Bartusek picked up the car -- as it could only be loosely referred to at the time -- when he was a high-schooler in 1990. His purchase included a powertrain, a fiberglass body (in a field), a chassis, and thirty-some boxes of parts. He and his dad, Joe, a meticulous retired Chrysler tire engineer, had run out of steam on a '57 Alfa Romeo Giulietta project. Pete had never driven a Europa before, but he fell in love with its styling. "When I first saw one," he says, "I just thought it looked so unique."
His first job was at what is now metro Detroit's only Lotus dealer, Auto Europe, where he sifted through their attic sorting random parts from several Lotus models. Many of the Europa parts he unearthed ended up going home with him. "At the end of every two weeks, I owed them money," Bartusek remembers.
Most Europa owners today are comfortable modifying their cars to improve things that gave original owners headaches back in the day, such as the complicated braking and cooling systems. For better or worse, the Bartuseks went out of their way to keep this car as stock as possible, which is especially impressive because they completed the lion's share of the restoration by the late '90s with almost no help from the Internet-ironic since Pete is now an IT guy by trade.
Times certainly change. But cars like this Lotus are timeless, drivable testaments to what once was.
ENGINE: 1.6L DOHC I-4, 105-126 hp, 112-113 lb-ft
TRANSMISSIONS: 4- or 5-speed manual
SUSPENSION, FRONT: Control arms, coil springs
SUSPENSION, REAR: Semitrailing arms, coil springs
BRAKES F/R: Discs/drums
WEIGHT: 1600 lb
YEARS PRODUCED: 1971-1975
5552, including more than 3000 Specials
$6000-$20,000 Specials carry a premium of about ten percent; black-and-gold John Player Special editions add another ten percent.
WHY BUY? It may look crazy, but it's a blast to drive and fairly inexpensive to buy. Maintenance and repairs can get pricey and complicated, but many Europas have already been modified to be more usable and reliable. Ingress and egress is challenging but worth it, very similar to getting into a modern Lotus Exige. Front and rear cargo compartments improve practicality -- slightly. Plus, thirteen-inch wheels never looked so big as on this forty-three-inch-high toy.