HISTORY OF MARQUES
Lancia - Italian

Written in 1965

For over forty years Lancia has been Italy's most individual make of motorcar. The firm was established in Turin nearly sixty years ago by famous racing driver Vincenzo Lancia whose personal masterpiece was the Lambda series. Before he died in 1937 other notable models' were produced, and the tradition of technical boldness that is justified by results lives on. Lancia would have endorsed today's policy.

To the motoring- enthusiast with a taste for matters mechanical, Lancia (Lanch-ia, remember, in knowledgeable circles) is synonymous with good handling and unconventional design that is justified by results. If the enthusiast is middle-aged, or a younger vintage motorist, Lancia interest is very close to Lancia worship; and the Torinese symbol to them is Lambda.

First of the bold, individual designs from the famous Italian firm, the Lambda has a secure place in the story of motorcar development. When it appeared at the Paris and London shows of 1922 it was a sensation, even to those motorists who knew or cared little about design. A car without a chassis? Reckless, and courting serious trouble. No front axle? and those weird coil springs at the front? Presumably they know what they are doing, but how many motorists want to try such ideas? And that short, broad strange-looking little engine! (They say it's a four, but why do that as well as introducing the other revolutionary features?)

Events showed in a comparatively short space of time that Lancia certainly knew what they were doing; and a goodly number of Europe's perceptive motorists quickly endorsed it-and passed on the word. The unconventional, not very good-looking Lambda securely established itself as a different car many firmly believed was also a much better ca,r than the conventional. Lambda lore, in fact, was also Lancia largesse. As the legend grew, so did the sales. In a few years the conventional Lancia models went out of production. A policy of development of the Lambda was wisely pursued over a period of about eight years. What its makers aptly called the touring car with sporting characteristics had worldwide sales of about 13,000 before the last of the Ninth Series cars was made in 1930. By today's standards, a yearly average of less than 2,000-cars is small but those 13,000 Lambdas effectively lifted the name and fame of the Turin firm to" heights never anticipated when engineer/racing driver Vincenzo Lancia and his design team undertook the planning' of a revolutionary car in the early months of 1921.

First designs

We are proceeding with our story too quickly and not beginning where and when Lancia began.

The name Lancia was, of course, renowned some time before the car-making firm started business at the end of November, 1906. Vincenzo Lancia was born of well-to-do parents in 1881 and after his general education was sent to the Turin technical school to train as an accountant. The family lived in Turin,during the winter and young Vincenzo daily used to .see Giovanni Ceirano repairing bicycles, etc. in a small workshop in their courtyard. Eventually cars came into the shop; and the future driver/manufacturer was greatly intrigued by the lathe, basic welding equipment and so on used by Ceiqmo. Inevitably, Vincenzo entered the motor industry veritably by the backdoor-Ceirano's door, in the courtyard workshop, in fact, and as the repairer's accountant, not unnaturally! Lancia as an accountant seems almost as improbable as Chapman entering the motor industry fifty years later as a budding legal luminary but that is how he started. 

Whether as accountant or mechanician extraordinary, it is not now known how young Lancia assisted Ceirano, but it is said that he had an astonishing knowledge of the new fangled motorcar and its problems, Fiat had been started in 1899, a year before Ceirano began his repair business, and when Cav, Giovanni Agnelli (later to become king of the vast Fiat empire) took over Ceirano's shop he took Lancia (and one Nazzaro) with him as well as the principal designer. Lancia became the chief inspector of the new factory Agnelli set up at the sage age of twenty. Racing was in the young accountant/car inspector/mechanic's blood, and so the summer of 1900 found him winning a race at Padova on a 6hp Fiat. This was the beginning of a distinguished career as a racing driver. It extended over about ten years, and Vincenzo could always be depended upon to put up a good show although he did not have the best of luck in the big events. He did, however, generaIly get to or near the front when he was racing in the Fiat team with such great drivers as Felice Nazzaro and Cagno.

