Reader Submissions: Life Is Too Short To Drive A Boring Car

Life Is Too Short To Drive A Boring Car

By Petrolicious Productions
February 17, 2015
16 comments

Owner and Photographer: Frank Matthews

Year, Make, and Model: 1972 Lancia Fulvia Sport 1.3s, body by Zagato

Location: Sedona, Arizona, USA

I first became interested in cars due to my Dad, who was a mechanical engineer. Growing up we always had interesting cars, and he allowed me to buy and repair my own motorcycles (Harley and Indian) beginning at age fourteen, which was the driving age at the time. After learning how mechanical things worked, I always enjoyed tinkering in the garage, and finding out how stuff was put together.

My online search lasted for a few months, and I came across several websites in Holland, where they have a lot of “old timers”, as they call classic vehicles. After considering several makes, I settled on Lancia, which is known for refinement and innovation, at least prior to its takeover by Fiat.

After considering a variety of Lancia models, and the occasional Alfa, I found a nice, lower mileage Zagato-bodied Sport, and following several e-mails and a short, but expensive phone conversation with the owner, made a mutually acceptable offer, and the deal was done. I had reservations about buying a car sight unseen, but sometimes you have to trust your instincts, and I am glad I did, as the car exceeded my expectations. The seller arranged shipping via container to the West Coast, which cost a very reasonable $1300.

After a four-month journey to the west coast, and another month waiting for stateside delivery, it finally arrived last summer, and I must say I am more than pleased with the condition. One major problem was that the title was in Dutch, and it had to be “officially” translated before the local DMV would transfer the title. I found a professor of Dutch in Michigan, who was kind enough to do the notarized translation for me.

So far I have put nearly two-thousand kilometers of trouble-free miles on the odometer, and get many “thumbs up” wherever I go. No one yet has guessed the make/model, except one Lady who was from the Netherlands, where Lancias are relatively common. I never have to wonder which Lancia is mine when I come out of the movie theater.

The Zagato-bodied Sport was a popular option at the time, and was built from 1967 to the mid ‘70s. It has a 1.3L narrow-angle, forward mounted V4, DOHC, canted at 45 degrees. It is FWD, with four-wheel disc brakes, and a five-speed floor-mounted shifter. It has no options, power assist, or even a radio, which is good because there are fewer things to go wrong. When new, the Fulvia cost more than a Jaguar E-Type, and reportedly never earned Lancia a profit.

I love the way the car drives, how “mechanical” everything is, and how comfortable, but supportive, the seats are. Upon opening the door, your senses are overwhelmed by the wonderful smell of aged leather, like your favorite old bomber jacket. I also appreciate not seeing a similar car every time I go out for a drive, and get a kick out of the thumbs up I get almost every time I exercise the car. It also makes great sounds, especially above 4,000 rpm.

Although it has no trouble cruising at 65-70 mph, the car feels most at home on winding two-lane back roads, which thankfully are common in the area. I also hope to enter several road rallies in the near future.

I have owned many vehicles over the years, including some very fast and exclusive cars, but must say that this is one of my all time favorites, even though it only has 90 hp, and FWD. As I have often told my children, life is too short to drive a boring car.

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Josh Mullineaux
Josh Mullineaux
3 years ago

Couldn’t agree with the title more. Gorgeous little car. I have some more that I’ve curated here “https://dontdriveboringcars.com”

Kevin Harper
Kevin Harper
7 years ago

I had the pleasure of picking one of these up in Miami for a customer and driving it back to Raleigh NC, and what a lovely car. I managed to stop traffic in Boca Raton when a driver in a new Rolls stopped in the middle of the street to admire and ask me about it. The seats are wonderful, better than what is in my modern jag and Volvo. It cruised back without incident, and with only a few minor items noted to be fixed.
The engineering and build quality is superb on these Lancia’s. In my humble opinion they are the best built and engineered cars in italy if not the world during the 50’s and 60’s. Most people look at Ferrari’s with rose cover glasses, because while they built great engines the rest of the car was really crap and is only corrected through modern restoration. Fiat’s and Alfa’s were not built to this standard, but then again they actually had a shot at making money. Maserati came close. Globally rally only Mercedes matched them for build quality, but the Lancia is so much more fun to drive.

The only downside that I have is during working on them. They are not terribly hard if you have the proper tools, but that is the key point of having the proper tools. I had to have 3 special tools just to change the rear wheel bearing on the one that I worked on, and those tools will not work on Flaminia’s or Flavia’s or any other Lancia, in fact they only work on a series 2 Fulvia. This unfortunately is common all over the car. luckily there is a great worldwide support system to help, but you will spend more time waiting for parts and tools than it will take to do the job.
I will have one soon

Frank Matthews
Frank Matthews
7 years ago

Thanks for all your insightful comments. And I totally agree that the car, from some angles looks awkward, but from other perspectives, looks quite handsome. In any event, to my eye it is interesting from any angle. I doubt that the Fulvia will ever command the same money that the period Alfa’s are bringing, but I did not buy the car as an investment, only to drive and enjoy.

