My Lotus Story (well, part of it)

By Barry Ellis.

Born in Victoria, I did Civil/Structural Engineering at Swinburne Tech and have lived in lots of places around the world and worked almost everywhere.

I was always interested in motor racing, and very interested in Lotus in the 60s. It was great to see the Elans doing so well at Phillip Island. But then a few Europas arrived (Type 47s) and straight off the block they were doing much better than the very well sorted Elans. Wow, I had to have one! But very hard to get in Aus.

The Geoghegan Brothers brought in a small number of Europas and assembled them in Sydney. I first saw one at the Melbourne motor show in about 1970. I was driving a Rover 2000 at the time and the new Rovers and Europas were the same price; about $4700. Too much money for me. But then in 1975 a second hand one came on the market. It had a full race Ford Kent engine in it, was fairly rough around the edges, and the gear lever mechanism was broken out of the chassis. I paid the owner $2000, put my hand down through the hole in the chassis, could get a couple of gears, and drove it home.

It was VIN 54/1151, trans. No 00935. Quite a lot of work then followed: the fixing of the gear change mechanism, aligning of the rear wheels (they had lots of toe-out) and general work on the springs and shocks. Then, to do a little racing, I had to put in a roll bar. The full cage was not required in those days.

I had three cars at the time and was living in Newry, about 35km out of Sale. One day I was driving to work in the Europa on the road from Maffra to Sale, when a local cop in an unmarked car pulled out in front of me and accelerated away. I thought that it was all a bit of a laugh, and just followed along. I reckon that I was on about 1/4 throttle, but then got done for 225km/hr. That was the BAD, but I also got the GOOD.

Another town close by is Boisdale. There was (probably still is) an unmade hill climb there where I ran the Europa a few times. It had a great setup where you ran up the hill and then straight back to the start area. On one particular day I ran, got back to the start and was told that the timer didn’t work and that I should go again straight away. It took three or maybe four runs before I got a time. I don’t doubt that I got a bit quicker each run. I ended up with a time of 36.2 sec. The hill record at that time was 36.0 in a Formula 5000 and the fast, local hotted up, stripped out cars were doing about 38.5 odd.

Then I got my circuit license again and ran at Winton. Coming around the last corner (second corner now) at about 8000 rpm I broke a cam follower, then the timing chain, then coasted to the end, and had to trailer it home.

A long term friend who also had a Europa had put a Mazda 13B in his and whilst it was a bit big for the space it went very well. I ended up going for a standard Mazda 12A which fitted easily and still went very nicely.

But, then someone rang one night in 1979 and offered me a job in London. I was tired of working for Esso in Sale so I went, why not.

I sold the Europa for $4000 and expected that I’d soon pick up another when I got to the UK. But, there were so many other Lotus cars on the roads. And, over some time I owned: Esprit Series 1; Elan +2; Elite (1974); Eclat; Esprit Turbo; and then eventually, in my retired state, back to a Europa much like the one that I should never have sold in the first place.

But this Europa is another story, maybe for next time.