Lancia makes its bow

At the end of 1906, at the age of twenty-five, Lancia embarked upon the difficult and stony path of motor manufacturer. He and his designer friend Ugo Fogolin from Fiat each put up 50,000 lire and took part of Itala's vacated premises in Turin. The first Lancia was ready for testing the following September, but-shades of modern boat and car do-it-yourselfers!-it would not pass through the doorway. (One is tempted to suggest that maybe Itala had moved in order to ensure that they could get on the road, and sell their output.) Pickaxes in eager hands soon got over that unexpected difficulty and the car went on test.

As in later years, Lancia went his own designing way from the start. Thus the car had shaft drive and not chains; it was lower, lighter and faster than most. Although a straightforward side-valve four-cylinder engine was used Lancia had designs ready for an overhead-valve head, a revolutionary step at that date which was not taken. The engine was quite a high-speed unit for its day: 14 bhp at 1450 rpm.

A second prototype was made, incorporating changes in the light of road test experience, and by the end of the Lear a third chassis was ready for sending to the body builders. This was really the production version of the car that began to reach customers early in 1908. It was first known as the 18/24 hp type 51 but was later renamed as to model as the Alfa. This may surprise many British motorists; but.after all Lancia for years followed the tradition this first model started of using the Greek alphabet for model names. As a matter of interest, the firm continues it down to the present day in its commercial vehicles.

The 18/24 Lancia had its four cylinders cast in pairs, and high-tension magneto ignition was used. Bore and stroke were 90 mm by 100 mm, giving a displacement pf 2543 cc. !ts peak output was 28 bhp at 1800 rpm-or less than one quarter that of a modern V6 Lancia engine of this capacity. The car had a four-speed gearbox. Top speed was about 56 mph, which was criticised by some as being too fast. The good design had enabled Lancia to offer a lighter chassis than many other makers but this was also criticised, as was the "high" crankshaft speed. Notwithstanding these objections, the first model of the new make sold encouragingly; up to the summer of 1909 108 Alfa models were sold. The first sixteen, it is interesting to record, were tested by Lancia himself.

The young firm had to take on additional premises in Turin before they had been operating for a year, but before that step was taken Laecia ambitiously introduced a bigger six-cylinder car, with a longer wheelbase. This was the unsuccessful Dialfa and was of 3815 cc-in short, a six-cylinder of the Alfa's bore and stroke. It was, of course, one of the world's first six-cylinder cars but too few motorists were ready for its maximum speed of 68 mph.

The mistake was quickly seen and in 1909 the Beta of 3120 cc appeared-a monobloc four, this time, and with this cylinder construction one of the pioneers of what was later to become universal practice in cylinder casting. A year later there was the Gamma (3460 cc) and over 250 of these popular chassis were built comparatively quickly.

At the beginning of 1911 Lancia transferred their. factory to the Via Monginevra in Turin, where another automobile manufacturer had operated for some time. The new premises were of 26,500 sq ft and enabled the firm to bring all departments, including the office, under one roof and to arrange them in a rational and efficient way. Soon the Delta was introduced, and then the more highly tuned Didelta.

Epsilon and Eta followed, these being big-engined four-. cylinder chassis of four- and five-litres capacity respectively.

Both had the advanced mono bloc cylinder casting and the Eta was noteworthy in having a single dry plate clutch instead of the usual cone type. The short and light Eta was the fastest Italian car in 1911, being capable of rather. more than 80 mph.

These cars were reasonably successful, 1145 of them being sold to the end of 1912. A year later Lancia's most successful chassis to date was introduced, the five-litre Theta. Also known as the 25/35, this model was noteworthy in having electric lighting and starting, being one of the first European cars to have this standardised. Some 1700 Thetas were sold. During the war many were used as staff cars, and the firm built other military models with the same 110 mm by 130 mm engine.

