Featured: Raced Regularly, The Rest of this Lancia's History is Uncertain

Raced Regularly, The Rest of this Lancia’s History is Uncertain

By Petrolicious Productions
June 19, 2014
7 comments

Text by Gautam Sen and photography by Makarand Baokar

This stunning Lancia racer’s early history seems to have been lost in the mists of time. Though the original car was probably built in the early 1930s, at some point it was converted into a modified racer based on a Lancia Augusta chassis (as the chassis length of about 2.6 metres is similar to that of the Augusta, though some have speculated that the base could have been an Astura). When the Lancia came to India it must have been powered by a narrow angle high compression V4 engine (taken from either an Augusta (1196cc) or an Artena (1924cc), which was rather difficult to tune. At some point this engine expired and was replaced by an engine from a decrepit SS-Jaguar 1½ Litre saloon.

The car was raced regularly in Calcutta in the 1950s and 1960s, when India’s oldest motorsport club, Calcutta Motor Sports Club (CMSC) actively organized race meets at the Alipore Mint airstrip within Calcutta, and later at Kanchrapara and Barrackpore. At some stage the car was owned and campaigned by Calcuttan Mr. Alan Ramsay. And at least on one occasion a lady, Ms. Faye Tailor, came to India and raced this car. Faye was known to have raced motorcycles and 500cc Cooper-engined single-seaters. Also, a certain Mr. Jack Wilkes, a famed motorcycle rider from Calcutta (who even raced in the Isle Of Man TT races) raced this car too. 

For some years the car was owned by the aforementioned Mr. Alan Ramsay, and it is possible that he sold the Lancia in 1956, when he acquired an Allard J2. Mr. Mike Satow (who headed Imperial Chemical Industries) seems to have cared for the Lancia as well, as he did for several other Calcutta racing machines, and was a significant player in the Calcutta racing scene .

When Mike retired and moved back to the UK, he gave–or sold–the car to someone who kept it in a cigarette factory in Kakinada, in Southern India. This factory was eventually shut down and then abandoned. Yet the Lancia remained in a corner, with trees growing through it. Eventually, the car was ‘rediscovered’, hoisted over the wall and taken to the nearby city of Hyderabad, where it was restored. The new owner, Mr. Kumar Verma, then migrated to the US, selling the car to Bombay-based collector Mr. Harit Trivedi.

Though the engine and gearbox is from a SS-Jaguar, the chassis, axles, wheels, hubs and steering are all original Lancias. Being a significant car in Indian racing history, the Lancia was invited to take part in the 2008 Cartier Concours d’Elegance event in Bombay. Since then, Harit has been participating with this striking looking car at most Bombay-based classic and vintage car events, happy in the knowledge that a true piece of Indian racing history is under his care.

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Chandru Arni
Chandru Arni(@chandru_arni)
4 years ago

I know/ knew Alan Ramsay. I raced with him in 1953. His Lancia was a lovely dark GREEN in color. My car was a black special built at Alipore and called ARD ( Arni,Ribordy,DavisI) souping up a Standard Vanguard 1952 car. The day in particular, I remember as my car and his car timings for the 5 laps were the same and 0ur camp ( Robin Davis and Henry Ribordy) was thrilled. I came 2nd in this 5 car race and Ramsay last. The date was 20/12/1953.Alan was the best driver but I beat him again in the previous race both of us scratch off in 1951 Morris minors. All this is available in Jack Wilkes Sportstar weekly. Myname is RRS Arni or Ramachandra Arni in this paper. Timings are oFFICIAL timings by the organizers. I am now 90 but memory on this is fresh. Some material of CMSC still with me. Any requirement. ?

Peter Russell
Peter Russell(@jrinpv)
6 years ago

I was Track & Equipment Officer for CMSC at Barrackpore in the early ’60s and think I remember this car, but it didn’t look as nice as in these photos, I definitely remember the Allard that replaced it.

Harit Trivedi
Harit Trivedi(@harit)
7 years ago

Hi guys this is harit, and that is my Lancia. I just signed up to comment on my car, and will keep track. I concentrate on Indian sub continent related automobilia, history, documentation etc.
The gearbox in this car is also from the SS, it is manual, both engine and gearbox were replaced together.
Original to Lancia is the chassis (may have been shortened), axles, wheels, steering. Body is also someones creation, couls even have come from the Lord March stable. Original engine was present in the car but was very difficult to keep in tune and ultimately blew up. I had traced a guy who was involved with Calcutta races, but moved on to Bangalore. He told me this story.
I will plan to get an original engine and gearbox later, just now have tooo many projects in hand.
Over time I have managed to locate a few photos of the car in action. Most of the time mudguards were removed while racing.
This car was bought in the pre-digital era, blind and on the word of a friend who said that I won’t regret it. I did pay a crazy obscene amount for that time, but it was one of my best buys ever.

Cheers

Robbe Arno
Robbe Arno(@mrmusic1590)
7 years ago

It appears to be manual and yet there is no clutch pedal, and it is much too early for sequential shift or automatic. Someone fill me in on what I’m missing?

Pedro Rocha
Pedro Rocha
7 years ago

Amazing story, I would like to know more about this car and view more photos of this stuning precious part of history! Lancia its realy “the” brand,only marchione dont know this :/

Dustin Rittle
Dustin Rittle(@mosler)
7 years ago

I really enjoyed the story and Im glad to see the car restored to its former glory. Wonder if there are any plans to put a engine close to the original back in.

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay(@christophergay)
7 years ago

Looking good! Let me at that thing!

Thanks for sharing.