought his second one, but it wasn’t his plan to double up on the ‘60s British sports car. After building his first into a race car to run in vintage motorsport series in California like VARA, this bright orange street car project was both familiar territory and a new challenge, seeing as it was his first time putting one together with license plates. As with his other Lotus, he’s done all the work on it in his driveway with basic tools and a standard floor jack, and even though it gets its work out in the canyons on a relatively regular basis Spence says this rare Type 54 Europa street car is a rolling restoration—and the satisfaction of putting it together and modifying it to make it his own is equal to the joys of downshifting on the way into a hairpin.
The Type 54 (the second series of the original Europa design) still used the souped-up Renault inline-four found in the first series, but rather than bonding the body directly to the chassis, Colin Chapman and co began bolting the two together to make it a more agreeable car to repair (and, more importantly given the goals of the mid-engine car from the outset, it would be cheaper to own and insure). The Type 54 is a perfect car then for someone who has the willpower and the abilities to work on a classic car without tearing apart the garage to accommodate a production line’s worth of machinery.
Spence acquired his second Europa from someone who hadn’t completed his importation project, but only a few weeks after trailering it back home it had a running engine in it. But seeing as his first Lotus was built up and modified for competition use, it was the smaller bits of the car that gave him more trouble; he didn’t know how things were supposed to look in the street cars, but as he pieced the interior back together he decided to start applying his own touches. As such, the interior has been reimagined as it’s been restored, and even though the car on the whole is a pretty original example, Spence isn’t afraid to change things up. It’s all done in good taste though, and it looks period-correct to boot.
It’s an ongoing restoration as mentioned, and he likens taking on a project like this to having a kid—not as involved, sure, but restoring an older car on your own demands oodles of time and energy too. Good thing he gets to enjoy it in the process of perfecting it then. And on subject of driving this orange slice of mid-engined magic, Spence describes the car as somewhat of a surprise. Unlike his track car, the street version is softer and more compliant than he expected, but he doesn’t mind the way the body leans through the corners, and the comfort is welcomed overall. It’s not a lazy machine though—this is a Lotus from the 1960s after all—and with just about 1,500lbs to move around, the horsepower (the tweaked Renault inline-fours made just over 80hp in the Europa) is more than enough to have fun with when the roads get tight.
Eventually Spence plans to have gone through the whole car, including replacing and modernizing every wire of the infamous British electrics, and while it might require getting in the “Lotus position” to work in some of the less-accessible places on this tightly packaged sports car, he’s loved the experience. When you do it on your own there’s the obvious benefit of saving money, but that’s not what it’s about here. It’s about building a true bond with your vehicle, knowing every smell and rattle, and knowing that the car is on the road because of your own efforts makes the indulgence in the finished product that much more satisfying.