New engines

Had war not come it is not unlikely that a Lancia V8 would-have been seen at the motor shows of 1915. In June of that year patents concerned with such an engine were granted; but it was not until 1918 that further patents on these lines were taken up for a 45 deg V8. This multi-cylinder design was supplemented by one of even more ambitious concept-a 30 deg V12. When a new advanced 4 prototype chassis was ready in 1919, however, it had an even more unusual twelve-cylinder engine. The angle of the Vee was reduced to no more than 20 deg and the engine had a twelve-throw crankshaft. New to Lancia (and unusual elsewhere) was the employment of a single overhead camshaft for valve actuation. Bore and stroke were 80 mm by 130 mm (7,837 cc) and 150 bhp was said to be produced at 2200 rpm.

This advanced and technically unusual engine was a centre of attraction at the Paris and London shows but the big and costly car never really got into its production stride. Fortunately, the four-cylinder Kappa was popular, being a developed version of the successful pre-war Theta. The Kappa had 70 bhp and a top speed of around 75 mph. With electric lighting and starting, adjustable rake to the steering column and central gear lever (one of the first), it met with general approval and sold steadily. A sporting version, the Dikappa, came along in 1921, with overhead valves and 17 more' bhp. The light torpedo body had an aluminium panelled wood frame, and wire wheels set off the car nicely. A top speed in excess of 80 mph was real performance in 1921.

A year later the first Lancia V8 reached the public, in the large and refined Trikappa chassis. This engine had a bore and stroke of 75 mm by 130 mm (4594 cc) and developed 98 bhp at 2,500 rpm. An imposing and expensive vehicle, it really represented the end of the second phase of Lancia development. The next, and historically most important, as what might be called the Lambda era, when the Turin firm broke new technical ground and scored a motoring success of first magnitude.

We have already said something at the beginning of this survey about the technical significance and practical impact of the Lambda on the motoring scene. The original conception of a lightweight car without conventional chassis and with independent front wheel suspension was Vincenzo Lancia's and he, for instance, chose the highly effective sliding post coil spring IFS arrangement from the several designs submitted by his technical men. The new front suspension had to be safe if a spring broke, it had to ensure precise steering and good roadholding, and it had to be suitable for use with the new uni~ary construction. How perceptive the driver/constructor was thousands of Lambda drivers in the years ahead were to know or perhaps few did know that the great man himself played a vital part in the evolution and development of the car. All of them appreciated, beyond peradventure, that the new Lancia had set fresh standards in motorcar handling and roadholding.

The Lambda is remembered by some for its design and mechanical construction; by others, its legendary character as motorcar is the abiding impression. The impact of its unusual appearance was considerable. Indeed, it could hardly have been otherwise, with its rakish and purposeful angularity. It was lithe, long and (for its time) low; and when its detachable saloon top-surely the first hardtop as the device is conceived today was mounted it had an even more individual and unusual appearance than in its open form. How it motored in its day, slightly bizarre looking or no!

The Lambda was not conceived as an angular machine. The prototype had a roundish form, more closely related to the styling of the early 'twenties; but this was changed before the production stage, and history rather points to individuality of appearance having done Lambda sales and reputation no harm.

Originally, the car had rear-wheel braking only. The prototype Lambda weighed under 1,600 lb so this might have been thought adequate in 1921. It also had a solid rear axle, but a differential was fitted to production cars. The design had been conceived as a driver's car, capable of being faster than most on a give and take journey of some length, and no doubt a test driver of Vincenzo Lancia's calibre found these mechanical features somewhat handicapping in practice. It was also decided that shock absorbers would have to be added to the front suspension. The usual friction type. of the day were not the best or the neatest sol uti6n. Ingeniously, hydraulic dampers were devised for incorporation in the lower suspension post guides, and after some development remained to the end of the series. This must have been the first application of concentric hydraulic dampers and coil springs ever standardised, although the arrangement was rather different to the layout we are familiar with today.