Antony Ingram
Antony Ingram
7 years ago

Wonderful car. I recently found myself seriously considering a Zagato Fulvia, as one was available at a very reasonable price. My unfamiliarity with the cars and the fact it was still at the upper end of my budget put me off, but I suspect I’ll one day regret not buying one… probably the day when values rocket upwards as they’ve done with 105-series Alfas…

Todd Cox
Todd Cox
7 years ago

Jay Leno had a great piece on one of these cars. At first I wasn’t sure about it, but after the cameras panned around a few times I was smitten. Absolutely beautiful car. I love the rear-end of this car, especially 3/4 rear view; absolutely gorgeous.

Jay Leno’s Garage, Lancia Fulvia (also Zagato): [url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFKxEcQ3r7k”]Link![/url]

Edward Levin
Edward Levin
7 years ago

Wonderful car in great colors. And a lot of fun to drive, even with only 90bhp. But if you want more, the chassis can handle a great deal more power, and it’s not difficult to extract significantly more from that V4.

I don’t doubt that Lancia didn’t make a profit on the Zagato-built Fulvia Sport, but they certainly made money on the standard Fulvia models–just not enough to stay independent. After the Flaminia (but before the Fiat buyout), they weren’t truly hand built cars (with the exception of the Zagato-built bodies of the alloy Flavia Sport and early Fulvia Sport), though as with most cars at the time, a fair amount of hand fettling was required.

Martin James
Martin James
7 years ago
Reply to  Edward Levin

Actually as stated Lancia never made a solitary dime/dollar/lire of profit after WWII on any model they ever produced . That is a matter of fact … not speculation and is well documented as well . They survived on w wing and a pryaer as well as extensive subsidies from the Italian government until FIAT finally bought them out . And even after that they never made a profit … EVER ! And actually right up until Lancia’s became nothing more than re-badged FIAT’s a good 60- 70\% of the cars were built by hand .. especially the bodies . Once again .. thats straight out of the historic record [ need I quote the sources ? ]

Antony Ingram
Antony Ingram
7 years ago
Reply to  Martin James

“Need I quote the sources?”

It’d be helpful – otherwise you count yourself among the rest of the internet’s raving loonies recounting unsubstantiated stories as fact. I’ve done a bit of cursory searching and it’s certainly hard to corroborate what you’ve said, so pointers to trusted sources on the matter would be welcome to all of us.

Edward Levin
Edward Levin
7 years ago
Reply to  Martin James

I’d also be interested in your sources, as a couple of friends have researched the subject, and they would contradict you. You might find this interesting:
http://www.viva-lancia.com/lancia_fora/read.php?6,1266251

Kuroneko
Kuroneko
7 years ago

Gorgeous machine!

Jens Hoorn
Jens Hoorn
7 years ago

Great car! I’ve had a Fulvia Coupe and they are great. The build quality is higher than the Alfa’s I own now

Martin James
Martin James
7 years ago

Most definitely NOT a boring car ! Especially in its Zagato guise . A little slow some may say ? Perhaps … but then again it is a lot more fun driving a beautiful good handling slow car fast that to drive a fast car slow . And damn … those looks !

The only negative being how stark a reminder this car is as to what Lancia once was [ barely a notch below Ferrari in the Italian order of things … not to mention THE brand of choice back in the day for F1/Grand Prix pilots as their daily driver .. though by the 70’s Mercedes had taken that mantle away ] … and what Lancia is about to become under the reign of Stronzetto Marchionne *

By the way … after the war [ WWII ] Lancia never saw / nor has seen a profit on any of its models . Mainly because to a number [ until they became badge engineered FIAT’s ] they were mostly hand built with Old World craftsman techniques … which made for incredible and lovely cars with a very RED bottom line . The later cars problems being the number of sales vs cost to manufacture .

Ahhh … but lets focus again on this little gem … sweeping Marchionne’s Madness and finances aside where it belongs

FYI ; For those in need of a Lancia Primer … pick up the NSX covered MT issue . It aint a complete history of Lancia by a long shot but is more than enough to get you started

* For those unaware Marchionne has cut Lancia back to one solitary and very sad little model as he moves forward his plans to relegate the once mighty Lancia forever to the annals of history

Emanuel Costa
Emanuel Costa
7 years ago

Very cool car, and appears to be very confortable inside. But that back section looks a bit ‘unfinished’ in terms of design.

Sean Whelan
Sean Whelan
7 years ago

My sister-in-law is from the Netherlands and all their kids speak Dutch, hmmm. Never thought of getting a car from there but I’m thinking hard about it now.
Beautiful Lancia, I’m sure its in good hands!

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange
7 years ago

Gorgeous car thanks for sharing.

Jim Valcarcel
Jim Valcarcel
7 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Lange

Not only a stunning car Matthew but also the town where it is from!! Notice where I live! 😉