Featured: 7 Lancias That Deserve More Attention Than They Get

7 Lancias That Deserve More Attention Than They Get

Michael Banovsky By Michael Banovsky
September 26, 2016
17 comments

If you’re ever playing the game of guessing automotive ‘firsts,’ the best strategy to deploy if you’re unsure of an answer is to say either “Mercedes-Benz” or “Lancia”. The former makes perfect sense (after all, its founders invented the car), but Lancia? What’s so groundbreaking about Lancias?

That’s a question we’ve been dying to answer for quite some time, with the Turinese marque having developed some of the world’s most innovative, stylish, and desirable machines. Note the tense—the company has a vastly different product range than it once did.

For every Stratos, Delta Integrale, Fulvia HF, or the 037 that enthusiasts pine after, Lancia designed dozens of vehicles for “normal” people, its range rivaling that of any manufacturer in Europe at one time. The rub? Many of those cars are as well-engineered and interesting as their more famous siblings.

Now, things are different for Lancia and its future as a carmaker—but nothing’s stopping you from adopting one of these surprisingly fantastic machines from Lancia. You’d better hurry: one 1936 Lancia Astura Cabriolet by Pinin Farina recently took Best In Show at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Ardea

An early Lancia calling card was the company’s use of 4-cylinder engines arranged in a compact ‘V’ formation. Few of these models were as compact as the Ardea, a small family car that’s both humble and impressive at the same time.

One of the first production vehicles to feature a ‘conventional’ control layout and 5-speed manual transmission, the car was produced from 1939–1953, with far less survivors today than its production run of 32,000. At 903-cc, it’s also one of the most charmingly tiny cars of its era, like an Aprilia that’d shrunk in the wash. This year, the company entered one into the Mille Miglia, definitely a rare sight among competitors.

Flavia Sport by Zagato

Think of this car as a BMW 1800 TI rival, albeit with bodywork from Zagato and an entirely different approach to BMW’s. Some of the last cars to roll off the line before Fiat assumed control of Lancia, they’re a testament to the engineering capabilities of the marque and its willingness to try something new.

For instance, this car sports front-wheel-drive, disc brakes on all corners, an aluminum ‘Boxer’ four cylinder twin cam engine, and enough speed to nearly top 120 mph…and then Zagato went and did its part to shape aluminum for a small series of outlandish coupés in the ’60s. In its 1964 ‘prototipo’ racing trim, the car looked and performed far better, but DNF’d in its one and only major competition in this form, the 1964 Targa Florio.

2000

As its machines were winning in rally competition, the 2000 represented an opportunity for a regular driver to own some of Lancia’s polished engineering while retaining the usefulness required from a more family-oriented machine.

Evolving from the Flavia, it kept a boxer four-cylinder engine, but had more power (up to 123 horses), better interior appointments, the most up-to-date fuel injection system, and (once it was all designed and engineered) had a price high enough to ensure its relative exclusivity today.

The coupé is one of the most svelte to come from Lancia, while the sedan is fashionably minimal as far as its styling goes. One of our favorite websites, The Petrol Blog, says of the sedan, “My late father owned one. And within a moment of driving home in his Lancia 2000, my dad went from being the greatest father on earth, to the coolest father on earth. It was quite simply the best car my dad ever owned.”

Montecarlo/Scorpion

What began as part of a styling proposal to replace a Fiat ended up—in racing trim, at least—as one of Lancia’s most memorable designs. Sure, the Group B-prepared 037 (seen here in its prototype form) is all sorts of insanity, but at least the company had the Montecarlo (‘Scorpion’ in North America) for “regular drivers”.

It may not look it, but this car sports a mid-engine layout, with a inline-4 cylinder powerplant stuffed behind the seats and underneath a side-hinged cover.

Over the years, various issues, updates, and problems have been tended to by experts and owners who still enjoy these machines, and for the right buyer, they represent an atypical way to bring home an Italian sports car.

Fulvia Safari

For this writer, there is no Lancia better than the Fulvia. Equipped with much of the company’s best-sorted engineering for the time, this small front-wheel-drive (and V4-powered) berlina, coupé, and sport variants was not only a willing family car but an unlikely contender in events as diverse as finishing third overall at the East African Safari Rally in 1974 and winning its class at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1969!

Sport variants, which were all produced by Zagato, are the most dear, with Coupés next and Berlina representing the least expensive and most practical route into Fulvia ownership.

My favorite model? The Safari, a simplified version of the Series II 1.3 sold without bumpers and a number of other components, all to honor the car’s strong showing in the East African Safari long-distance rally.

Beta HPE

So you’re an enthusiast who refuses to budge on the requirement for pace, grace, and space. Or you’re one who just can’t be seen in a car similar to anyone else’s—the Beta HPE might be your jam.

Conceived as a modern sporting estate for the ’70s, the car combined fully-independent suspension at all corners, with weight distribution, centre of gravity, and (toward the end of production) a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine to make the most of its tied-down chassis.