The pressed steel unitary construction of the Lancia was rigid, although as a production proposition it fell short of what Budd, Pressed Steel and others did for the "die stamped" saloon of later years. Just the same, the Italian design was a sound engineering structure with its deeply flanged side members forming the basic body. Cross members were riveted to these and carried tubular items on which to mount the engine and gearbox, which were located well forward under a relatively short bonnet. The floor contained footwells; and as the overall design resulted in a much lower car than was then usual a tunnel was provided for the propeller shaft. This novelty contributed appreciably to the strength and stiffness. The side members were turned in to make a tapered tail luggage compartment, and here again the construction added to the torsional stiffness.

Rear springs were conventional semi-elliptics but at the front of the car the desirable amount of stiffness was obtained with light weight by an economical triangulated tubular structure.

As has been said, the design was first and foremost a "chassis" conception (even if there was no conventional frame), with the needs of the driver paramount. This meant roadholding, accurate steering, good lock, braking and safety. The wheelbase was surprisingly long for a "designed-by-drivers-for-drivers" car but the Lambda was nevertheless a considerable technical and practical accomplishment in its day.

The engine was unconventional, perhaps unjustifiably so. The unique 13 deg Vee-four with a light alloy cylinder block that was almost as broad as it was long-or short-broke new ground. A single overhead camshaft operated all the valves, and an intricate arrangement of internal porting that was a tribute alike to -pattern shop and foundry craftsmen enabled a reasonably neat-looking engine to be produced. Unusual connecting rods had to be used. The manifolds were at the rear of this 2.1-litre long-stroke engine, which produced about 50 bhp at 3,000 rpm. A three-speed gearbox was standard for three years, which is surprising in a moderate capacity driver's car of considerable size. In fact, only when the engine size was increased did Lancia give the Lambda four speeds.

With the third series the capacity went up from 2,170 cc to 2,370; for the fifth series it was increased further to 2,570 cc. With each power increase maximum speed naturally advanced so that the later versions were capable of 78/80 mph. Braking improved as the car developed and the Lambda remained to the end of its career one of the fleetest machines for getting a journey completed. More than its above average performance, however, was the manner of its performing.

Towards the end of the Lambda's successful run a limited number of cars were turned out with conventional chassis for mounting the then fashionable Weymann fabric saloon. Few seem to have survived, but Lambdas of all series are prized by vintage enthusiasts; some have been skilfully cut and shortened, although our own taste leans strongly in the direction of a well-maintained "as catalogued" specimen.

Visitors to the 1929 Paris motor show saw the Dilambdas make its first appearance. It fully maintained Lancia's reputation for technical advance and bold thinking. Surprisingly, the Turin engineers reverted to the chassis; but Lancia considered this preferable for a large cOar.capable of carrying luxurious coachwork. The actual chassis frame anticipated the line of development, for it had deep boxed-in side members and and a stiff cruciform member amidships through the centre of which the propeller shaft passed. The frame was very stiff torsional at the front, and the famous sliding post IFS was naturally incorporated. The two side members were united at the rear by the fuel tank, which also functioned as a very stiff tubular cross member.

A narrow-angie (24 deg) V8 engine of 80 mm by 100 mm was provided and this also had an overhead camshaft to actuate the sixteen parallel valves, through rockers. Com­pression ratio was leaso~ably high at 5.35 to 1 and the four­litre motor developed 100 bhp at 4,000 rpm. The .Dilambda had such novelties for that date as a thermostat in the cooling system, a Bijur foot-operated central chassis lubrication pump, and a liberal use of Silentbloc bushes in the suspension and elsewhere: 

The Dilambda was pricey and only 1,685 were produced before it was withdrawn in 1932. It was a good car, notably . so in the 10 ft 9 in wheelbase form. About 700 cars were built with a wheelbase of about 11 ft 4 in.

Smaller cars

Vincenzo Lancia and his. associates appreciated around 1930 that smaller, less expensive cars would have better sales prospects in the future. Accordingly, they introduced two new designs for the 1931 shows. Clearly, the engineers of the Lancia works were coming around to the view that in the increasingly competitive world of motorcar manufacture a change of policy to make for more economical production was desirable. Thus the two new models were virtually the

same mechanically apart from the engines. One (the Artena) had a narrow-Vee four-cylinder engine of about two litres and the Astura had an equally characteristic Lancia engine with eight cylinders and a capacity of 2,600 cc.

