Featured: Is The Lancia Beta Scorpion An Underrated Sports Car?

Is The Lancia Beta Scorpion An Underrated Sports Car?

By Petrolicious Productions
January 7, 2016

Story and photography by Christian Del Guidice

When I was 7 years old, my dad brought me home a few 1:18 scale model cars. I still remember: a Dodge Viper GTS, McLaren F1, Bugatti EB110, and Jaguar XJ220. After that, I couldn’t get enough of cars. At first, I was mainly interested in exotic cars, and I would read every book there was about Ferraris, Lamborghinis, etc., and I could recite the specs of almost every exotic car on the market.

I would go to dealerships and ask the sales people questions, just so I could correct them when they got the answers wrong. My appreciation for classics took longer to acquire, but now I think my dream list of cars has more classics on it than modern cars.

This car actually belonged to my dad, he owned it before I was born. I’ve been around it all of my life. But, ever since I could remember, it never ran. Despite my dad’s desire to get his “second child” back on the road, he just didn’t have time. So, about three years ago, I told my dad, “sign the title over to me and I’ll restore it for you”. So, he did. And I restored it.

The more I saw it, everyday sitting in our garage collecting dust, I would think “wow, that really is a nice looking car”. It has a great design, and it’s a 2,200 lb, mid-engined, rear-wheel drive, two seater, Italian sports car. 

The sound is fantastic, it makes the most glorious noise. I love running through the gears and listening to the sound of the exhaust as well as the induction noise from the dual Weber carbs right behind my head.

I enjoy driving it mainly up and down the coast. Also, to car shows and some B-roads here and there.

I actually just purchased an Alfa Romeo 4c, which I feel is the modern day equivalent of the Scorpion. Very similar cars in a lot of ways, from their layout, weight, size, even engine size (of course the 4C has a nice big turbo, though). Both amazing cars and I love them both in different ways.

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Peter J Smith
Peter J Smith(@fb_1043682525)
3 years ago

It absolutely was! Even the watered down, 1.8L version we got here, in the states was a brilliant little machine.

Pierre-Olivier Cloutier
Pierre-Olivier Cloutier(@pierre-olivier_cloutier)
4 years ago

Wasn’t that car for sale in Quebec last year or something?? I saw one for sale on Kijiji with the same interior modification… First time I saw this car and I absolutely love it!

5 years ago

As a former x 1/9 owner, I always pined for the
x 1/20 or Scorpion or Monte Carlo. And then of course, the 037, which is the ultimate Scorpion.

Paul Millett
Paul Millett(@monstermonte)
6 years ago

I have had mine for 25 years and still love it more the my Ferrari or Alfa

Pieter Ameye
Pieter Ameye(@pietera)
6 years ago

Stunning car, except for the wheels imo.

carl helmetag
carl helmetag(@upnatum)
6 years ago

Great story and a nicely done Scorpion. Thanks for preserving it.

I previously owned a Scorpion and now a Montecarlo. Yes there are rust issues (especially around the vents on the front hood) but once resolved the cars hold up well. My Monte has high compression heads (from a 1.8L Scorpion), a performance cam and quad ANSA exhaust. I’ve found it completely reliable and would take it anywhere (as long as it wasn’t in the rain). My mechanic has worked on the gamut of vintage cars and raves about the Montecarlo for its road handling, lightweight and performance.

6 years ago

I don’t know…I mean, it always has been a very desirable car, but man, those who bought it when it was new (and so me included) know so well how FUCKING unreliable and poorly put together these things were. Oh we still loved it like the way only the Italian can make us, but that still doesn’t change the fact that it was rubbish.

