Matchbox Lotus Europa born again

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This project is based on an old Matchbox Superfast Lotus Europa.

I have since replaced this with a better version and consigned this one to the repair shelf as it’s has no display value and no re-sale value as it is.

It in a bad way but is an easy renovation, the paint has been over painted in some areas including the back window glass but other than that is pretty sound, it even has the tow hook still intact.

The first thing is to take it apart, now I don’t use loads of special equipment and with a basic setup anyone can do this, the main thing you need is some space for a small bench and a drill press, it doesn’t need to be big as you are only working with small items, mine happens to be a big drill press because it is also used for full size cars too.

With the drill set up with a small 1.5 mm drill bit I have cradled the car in a polystyrene former, you can use a small sand bag as many other restorers do but I get lots of these from a local gas fitter and are the packing from gas cooker hobs.

My drill has a laser center finder but is not necessary and I wear gloves as the model is not clamped down, I am only taking off the rim of the rivet, just enough to pop the baseplate out.

Slowly slowly a bit at a time the metal is removed until I can see the edge of the baseplate.

The front has a tab located as part of the front of the casting so once the rivets are drilled out a slight lever and  it pops off, you should be really careful at this stage, to much levering will damage the casting so make sure you have drilled enough.

Once off the parts can be seen layed out.

The body has opening doors but they can stay fitting until after stripping, the glass needs the white paint cleaning off and the interior seats are dirty, the baseplate and wheels have some corrosion and lots of hair wrapped around the axles.

In the past I have used all kinds of paint strippers and even auto brake fluid, all of them work but can get messy, after reading a post on the Toy Collectors website about stripping with Caustic Soda, I decided to try it on this project.

Depending on where you are caustic soda may be restricted or ‘cut’ with something else so unlikely to be 100% caustic soda, but by experimenting with the mix you can find what works, I started with a small container, a cup full of boiling water and added 5 spoons of the caustic soda, now before I go on caustic soda reacts with water so please make sure you are wearing good strong gloves and eye protection as it WILL burn you skin if it splashes, second NEVER add water to the caustic soda ALWAYS add the soda to the water, it’s this reaction that helps the paint stripping.

With the water just boiled and the Caustic soda added I lower the casting in the mix on a bent welding rod the doors have been opened and have been left on so they get stripped and small parts are hard to retrieve from the mix otherwise, with bigger castings I place in the container first then add the boiled water, then the caustic.

After 15 minutes and still wearing gloves I removed it and using an old toothbrush removed the loose paint, the first test was not very favourable, so I made a new mix with double the dose of caustic soda and placed in again.

After some time I returned, removed it and scrubbed with the toothbrush again, this time all of the paint came away easily.

I have since found out the caustic soda I was using was heavily ‘cut’ and now using a different brand I get from Homebase, this really does strip in a very short time with only 4 to 5 tea spoons added to the water.

I now also put the castings in the pot before I add the boiling water, this seems to help it too and generally strips the paint in seconds, not all models work, some later paints have to be done by other means such as paint stripper, but everything I have tried pre 1970 has worked fine.

So a rinse under the tap with and final scrub of the toothbrush and we are ready to move on.

The seats were grubby from dust and dirt over it’s life so all they needed was a wash in a soapy solution and a small soft paint brush.

The glass was dipped in hot soapy water for a few minutes and most of the paint came of easy.

The base plate needs a bit of work as their is some alloy corrosion here, that’s the white patches and needs dealing with, the axles have hair of some sort wrapped round them and the wheels should be cleaned as well.

The wheels and axles on superfast cars get bent very easily in fact is one of the biggest faults of used superfast cars but these are actually ok so I will remove the wheels and axles complete from the plastic retainer, the retainer acts as the wheel brackets and give the car suspension, if you lift the ends carefully the wheels come out, the retainer breaks easy too, I know done it lots of times, but if you dip the baseplate in warm water for a while the plastic is less likely to snap, you can remove it by drilling out the rivets as before and if the basepate was really bad or the retainer broken then I would.

The baseplate then goes into a solution of 10% vinegar and 90% water (another tip from solution to neutralise the corrosion, the vinegar will eat away at the diecast if left to long so keep an eye on it I left mine about an hour.

With all the bits clean, it’s time to clean and paint the body shell.

For cleaning I prefer drill mounted brass rotary brushes, these are small and cheap and meant for hand held drills like the Dremel multi tools but I prefer holding the casting rather than the drill so mount mine in the drill press.

For this I removed the doors and replaced after buffing.

Once your happy with the cleaning you are now ready to paint.

Now I do have an air brush for model making but I also have a store with dozens of aerosol cans of spray paint from doing real car repairs so like using them as well although strictly speaking the paint should be enamel based.

There is some skill involved with spray paint the main thing to remember is light coats, especially with aerosol cans as it can easliy cover the detail on the model.

Firstly the primer, I use whats known as an etching primer, again we use this on real cars made of alloy panels and it gives a better adhesion to the paint.

To support the car and make spraying easier it is mounted on a wooden block with a piece of thin wood screwed upright onto it a small piece of putty or bluetac holds the casting on top and stable.

Bigger models are harder to do this way and you may need better support.

I spray these as I do real cars, under the wheels arches first and inside the doors, let it dry a bit then blast over the body, one coat should be enough but once dry check you have got all the body including under the edges and if need be spray again, don’t try to do to much at once otherwise you can end up with drips or fat paint in one place take you time and practice on something else first, if the worst happens you can always strip it again and start over.

Next the top coat, I was going to do white but found the paint can had gone a bit heavy when I test sprayed it so went for a gold.

This had three coats over a few hours and left overnight to harden properly.

Some paints need a clear lacquer over, especially if your using certain spray cans, but this has come up really nice so will leave as sprayed.

Re-assembly is the reverse of taking apart and the glass in this particular car was not riveted to the roof so a tiny spot of glue and put the rest back in, the base plate clicked back on and with a few spots of glue the baseplate is fixed, I use a two pack resin glue and leave for about 10 minutes the model is now done.

So there you have it an easy restore and turned a once sad looking car from this……….

Into this…..

And now had pride of place in my collection

As always questions are welcomed so either use the contact form or comment below .

For my article on the  Matchbox Lotus or the real car for that matter Click Here


  1. flavio says:

    Hello, I need a left door to my Lotus (pink), do you has one to sell to me? In Brazil is impossible to got it, there is not models restoration culture here. regards and thanks.

    • Peter says:

      Have sent you an email

      • flavio says:

        Hi, greetings. I got your email, and I’m happy to know you can help me. I need to know how much it’ll costo to me (the left door and s-h), sometimes is cheap buy another model. Regards.

        • Peter says:

          Hi again Flavio, have sent details to your e-mail and will track down the part you require

  2. zareer pardiwalla says:

    Impressed by your lotus europa restoration. im restoring a standard vanguard currently. Would like to send you photos of unfinished project for your advice on damaged plastic windscreens and bad tyres. Here in india we dont get many old dinkys and corgis. May i send the photos ?

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