At the same time studies commenced of a small car and by the end of 1932 a big prototype mileage had been covered. The firm, in fact, was well on the way to the production stage of what was to be the Lancia Augusta.

The new models that followed the Lambda and Dilambda both had chassis frames, the four-cylinder car having a wheelbase of about 9 ft 10 in and the eight-cylinder model one of 10 ft .5 in; both had a track of about 4 ft 7 in. Probably the most noteworthy technical innovation on these chassis was the flexible mounting of their engines by means of leaf springs.

Standard saloon bodies were available but as both cars had chassis frames they were in demand by coachwork specialists, particularly the Astura. With the standard four-seater, four-light saloon, the Artena scaled 2,530 lb and could reach a top speed of 68 mph with its maximum output of 52 bhp at 4,000 rpm. The eight-cylinder car peaked at 68 bhp at the same crankshaft speed. Its maximum was around 75 mph with the same body; it weighed 2,750 lb. These were not startling power outputs or performances for the main representatives of the 'marque Lancia at that time and it might be thought that both were down on power-weight ratio. The later of the four series of Asturas was increased in capacity to almost three litres (1934) and top output was raised to 82 bhp. A long chassis version-11ft 5 in wheelbase-was the last of the line and it had hydraulic brakes. They were worthy cars but not makers of history.

 Augusta

As we have mentioned, the little Augusta was quietly~ developed from 1930 and when it appeared in 1933 it was noted approvingly by most Lancia admirers that it marked a return to unitary construction. The Augusta was, in our view, more in the L~ncia between-wars' tradition than the cars that immediately preceded it. Like them, it had the famous independent front wheel suspension but on this model friction-type shock absorbers replaced hydraulic ones. "Berni elliptics were used at the rear, these incorporating Silentbloc bushes in the shackles and rollers at the rear ends. The car also had a narrow-angle Vee engine. It was a four-cylinder of 1,194 cc and produced 35 bhp at 4,000 rpm. A freewheel was introduced into the transmission-such devices were rather popular at that time-and flexible disc couplings in the shaft line were likewise new to Lancias. Hydraulic brakes were adopted after a good deal of testing, doubting and redesigning. Apparently fading was something of a problem despite the modest weight and performance of this smallest Lancia. The standard body of the car was chiefly note worthy in being a four-door pillarless one-a novel feature at the time.

Coming of the Aprilia

The Augusta was a good and typical Lancia handler. Three series were made between 1933 and 1935 and it enjoyed considerable competition successes. Midway through its career Vincenzo Lancia and his staff were busy on something better in the small car field. This was the Aprilia concept slightly larger and more powerful in the engine, of strictly limited weight, and with a more streamlined body than the firm had hitherto used.

A light alloy block was used for the Aprilia's 1.35-litre narrow-Vee four-cylinder engine and it had inserted cast-iron liners. An interesting feature was hemispherical combustion chambers with inclined valves. These were ingeniously actuated from a single camshaft by an unusual patented arrangement of long curved rockers-characteristic Lancia resource and disregard for the conventional.

Pront suspension was typical Lancia but at the rear there was a fairly complex arrangement of independent suspension incorporating both torsion bars and a transverse leaf spring, swinging arms and universally-jointed driv~ shafts. It worked well in practice but in recent times it has often been something of a vintage enthusiast's nightmare that necessitated the attention of a knowledgeable Lancia specialist. Its setting up when new was also tricky and lengthy; but results were good.