Trevi Volumex

The Trevi, launched in 1980, was quite the technological marvel underneath: a choice of transverse 4-cylinder engines with electronic ignition and dual overhead cams, and MacPherson struts, anti-roll bar, and an as-standard 5-speed manual transmission to make use of the motors.

‘Volumex’? That’d be a mechanical supercharger, for a total of total of 133 horsepower and 152 lb-ft of torque from a 1,995-cc engine…in 1980—not bad at all for the time. Real-world tests in period weren’t blown away by the car’s outright pace, which is fine, for one reason: it had the most sculptural dashboard ever fitted to a car.

Designed by Mario Bellini, who also tried his hand at a Citroën more suited to pajama parties, the dashboard consists of inset circles, derided at the time but (considering the person responsible) should look more normal as time (and the Star Trek franchise) goes on.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated Lancia?

Sources: en.wheelsage.org, ranwhenparkeddotnet.files.wordpress.com, www.rmsothebys.com, www.fiatpress.com

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Djordje SugarisMichaelmarcsuperfastPablo Rodríguez Recent comment authors
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Djordje Sugaris
Djordje Sugaris

Gamma Coupe for sure.

marc
marc

2000 IE and HF, has 126 Hp Din. not 123

superfast
superfast

I was hoping the eccentric 8.32 would have been on the list.

Pablo Rodríguez
Pablo Rodríguez

Michael: I agree with You: I started restoring a FIAT coupe, after that I ” discovered” Lancia. Now, I’ ve got a Beta coupe finished, a HPE under restoring ( plus another FIAT coupe and a beauty Alfetta GT), and enjoy the strange pleasure of complications, like the watch collectors !
Greetings !

Edward Levin
Edward Levin

It’s pointless to address GS’s nonsense. As far as the list is concerned, if we’re doing “deserve more attention that they get” models, I’d add the Aurelia berlina. The B20 and B24 get a lot of attention these days, but the berlina has most of the performance and handling of the B20, at a fraction of the price. Personally, I’m a sucker for a B20S, but the berlina is a real sleeper. For a badly underappreciated Fulvia, I’d go with the original Coupé HF — the 1.2. 90bhp in an 800kg package. It’s a real homologation special, not a trim… Read more »

Fingers
Fingers

I think Guitar Slinger has no idea what he’s talking about. I’ve owned nothing but Lancia’s for the last thirty years and never had any problems with any of them. As long as they’re treated well and regularly serviced they’re as reliable as any other car of the era. GS you really are a tool. You think you’ve got more experience with cars than you actually have.

Stephan P
Stephan P

Addressing one point on G.S. list. I’ve only had one Lancia. A Fulvia, it hasn’t fallen apart after 143k km. I haven’t done any repairs except the thermostat. Yeah, unbelievable that a thermostat would fail open after 46 years. It’s starts every time, has never broken down and has a build quality even layman can appreciate. When I had it reupholstered the man doing the work said ” it feels like a vault”. Storied rally career? Yes that’s how one wins world championships. Most Lancia owners I know have pre Beta models and in those cars unreliability has never even… Read more »

Brian Martinez
Brian Martinez

I own a Lancia and they are wonderful cars that can be had for a fraction of their Italian brethren. They don’t fall apart or rust any more then their peers of that generation

Buy one. Drive it like you stole it and enjoy every second. You will be the only one at cars and coffee too. How many 911s and Camaros can one take anyway.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

1) Ardea . The who cares of Lancia . e.g Insignificant on the best of days . Even Lancia aficionados ignore the thing 2) Flavia Sport . Fragile . Unreliable and hardly a competitor for anything BMW .. but it sure was a beauty 3) 2000 Yet another who cares insignificant Lancia who’s story vastly supersedes reality 4) Montecarlo / Scorpion . A little beauty with underwhelming performance stuffed into a brilliant chassis and the basis/foundation for the later magnificent 037 … that unfortunately rusts faster than you’ll ever be able to drive it 5) Fulvia . A brilliant handling… Read more »

Martin Philippo
Martin Philippo

The Beta HPE is in real life even prettier than in the photographs.

Marc Van Linden
Marc Van Linden

i think you forgot two important Lancia’s. The B20 and B24 spider ….

La Dolce Vita
La Dolce Vita

Second that.

Johan Mulder
Johan Mulder

Couldn’t agree more… Owned several 2000 coupes and they drive so well. Highly underated car with beautiful technics!

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Truly thou art a masochist good sir .

Michael
Michael

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve just purchased a 1984 HPE i.e. and cant take my eyes off it.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange

The HPE could also be had with the Volumex engine . I think my favourite Lancia is probably the Flaminia, although depending on my mood I prefer the shape of the Touring bodied GT or the Zagato bodied Sport and Supersport.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

My favorite Lancia(s) are the ones I get to look at and/or drive while never having to own or maintain … letting someone else live with the nightmare while enjoying the few good moments they may offer