Mistakes from which one can learn come in forms such as these.
About once a year I visit a relative in a very small village on the south fringe of the Black Forest. Every time I do, I see a different Lancia Kappa coupé. But they only made about 3000 of these cars and production ceased 14 years ago. I assume then that the region in which the car was seen has an unusual density of the vehicles.
This should not be a surprise if you understand that it’s a prosperous area. It is hilly and the local people (all of them very welcoming and civil) have a cultural affinity for Italy. So, if Lancia was ever to find a customer base outside Italy, it was in places like this.
This car, along with a certain saloon from a certain conservative French manufacturer, long cast a hypnotic spell on me. Usually as years go by the fascination only increases. In this case my admiration and ability to overlook the car’s flaws, has waned somewhat. I would still enjoy owning one (I like the interior a lot). But the exterior only throws up more odd infelicities the harder I look at it.
Some years ago in the same village I saw how the vehicle was a bit too tall and a bit too short. It was like seeing a good friend secretly take back a tip when they thought no-one was looking. They are diminished. And now I am drawn to the way Maggiora failed to copy across the perfectly good a-pillar solution on the door of the saloon and instead invented a poorer one of their own that was more third-year design student than maestro.
There is a crease on the boot that diverges from the crease above it that need not do so. The flare of the front wing makes the most indecisive of highlights. The angle of the main photo is the rare one that hides this. And lastly, there was a simple chrome trim design that Maggiore did not think of. Instead they added a three-sided frame that cut across shut-lines and emphasized height not width. I have offered my own simple sketch alternative.
I should also note that that Lancia used the lamps from the Delta not the Lancia Kappa saloon. This car had a perfectly handled full-width design which only needed some more embellishment to give it some extra panache.
What is the lesson to be drawn from this? I suppose it is to show how ones taste alters over the years. One sees more, understands more. And I am told that cognitive psychologists say the visual analytical capacities of younger people are measurably different from older folks. Apparently, as one ages one sees in a more unified way. It is a level of affection for Lancia and perhaps a fondness for the idea of the comfortable coupe that still prevents me from rejecting the Kappa outright.
I would never wear a suit with this level of inattention to detail. The car nonetheless stands a nice example of a long line of missed opportunities for Lancia. We will probably never know how Maggiora were permitted to manufacture a design as flawed as this but we may be thankful for the mistakes from which we may yet learn.
Here is what Wikipedia had to say about the coupe. I wrote most of this, by the way.
“The Coupé was designed by Centro Stile Lancia and built by Maggiora and technically quite different from the saloon, having a shorter wheelbase (by 120mm), wider rear track and a distinctive profile with frameless doors. The front, from bumper to the window screen, was identical to the other Kappas. It was Lancia’s first coupé since 1984, when the Beta and Gamma coupés were discontinued, and remains the last Lancia to feature this body style to this day.
The small building capacities at the Maggiora factory for this essentially hand-made car, and the relatively high price, destined it to be a rare vehicle. As a money saver the rear lights came from Delta. Only 3263 coupes were manufactured from April 1997 to March 2000, making this model a true rarity. Car magazine described the car as looking “top heavy, like a Bentley Continental that’s been heated up and squeezed at both ends.”
However, the car’s engine range was praised for matching the vehicle’s dynamics, the 2.4 litre five cylinder and the 3.0 Alfa-derived V6 coming closest to “infusing the K Coupe with the classy character its styling tries to suggest. It’s the spiky turbo four that asks the hardest questions of the chassis and the all-strut suspension doesn’t flounder. It shines. A viscous coupling helps the front wheels cope with the onslaught of the engine’s old school, big-bang turbo delivery, and it feels remarkably untroubled.”
About the refinement and ride, John Barker (of Car Magazine) reported that the occupants “are completely isolated from any vibration while the ride is smooth at moderate speeds, parrying bumps quietly and unobtrusively.” The interior was described as “appealing” and having “curvy, attractive door casings, plump supportive Recaro seats and choice plastics.” The 1997 price was estimated at £24,000.
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