With its light, aerodynamically good (if not handsome) pillarless saloon body, the Aprilia looked-and was-a good deal more than a small economy family saloon. At a time when design and handling in this field had, it has often been said, reached the bottom, the Aprilia was as welcome as the flowers of April. It was a beautiful little machine to drive and faster on a journey than not a few much larger so-called high-performance cars of the period. It was, in short, as great a Lancia achievement as the Lambda, although one cannot reatly compare the two masterpieces of Vincenzo Lancia. Sad to record, the great driver-manufacturer did not live to see the first production Aprilia leave the works, for he died unexpectedly on February 15, 1937, at the early age of fifty-six. Contrary to his usual practice, he had not test-driven any of the prototypes himself so he never experienced the satisfaction his work was to give to thousands of sporting motorists over many years. Some people think that his last "personal" car was his best; we regard the Lambda as a greater achievement.

The Aprilia, as many motorists know, continued in production until nearly 1950. In 1939, as so often happened at Turin, the capacity was increased-to 1.5 litres, giving 48 bhp and, of greater everyday value, more torque at low and moderate engine speeds. A chassis version was also offered to take special coachwork.

The firm in Turin tell a touching little story about the last Aprilia to come off the line at the works in the via Monginevro. When the inspector opened the boot lid, probably a little sadly, he saw therein a note from one of the workmen. A , fair translation of it is:

Dear Aprilia,

In bidding you farewell I give you respectful greeting. ' Your glorious name has made itself known in the greatest capitals, this being the reward 'of a great pioneer who has gone from us, but whose name still lives. The workers in this great organisation hope and expect that her sister, soon to be born, will give as much glory and even greater understanding for the good of all.

Many would have echoed those sentiments had they known about the note; but its writer must have derived consolation from the considerable number of Aprilias he has seen since that sad day in 1949.

Toward the Aurelia

It was to be another saloon with sporting characteristics. A line-bred Lancia, in fact. The Aurelia of 1950. If there was no Lancia to guide, suggest and criticise there was Jano, one of Italy's acknowledged automobile engineers of world stature. He produced a noteworthy car by any standards and on all counts: mechanical novelty, sheer design, handlin'g and performance were all there. These cars are too well known today to call for a specification summary. We might usefully say, however, that the policy of engine capacity increase with, successive series was again followed; at first the engine was of 1,754 cc, later of 1,991, and finally it was extended to 2,451 cc. In terms of power, this meant that the basic V6 engine's output was stepped up from around 60 to 70 and finally to 118 bhp at 5,000 rpm. These are not spectacular powers to obtain from an engine with pentroof combustion chambers and inclined valves but, in line with tradition, the successive Aurelias were such good motorcars that an adequate drivpr could always put up good average speeds despite his moderate bhp per ton figure. Let us, however, go back before discussing the Aurelia.

The Aprilia run lasted about fourteen years, including the war period. Its all-round success tended to overshadow another small-engined Lancia with some claim to notice here, primarily on technical grounds. This was the 903 cc Ardea, of 1939. The engine was, naturally, of the narrow-Vee, staggered four-cylinder type, with four-throw crankshaft and overhead camshaft actuating inclined valves through rockers in typical Lancia fashion. Duralumin stamping were used for the connecting rods. With its four doors, the car was reminiscent of the Aprilia.

After the war a second-series Ardea with improved bodywork was introduced, and we remember seeing taxi versions of this car on the streets of Turin three or four years after the war. Prior to that, however, Lancia adopted a five-speed gearbox for the little car and at a later date a fourth-series Ardea was marketed with aluminium head, higher compression and bigger carburettor, to raise the power to 30 bhp at 4,600 rpm. Over 30,000 of these cars were produced and the thought lingers that Lancia might have found success with a more sporting version, suitably bodied and with the engine further developed; but they were to move away from the small car for a short time. 

When a maker has a successful model clearly reaching the end of its run the firm must inevitably be most anxious to at least retain their position when the replacement comes along. This was the responsibility the designers of the Aurelia shouldered; and let it be said that they did a fine job of keeping the Lancia flag flying. 

