Saoutchik-Embellished Lancia Aurelia Cabriolet Conjures Dreams Of Italian Summertime All The Way In England
Photography by Will Broadhead
Take a pallet of bright, vibrant colors, mix them together, and you’ll be left with a muddy brown mess, a figurative shadow of the once-bright tones. This example can be played out across many mediums, with similar results—too many cooks spoiling the broth and so forth.
There are exceptions though, and these exceptions are often exceptional in other ways. Take the Lancia Aurelia B50 for instance, a car that already began its life with beautiful coachwork from Pinin Farina, not to mention that the car was built under the guidance of legendary engineer Vittorio Jano, the tragic Italian who gave the world the Alfa Romeo P3 among many other triumphs.
Already a stunning piece of draftsmanship—Pinin Farina’s Cabriolet was endorsed by the factory, and was sold as such through Lancia’s official dealers—one might be forgiven for thinking that any changes to the coachwork would be like taking a sledgehammer to a sculpture. However, thanks to the work of a design house in Paris, one with Russian roots, there’s proof that it can be pulled off.
Iakov Savtchuk, who would later become Jacques Saoutchik upon leaving the Russian Empire for France at the turn of the 19th century, became one of Paris’s leading coachbuilders after learning his trade making furniture. During a time when his company’s client list included members of royal families, the Lancia arrived at Saoutchik’s doors with a commission for some modifications at the behest of a United States resident from Virginia, who had become this particular Aurelia’s second owner.
Saoutchik’s fondness for chrome accents can be seen throughout the machine, from the treatment of the rear flanks and the interior of the car, to more subtle accents such as the perforated silencer covers that sit beneath the cabriolets bodywork. Though some of Saoutchik’s designs are guilty of overdoing the brightwork, the additions here fit the era and attitude of this car.
Regardless of the modifications that came in Paris, this particular example carried its own provenance besides the Saoutchik touches, seeing as it was the car that graced the stand at the 1951 Geneva Motor Show.
The Pinin Farina-bodied chassis number around 265, but in other guises the Aurelia design sold in excellent numbers, with over 18,000 produced over the six series. The original Aurelia was also among the first cars to make use of a series production V6 engine, and I’m happy to confirm that the 1.8L lump in this one sounds as sweet as its host looks, beating out a gentle thrum in a familiar firing—not a super hot motor by modern standards, but the alloy V6 was a pretty sweet piece of kit for the time, and something to admire still today.
Sadly, we were unable to take the Lancia for a test run due to the weather and what was poured onto the road to combat it, and instead had to suffer its beauty from a static point of view. Thankfully it is a car that rewards a lingering gaze, and though I’m sure it would be a treat to drive, it withholds many of its beautiful details until you take some time to study it. Details such as the aforementioned Saoutchik embellishments, the magical door handles that pop from their recesses, at the gentle push of a button, as well as the wonderfully ornate Marchal fog lamps. Indeed, even the underside of the car is pleasing to the eye, from the finned sump to the twin exhaust pipes that poke teasingly from the car’s rump.
It would seem my admiration for this Lancia is shared by many others, as after it had undergone extensive restoration work, this car took a third-in-class prize at Pebble Beach in 2005. Of course, concours medals, stats and facts are all well and good if that’s what you are into. For me it was simply a delight to spend time with, exploring its nuances with my camera.