The Carchive: The GKN Lotus Europa V8 (GKN47D)

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For this week’s visit to The Carchive we venture into one of many small chambers which are subsidiary to the main cave network, the furthest you can go without potholing. This is where I keep all those automotive artefacts which fit into the category of “specialist” which is another word for “miscellaneous”.
Everybody knows The Lotus Europa, the first of the mid-engined Lotus coupé’s  and variously built with Renault or Ford four cylinder engines. Of course, it was inevitable that somebody would take the initiative to install a bigger, more powerful engine at some point, and many Europas have been butchered by have-a-go heretics over time. However, there was one organisation who managed to double the cylinder count of the Europa, and did it properly.
Yes, this was what GKN did in 1968 to prove that they knew a thing or three about cars.

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“As a supplier of almost £200 million worth of components a year to the British motor industry, it made sense for GKN to build a car for use as a “test bed”. A Lotus Europa 47 provided the basic body and chassis and a 3.5 litre V-8 Rover engine is the power unit”
It was actually Nettlefold and Moser, the cutting tool and machine tool distributor who produced this brochure as a way of them demonstrating the might of the organisation behind them.
The Rover V8 was chosen because it incorporated many products from within the GKN network, with their forgings division producing the con-rods, pushrods and carburettor damper pins by GKN Screws and Fasteners, and the alloy itself used in casting the head and block (IM 25) being supplied by BKL Alloys.
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“Internally the engine is standard. Externally it is notable for the twin SU HD8 Carburettor installation, a Weber installation utilising four 45DCOE Webers will be tried at a later date”
Power output with the twin SU carbs was 185hp. The performance of the 1700lb Europa thus equipped was not disclosed, but I would imagine it to have been profound. It would have been pretty handy away from the straightaways, too- the suspension had been upgraded to double wishbone suspension at both ends and was fully rosejointed.
I salivate a little when I consider the extra fuelling possibilities of the four Weber setup, and get a little tingle somewhere unmentionable when I think about a guttural V8 roar from something so pretty and petite.
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The idea was for the car to act as a showcase as to what was achievable using materials produced by companies within the GKN empire, and the brochure was informative enough to, in theory, enable anybody out there to do the very same thing by outlining exactly what was involved in the project.
What it never led to, sadly, was a productionised version. It would be a couple of decades later that Lotus would take to trouble of putting a V8 in the Europa’s descendent, the Esprit. As to the current whereabouts of the car itself? Well, the trail appears to have gone cold. It’s not escaped the public interest; there are mentions of it having existed all over The Internet, with the particularly informative Web 1.0 site 47D.org deserving particular mention; there are test reports and all kinds of things on there.
Meanwhile, if you do happen to know more about its current whereabouts, this is the kind of car that Hooniverse NEEDs to know about. If you intentionally withhold information pertinent to the status of GKD47D you could find yourself having funny faces pulled at you in the street, so feel free to update us in the comments section below.
Thanks.
(All images from original manufacturer publicity material, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of GKN. If this car DOES still exist and you’re giving out free rides, and you want a new friend, hit me up)

About RoadworkUK

RoadworkUK is the online persona of Gianni Hirsch, a tall, awkward gentleman with a home office full of gently decomposing paper and a garage full of worthless scrap metal. He lives in the village of Moistly, which is a safe distance from London and is surrounded by enough water and scenery to be interesting. In another life, he has designed, sold, worked on and written about cars in exchange for small quantities of money.

0 Comments

  1. Ah, Nettlefold and Moser, one of the constituents of Guest Keen & Nettlefolds, probably Britain’s best known ironmasters. Ironmastering. A line of business for whom Lotus’s mantra of added lightness would be something of an anathema.
    That must be the most obscure thing in the Carchive. Brilliant. Thank you! (and can I be second for the ride?)

  2. One issue might have been the GM legacy V-8, being shoehorned into a Ford specific engine bay. With 2-3x the HP, it may have played hell with the shell, and been excellently matched to the suspension. I’d hope the brakes were also suitably upgraded. Contra Colin, these projects tend to add weight in all the wrong places, as you try to chase all of the follow-on effects of the new power. But this sounds near perfect.

  3. I am an aquaintence of a true Keeper Of The Faith for all things Lotus. I will ask and see if he has any information. From what I know about the Europa, the idea of a big V-8 in one would be very thrilling, for your next of kin.
    Edit: Yes, the picture posted upside down; No, I don’t know how to fix it.

  4. A while ago I did a search on the GKN 47D. There was an internet page with lots of information on the car, including comments by its current owner – yes, it survives. This owner said that he was restoring it.

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