The background of the Aurelia is interesting. No doubt because of the consideration just mentioned, it was at first decided to develop and re-engine the Aprilia rather than produce a new car. During the war design work started on a V6 engine, an idea Lancia himself had explored earlier. This type of engine presents balancing problems but the studies of 1943/4 satisfied the Lancia engineers that with a special crankshaft arrangement and a 60 deg Vee angle an acceptable engine could be produced. This was made and tested.

Such a short and neat engine of about 1.5 litres seemed right for a car like the Aprilia, but it was later concluded that 45 deg would be better. Second thoughts, it has been said, are often best; and Lancias thoroughly tested this engine during 1947 in an Aprilia. Then there was a change of policy in regard to car as well as engine. For the latter a Vee angle of 50 deg was thought to be even better and this engine (also of 68 mm bore by 72 mm stroke, and 1,569 cc) was built and tested.

Even more important than these engine investigations was the decision to scrap the idea of a re-engined Aprilia and produce a bigger chassisless car with a longer wheelbase. At the front, suspension of the car destined to be the Aurelia followed the classic Lancia arrangement. At the rear the IRS embodied important changes; not least of these was the location of the gearbox in the back axle along with the differential/final drive unit. It was interesting to find coil springs also used at the rear, together with a wishbone arrangement. An ingenious expedient employed to reduce as far as possible the angularity of the joints of the half shafts was to place the outer universals outside the rear wheels. That was the reason for the prominent looking wheel nave plates that characterised the Aurelia. Inboard rear brakes were employed, as on the earlier Aprilia.

A steering column gear lever may not have been in the Lancia tradition but that used on the Aurelia was a good one of its kind; and, needless to say, the model soon acquired a reputation for effective and swift motoring. Let it be recorded, however, that before the production Aurelia made its appearance in 1949 the cylinders of its light alloy pushrod V6 engine were back. to 60 deg-and there they stayed. It reached the public in May 1950 and was soon pronounced a worthy successor to the little Aprilia. 

GT is born

Like all good Lancias, however, many keen drivers found that they could easily use more power and hence reach B more quickly and enjoyably from A. In 1951 the famous B20 gran turismo coupe was introduced, the original GT it is worth reminding some admirers of this type of motorcar. Engine capacity was raised from 1,754 cc to 1,991 and output put up from a "touring car" 56 bhp at 4,000 rpm to 80 bhp at 5,000 rpm. Weight, however, was down from the four-door saloon's 2,381 lb to 1,980 lb and maximum speed rose from about 84 mph to around the "ton"

The run of the Aurelia was a satisfactory one, the major change being the substitution of a de Dion rear end for the original IRS, with an acceptable improvement to the already good handling qualities.

The GT was later given a 2,451 cc engine (115 bhp at 5,200 rpm) and in the Spring of 1954 the saloon's capacity went up to 2,266 cc, giving 85 bhp at 4,800 rpm. The body lines were slightly altered at the same time. More interesting to the sporting fraternity was the introduction somewhat later of the Spyder two-seater version with monocoque bodywork by Pininfarina. Known as the B24, it had useful acceleration through the gears, a nice gearshift, excellent drum brakes, fine suspension and impeccable handling. Top speed was no higher than 112 mph but few cars of the mid 'fifties could stay with it on a winding-road journey. Some of the best motoring we have enjoyed was in this well-balanced all-rounder-one of the finest open cars we have ever driven.

A much bigger car followed the Aurelia, the Flaminia, but it retained the 2.5 litre V6 engine and other running gear.

Lancias today

We have covered the very interesting current front wheel drive models, the Flavia and Fulvia, and they are fairly familiar to most keen motorists. A road test of a sporting Flavia appears in this issue. Both are of elaborate, advanced design and both are likely to be retained for some time ahead.