Steven Jepson
Steven Jepson(@lanciahawk)
6 years ago

It is truly an underrated sports car, as are all members of the Beta fleet.
The Lancia Betas have always been the red-headed stepchild of the Lancia marque. Is it a true Lancia or some bastardization from Fiat? And they’re all expected to rust once the humidity goes over 40 percent – well, that’s what happened in the UK.
So those of us who love these cars have had to fight a lot of ridicule – Viva Lancia! Viva Beta!
I can tell you from personal experience that a “ScorpiCarlo” can certainly carve a mountain road – I had a lot of fun keeping up with two of them on The Tail of the Dragon – while driving my Beta Zagato!
The Lancia 2.0 is a wonderful, torquey engine, and can be tuned to around 130-140 bhp without turbocharging. With modernization, it’ll keep up with modern powertrains. Although some have put Toyota or Honda engines in the bay, there’s no reason to.
Viva Lancia!

Alain Raymond
Alain Raymond(@topolino)
6 years ago

Nice work and good of you to restore the car and keep it in the family. The Scorpion/Montecarlo (I own a 77) is indeed underrated, one reason being that the US version with its 81 hp and 1800 cc engine was woefully inadequate. The 2 L Euro version made 120 hp and with that as a basis you can easily bump the power up to 150-160 hp with no turbo. That’s what I have, a 155 hp 2 L and believe me, it moves! Brakes were another issue back then, but you can solve that my upgrading to larger brakes and add larger wheels and tire while at it. Since the car is vastly Fiat based, nearly ALL mechanical components are readily available and affordable at regular Fiat suppliers. You can even get a full 2 L engine for reasonable money. For more exclusive parts (body), The Monte Hospital in the UK has it all. As for workmanship, one question: is it worse than other 70s cars? I don’t think so. Have you seen a Pinto or a Vega lately? If you own a Scorpion/Montecarlo, you can also fit a longer 5th ratio gearset which drops RPM by 700 for relaxed highway cruising. I designed the set and had it made in Italy and it is now sold by The Monte Hospital (montehospital.net). It works perfectly well and is relatively easy to fit without removing engine or transmission. Another plus for the Scorpion is a front trunk larger than any 2-seater sports car I have seen. Properly adjusted and fitted, it handles very well (ran Sebring with it), is comfortable (great seats) and looks gorgeous. If Fiat had taken the time to properly develop the car back then, this would have been a worthy successor to the X1/9. Mine can give the Miata a run for its money (I know because I also own a 1990 Miata). Check it out on auto-historia.ca (Squadra Topolino)

Linda N Brian Schick
Linda N Brian Schick(@sparkey60)
6 years ago

Lancia made some pretty and interesting cars back in the 70’s and 80’s but it’s a shame that most were junk.

Steve Perry
Steve Perry(@fb_604006259)
6 years ago

I had a girlfriend in 1980 who had one. I drove it quite a bit and was underwhelmed. I had owned a Fiat 124 sport coupe which I thought was quicker and handled about as well. I remember being none too overwhelmed, but saying that today. I do love the styling and would enjoy a romp in one again.

Per Eldh
Per Eldh(@per)
6 years ago

Few knows it started life as the Fiat X1/20 but eventually became a Lancia branded car.
(Some people actually even think that twincam motor is a ‘Lancia’ while it’s Fiat all the way – badge engineering even then, but the other way around!)

Juan Manuel Tastzian
Juan Manuel Tastzian(@jmtast)
6 years ago

Really nice car! And the wheels make me think of the one’s in the F40, I find them quite similar 😀

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger(@gtrslngr)
6 years ago

Is the Lancia Beta Scorpion/Monte Carlo ….. under rated ? Hmmm . Well …. in some ways [ fun factor / design / overall practicality for a mid engined car etc… its leading up to the 037 etc ] … yes .. it has been severely under rated . In other ways though [ reliability , lack of quality materials and workmanship , poor engineering , pretentious parts bin roots ] … No it has not !

As for the 4C though …. well … hate to be the bearer of bad news … but it is seriously and I do mean seriously over rated in each and every way shape and form . But you’re correct on one point . Being yet another disparate [ and pretentious ] parts bin special from those fine folks in Turin …. the 4C is pretty much the spiritual successor to the Scorpion/Monte Carlo … in all the wrong ways …. all bets being you’ll own the 4C for 36 months or less before selling …. 😉