Lancia Finally Comes Out On Top

Certain writers on this site spend a lot of time bemoaning the sad lot of Lancia, so it is remiss of the DTW News Desk in being so tardy in announcing the awarding of a major prize to a Lancia.


Admittedly it is 80 years too late, but the Pinin Farina (two words back then) bodied Astura that was awarded the Best Of Show at Pebble Beach in August looks a deserving winner, even if it is hard to see it as a conceptual ancestor of the Ypsilon.

1936 Lancia Astura Pinin Farina Cabriolet (photo: Richard Owen)
1936 Lancia Astura Pinin Farina Cabriolet (photo: Richard Owen)

A partial replacement for the fine Lambda, and built from 1931 to 1939, the Astura had a smooth, single overhead cam 19 degree V8. After the Lambda’s monocoque construction, the Astura disappoints slightly by having a conventional chassis, independent at the front, live axle elliptics at the rear, but that allowed it to be built with a wide variety of bodies in addition to the standard saloon. The Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 gets adulation but, glorious though it might be when clothed in elegant Touring coachwork, it remains a disguised racer and is not quite as clever as it seems. The Astura was designed primarily as a comfortable, fast road car in the Lancia tradition and, as the ever-reliable Motor Sport magazine said in their 1932 road test of the saloon “It is a well known fact that once a man has owned a Lancia, he becomes a lifelong devotee of the marque…..”. If only that were the case today.

Here are some more pictures and details.

For music lovers, apparently the pop musician, Mr Eric Clapton, once owned this car. Here is a picture of it, before Mr Clapton’s ownership, in 1962.

Image :
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5 thoughts on “Lancia Finally Comes Out On Top”

  1. Poor old Lancia. Poor old Lancia. Still outselling Alda Romeo though. These brands that develop a devoted following: that very same power to attract starts to repel the mainstream. If you try a strongly flavoured product in the mainstream you´re probably doomed. Lancia was fine with their idiosyncracy so long as they did not appeal to the mass market. As soon as they had to chase volume that which made them individual became a liability. You can see why Ford, Opel and Peugeot are so nervous about having a bit too much character in their cars. Ford have been quite brave on several occasions. Of the mainstream brands, can we say Peugeot managed to be the best but most conventional? The words of a reviewer from the 70s was that there was nothing to write about regarding Peugeot, they were so professional and neutral.

    1. Unlike Alfa, apart from the grand Astura, Lancia did make mass-produced cars before the War, fine things like the Ardea and Appia. They just never made enough of them, and they were too elaborate, to make enough money. Alfa Romeo however had to reposition itself after the War, to produce something a bit more egalitarian, which maybe caused them to be more pragmatic.

  2. Funny that- I think of the small Lancias as a sideline from the coach-built grand tourers.
    My generalisation still holds true though, the bigger the market you want to occupy the less room there is for idiosyncrasy.

  3. I recall Classic and Sportscar’s Mike Mc Carthy penning an article on this very car back in the distant 1980’s. It was still in Clapton’s ownership and finished in a very Lancia-specific shade of blue back then, so it has clearly been subject to some further restoration since it changed hands. I seem to recall reading that it had subsequently found its way into Pininfarina’s collection, which might explain the colour change – or maybe not. Either way, black flatters the lines.

    I was going to make some further observations regarding Lancia’s current situation, but really, what’s the point?

  4. Apparently it was discovered in the UK in 1962 in the condition shown in the picture. £15 later the owner had the remains and contacted Farina. It was the first ‘Bocca’ body he’d made (apparently very popular as state vehicles under Mussolini) so he restored it for free. It helped that the then owner was a friend of Ronald Barker. I think the current colour (after a 6 year restoration) is actually a very, very deep maroon.

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