Lancia cars are still to a great extent hand-made and production is necessarily, and desirably, limited. Workmanship has always been excellent, as befits clever design. Special coachwork is executed by such firms as Pininfarina, Zagato and Touring. Contrary to popular gossip the firm has no connection with any other Italian car manufacturer, neither has it Government assistance. Imposition. of the heavy sales tax by the Italian government early last year caused a serious setback to the tirm, as to others. The position was worsened by inept handling by the Minister of Finance who stated that the tax was temporary. The result was that the public immediately stopped buying cars. In the autumn we recall there were strong rumours in London and elsewhere that Lancia was stockpiling dangerously and getting into financial difficulties. A press conference was called in London to explain the situation, and it will be recalled that the tax was lifted at the end of the Turin show last November. Since then there has been a return of qualified optimism in the Italian motor industry, and we formed the impression that this is shared by Lancia.

The most significant event in the recent history of the firm has been the takeover a few years ago of the company by Dottore Pesenti, the Italian cement millionaire with extensive interests throughout E.urope, Canada and North America. Last year his son, Giampiero, was also made a Lancia director. The takeover injected much-needed capital into the business and since then there has been a policy of constant expansion, culminating in the recent opening of a new factory at Chivasso, a few kilometres out of Turin.

When Dott Pesenti provided additional finance for Lancia he appointed Sig. Guida Calbiani, a talented executive from his cement interests to preside over the board, while the doctor is vice-president. Dott Arturo Della Seta is commercial director, Sig. E. F. Gutfreund export director, and Sig. R. G. Hemelik export manager.                                

Lancia in Britain

Sales figures of cars since the reorganisation have not been made available to us but we were told that they have risen by 600 per cent in Britain since 1961. If that sounds like a wrong statistic we would comment that prior to that date less effort was probably made than before the war to push British sales. There was no dealer network or London showroom. Things have changed recently, however, and there are now thirty distributors throughout the country. They appoint their own sub-dealers, usually three or four in each territory, so that there are about 100 Lancia selling outlets in Britain today. All have servicing and spares facilities, but major accident repairs have to be sent to the long-established Alperton service depot north of London. No recent Lancia has had to be returned to Italy for coachwork repairs and the need is not envisaged as the Alperton specialists are highly skilled and facilities good, to our knowledge as former Lancia owners. Since 1962, Italian factory-trained mechanics have been touring the country in a workshop van training agencies staff mechanics on the spot-an excellent arrangement, it will be agreed.

Lancias haye been imported to our market since around 1928 but until recently in a rather unco-ordinated manner. The parent company in Turin bought and still owns the land and works at Alperton, where there has been 3. £250,000 expansion scheme within the last three years. The Italian interest is represented entirely at Alperton by Lancia (Enghmd) Limited, while in 1961 a new company called Lancia Concessionnaires Limiteq was formed, under the chairmanship of Air Commodore West, exclusively to sell Lancia cars; their main showroom is in AlbermaJle Street, London, W.1. 

It is estimated by Alperton that there are about 2,000 Laricias of all ages and types in Britain, and it is safe to say that most are in appreciative hands. A Lancia Owner's Club flourishes, enthusiasts for the older models providing the driving force, as with some other one-make clubs; there is, however, no marque register.

The foregoing is not offered as anything approaching a history of Lancia cars. That would entail the writing of a book of considerable size. It certainly should be tackled, for the development of the firm and its notable product is an important part of the overall history of the motorcar. In terms of sheer output and commercial success Lancia may be out of the running in these days of tremendous volume production and huge vehicle-making empires. On the other hand, as consistent producers of motorcars that have provided the expert and the enthusiastic with highly satisfying machines their place in history is secure. If there never was another Lancia made they would be remembered with admiration wherever real motorists are to be found. Long may Lancia individuality adorn the motoring scene. 

back to Index

Cars Index

Aston Martin History

Porsche History

Bentley History

AC History

Alfa Romeo

Lancia 18/24 1909
Lancia Theta 1913 5 litre electric starter lights
Lancia Lambada engine 2.1 litre
Lancia Lambarda
Lancia Dilambada 1929 4 litre V-8
Lancia 9 series Lambada 1930
Lancia D50 1955 F1
Lancia 3.3litre 1953 Fangio's Pan American
Lancia 3 litre Carrera 1953
Lancia Aurelia 1953