Lotus Europa JPS - numbered cars

Published: 2017-11-09

Late in the production of the Lotus Europa, the car was offered in the John Player Special (JPS) configuration, which was mechanically identical to the twin-cam Special but painted in the John Player scheme of black with gold pinstriping. These JPS cars were also individually numbered, with a dashboard plaque showing a laurel wreath surrounding the word "Special" and the sequence number.

There are several points of contention about these numbered cars, including:

  • the final number of cars that received a numbered plaque,
  • whether the numbered plaques were applied at the factory, or at dealers, and
  • whether the black-and-gold color scheme was used for any cars that were not original John Player Specials.

Number of cars

The two most often quoted numbers are 100 and 200 cars. The first of these is easy to understand, as there are surviving copies of dealer network memos that indicate 100 numbered cars will be built. One retail bulletin dated October 24, 1972 reads:

In addition to the Europa Twincam Special, the factory will be building a limited edition of one hundred (100) John Player Special Europa with a custom black finish with gold striping to commemorate Lotus' winning the World Championship for the fifth time. This will be a numbered edition, with a number assigned to each car. An accessory kit will come with each car.

However, there are several existing cars with numbered plaques above 100. I am personally familiar with chassis no. 74/3801R, which retains its original plaque showing #191. (This car was built in 1973 and sold new on May 22, 1974 at Bill Hughes' Team Green Motors.) I have never seen any evidence of a car with a higher plaque number, so it seems likely that 200 numbered cars were actually delivered. It does remain possible that the numbers were not allocated in order, or that not all of the numbers in the range were actually applied to cars.

Application of the numbered plaque

Although the wording of the bulletin above suggests that the car numbering was done at the factory, there seems to be significant doubt in the community about whether this was the case. Apparently, any factory records that might have shown this (and indicated which chassis numbers were genuine JPS cars) were destroyed or lost.

Color scheme

According to notes from a 2009 conversation between Gale Heimbach and former Lotus East distributor Fred Stevenson, all JPS cars were built at the factory with the black-and-gold JPS livery, and all were built in 1973. This is supported by a dealer memo from December 1, 1972, which also mentions the numbered plaque and a kit of JPS accessories including a jacket, cuff links, and key fob. This same memo -- and others that follow it -- indicate that the JPS cars were the first Europas to be offered in black, and that the black paint color would be available for a $200 retail premium, but only after the run of numbered cars had been completed.