The Europa Side - Bodywork

By Don Nester
November 1998

Well, having a Europa which runs like new is sure enjoyable. I was expecting about 30-50,000 trouble free miles of driving when the unexpected happened. On a cool morning, the engine stalled leaving me helplessly perpendicularly blocking the right lane of traffic. In time which you have taken to read this paragraph, a MG Midget hit me broadside at about 10 MPH on the driver’s side (my side…). You’ll be glad to know that the crash resistance of a Lotus is very good… and I’m thankful that I was able to leave the car without a scratch.

The Midget’s bumper tried to enter my Lotus at the rear of my door and compressed my seat to 2/3rds of its original width. It appears that between the springiness of the fiberglass and the steel cage within the seat, the Lotus offers a high level of safety to side impacts.

After picking up the bits and pieces of my broken Lotus, and stuffing them in the passenger compartment, I climbed in, closed the severely mashed door, and drove 80 miles home. Other than a minor pull to the left caused by the bent rear suspension arm, the car ran fine.

Since my toy was broken and my ego was very bent, I spent a week avoiding my Lotus, which I had left parked in my garage. Well, as you probably would expect, the Lotus bug bit back and I returned to my garage to start the long process of repair.

After about 1 day of labor, I had removed the bent seat and rebolted the broken parts of fiberglass together. To my surprise, the body shape was almost totally straight (with the exception of small rips in the fiberglass) and the door (which received most of the crash impact) fit almost as good as new. This was rather incredible since the seat was collapsed to 2/3rds size, the gas tank was buckled and the rear suspension arm was bent. Thank God for small favors, I could drive my Lotus until the body shop did its thing.

Well knowing Lotus and the POSSIBLE problems with acquiring parts, I started the process of tracking down parts before I went to the first body shop. After a little searching, I found that most all parts were available (for a price) except one (you could bet on that for a Lotus).

The left door was in VERY short supply on the West Coast from Lotus, and the left front door was the ONLY body part that Tomco Engineering could not manufacture for a Europa. The only thing that I can conclude is that Europas that are smashed on the left side are destroyed and not repaired.

Since I was kind of wondering what I going to be writing in the future articles, I guess that this accident has provided me with copious serendipitious amounts of additional information with which I will hopefully entertain you.

I knew that the repair of the damaged left hand side of my Europa would be a problem, but I never expected the events which occurred. This episode was initiated by the search for a body shop which was known for quality work and one which was experienced with the repair of Lotus Europas. Several calls and many body shops later, I finally selected the cleanest, most organized looking shop I had ever encountered.

Upon the delivery of the car to the shop (late October), they evaluated the damage (required only the removal of the upholstery on the damaged side) and then called in the insurance company for concurrence. Without any hassle, the insurance adjuster approved the damage appraisal ($3000) and wrote a check for the total amount. (Allstate is great!) This spurred the shop to do about one half day of work…

After noticing that nothing had been accomplished during the week which followed, I inquired into the problem. I was informed that all of the door parts were required in order for the work to continue (I later determined that this was not true). Assuming that the requirement was valid, I got on my phone and called all over the USA to locate the replacement parts. After several days, I became very knowledgeable about the logistics of acquiring Europa parts and I also was very successful. (I also located a new door for the original door which the body shop was going to repair).

The window came from the east coast, the door from Texas, and the trim from my local Lotus dealer. The window arrived with no problem, but the door was a different story. The door, which I had air freighted to save time, was lost in San Francisco airport. The retrieval process required many phone calls, several threats, and about 7 days (one might question the logic of paying $30 extra for air freight). Well, after everything had been said, done and delivered, a month had passed and it was now early December.

Well, the body shop, after receiving the parts which I personally delivered, again started work on my prize possession. They strongly indicated that I would have the car by Christmas. After about a week’s work, the new door was installed and most of the body damage repaired. My euphoria disappeared thereafter when the body shop lost interest in the completion of my car, and I did NOT get my Lotus for Christmas.

At this point, I was beginning to show definite signs of Lotus withdrawal. After carefully thinking through my plight, I got out my calculator and determined that at the present rate of work the body shop would complete the repairs in about 9 months… TIME TO TAKE ACTION!!! Calming myself back to the point of hostile anger, I discussed the situation with the owner of the body shop. After I suggested the possible alternative of having the work completed by another body shop, the owner guaranteed me that the car would be in the paint shop in one week and that the car would be completed in 3 weeks.

Since I now seemed to have their attention, I agreed to let the shop continue with the work. During the next week, the body shop was busy completing the body work and sure enough in two weeks the car was moved to the paint shop. Once again (3rd time) they lost interest in completing the job. Waiting two more weeks (total time in the shop was now 3 months), I suffered a violent attack of Lotus withdrawal and I decided to take the car away from the body shop.

After discussing the situation with the shop owner, we decided that the best solution was to have my car completed at another shop and we settled my account. We parted somewhat amicably.

This saga was culminated by the destruction of both my new battery and my alternator, when the body shop attempted to HOT charge my battery after running it down through inept starting attempts. (I was compensated by the shop for the parts they destroyed).

Having my Lotus back, even though it was in primer, had a significant calming affect on my personality. Once again, however, I was searching for a shop to complete my Lotus repairs. Through Kiyoshi’s recommendation, I took my car to FINNISH (Santa Clara, California) to be finished (the name sounded promising). Well, the difference between the body shops was like night and day. It took FINNISH a little over a week to finish my Lotus. This included some minor body work, preparing the total car for painting (with doors, hood lid and trunk lid off the car), and 3 coats of Imron.

I am very satisfied with the work performed by FINNISH and I am now happily driving the yellowest Europa in the world. Happiness is having your Lotus home again!