By on March 28, 2013

I visit Sears Point aka Sonoma Raceway a couple times a year as part of my gig as Chief Justice of the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court. That means I do a lot of roaming around the facility, in search of vantage points to shoot photos of the action. Last weekend, while covering the fourth annual Sears Pointless race, I stumbled on a parking area outside a line of race shops just on the other side of the wall near Turn 10. Inside these shops were all manner of high-buck machines, but the get-to-it-someday stuff sitting outside was pretty interesting.
A well-weathered Lotus Europa with tags expired only six years— how hard could this project be?
Or a BMW 850 with peeling clear-coat and some body damage. Depreciation hasn’t been kind to these cars.
As a matter of fact, there was a LeMons 850 racing at Sears Point at the very moment I was admiring the potential project 850. It got stomped by a Buick Skyhawk and an MGB, among other glacially slow “race cars,” but it was still quite luxurious-looking on the track.
Guys that work at race shops cannot resist buying a Yugo when the opportunity presents itself.
This mean-looking Maverick Vega drag car looks like it has run fairly recently.
The kids these days, they like those Nissan Silvias.
This car sure looks familiar! This Plymouth looks like it might even be a runner (in stark contrast to my car, which has been dismantled down to the molecular level).
BMW E9 projects are always so tempting, though I’ve heard the horror stories from those who have attempted to fix up a non-perfect E9. Run away!

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30 Comments on “Behind the Garages At Sears Point: Treasure Trove of Hell Projects!...”


  • avatar
    otter

    That’s a Vega, not a Maverick. The BMWs look like blcok holes for money, especially the CS. I’ll take the Plymouth!

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    Oh Lord, would you buy me, a perfectly running 3.0CS.

    Thank you.

  • avatar
    sexyhammer

    WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY more interested in that Miata behind the 240sx in that pic.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    I just passed on a beautiful E31 V12 with a sensor issue for $1850. I was amazed I could buy such a car for such little cash. I’ll file that in my mental storage next to the Maserati Biturbo and 2002 under “Cars I would like to own for just 2 weeks”.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I am in the midst of a budding love affair with Lotus. And I just recently added a yellow Europa Matchbox car to my new embarrassing diecast car buying addiction. But my god, those are powerfully ugly cars.
    Loving that Impulse Blue Metallic GTO next to the Yugo – looks just like mine! Fortunately mine is still hibernating so the hood isn’t up at the moment. Come on spring!

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    Nitrous on a Yugo. That’s probably the most exciting car of the bunch.

  • avatar
    chrishs2000

    That 850i is gorgeous. Love those cars.

  • avatar

    I love that Europa – I will have one someday!

  • avatar

    My rule against redundant vehicles prevents me from buying an E9.

    Should my Falcon (currently occupying the 2 door, 4 seat, kinda sporty spot) ever go away, I’m sure I’ll find myself cursing Karmann while lying in a pile of iron oxide under my car in the driveway.

    I love how certain places are gathering spots for cool/obscure cars.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    I wonder if those scoops on Europa engine deck do anything? I forget if the stock openings let air in or out?

  • avatar
    cargogh

    My neighbor in Charlotte back around 1990 drove a Barvaria 3.0CS? His dad bought it new around ’72. Creamy white with black interior. Sweet ride. He said it was rare, and must be, since I never see them. But then I don’t see too many Vegas, Pintos, Citations or Omnis either.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    The europa started out as lotus 47,
    a fnd has a Renault engine he called it 54.

    Back in the 80s a school mare from CT drove his Europa up to Toronto, that car was fast can corner a 90 degree turn at 45 mph!
    And your derriere is sitting several inches off the ground, gave u a lot of go kart feel!

  • avatar
    MK

    Damn I just LOVE the look of those 840/850 BMW’s, except for some really rare stuff l believe theyre probably the pinnacle of design from the company. Basically all downhill straight to ugly from that point.

    I’d love to own one and really considered it before buying a 996 but limited production numbers and aging German electronics and plastics are not a good combination for financial peace.

    Those cars still look modern and always catch my eye when I see one on the highway.

  • avatar
    CopperCountry

    Seeing an old ’40s Plymouth/Dodge/Chrysler on road the in “Battleship Gray” paint really evokes a simpler time. Even if they’re turned into streetrods, used as daily drivers (or even resto-modded into trackday cars,) it’s hard to beat the look of dog dish hubcaps and a simple paint job.

    HST would approve – http://www.trumanlibrary.org/trivia/chrysler.htm

  • avatar
    luvmyv8

    Yup, us “kids” love us some Silvias…..

    However the one pictured doesn’t look very good, really don’t like the body kit and the ‘mad tyte’ stickers obscuring the vision rearward, or the crooked Nissan ‘hamburger’ emblem looks bad as well…..

    Nah, give me a clean S13 Silvia K’s in that lime green with the contrasting gray cladding, or at least a 240SX clone that’s done well… gotta have a CA18DET or a SR20DET though!

  • avatar
    caspar dioge

    I owned two Lotus Europa’s … a 1969 Renault powered car and the Twin Cam. Each had their charms and downfalls.

    The Renault was severely underpowered and you could drive it flat out and amaze/scare yourself with the amount of road holding available in a street car at the time. remember, this was when most cars could barely pull .4 G’s and this with good tires could pull almost twice that.

    But it was typically under-engineered and you were the final engineer. So this meant all the things that Colin Chapman had not bothered to think through, you had to in order to keep the car running. But I had it briefly before the engine from a renault 16 gave up the ghost.

    Years later, I had a JPS Twin Cam Special and this had enough power to do some silly speeds and a fair amount of highway acceleration and amazing roadholding. Still seriously under-engineered, tho.

    The shifter snaked all the way around the engine/gearbox and the slop there was tremendous … and I was constantly replacing the T-bushings in the shifter to find gears. This of course meant you had to have three hands to reach into an opening best fitting an infant child …

    The car was going through rear hub bearings at a steady rate until I learned that they were electric shaft bearings designed to carry about 5 hp constant … and we were feeding 20 times that regularly.

    The electrics were a joke until I put in a Delco alternator, and seriously grounded and re-grounded everything … and then the car because reliable. To add lightness, Chapman had all the front engine grounds go through a single 1/4 bolt into the backbone chassis, which also held the front horn in place!

    All whining aside, the amount of grip with stock tires, (175-70-13′s in front and 185′s in the read) was amazing and when I hung a set of 215-50-15′s on it …. it was near impossible to lose traction on a dry road …. I think I could have climbed up the side of a house with those …

    Overall, a great car with awkward styling. Some improvement’s over the early version: No bonded chassis …. windows which went up and down but really didn’t do much for the ventilation. Not hard to broil oneself in that car in the summer, especially when driving into the sun … the cut down sails helped visibility a lot over the early version and the vent holes in the engine lid actually exhausted warm air … I learned this when the thermostat stuck closed one day and pillars of steam poured upwards from the lid as I coasted to a stop.

    But it was a stout engine, straight forward except for the water-pump rebuild … and I still miss it … but I’ve had the strength of character not to buy another one …

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The Europa always occurred to me that it was designed to have a pickup bed. Lotus El Camino.

  • avatar
    GiddyHitch

    Love me some articles like this. Thanks!

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      I agree. It’s like wandering through the parking lot at an old-car swap meet, Goodguys show, or similar event. The variety of stuff you’ll see is nearly as fascinating as what is featured at the event.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    Ahhhh The Lotus Europa!
    The perfect example of why Lotus had died many, many times and yet gets resurrected!
    Not the best choice of words on Easter weekend.Sorry
    A total piece of handcrafted(bad kit car) junk!
    With a Renault 16 powerplant???? and a rear sundeck????
    Notice the perfectly fitting window trim……
    When I was just out of high school these thing were already laying around at shops broken and forlorn…
    We are talking 40 years ago!!!
    …but I wonder how much he/she wants for it????
    Dammit, I still want to drive one!


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