The 1973 Beta Coupé was slightly underwhelming – and to be honest, its sales literature was as well.
A year after the berlina’s launch, Lancia announced the first of four sporting Beta derivations, the 2+2 Coupé. Designed in-house in conjunction with Pietro Castagnero, the man responsible for the much-loved Fulvia amongst other pre-Fiat Lancia designs. This is an early sales brochure and it is notable for a number of reasons – some of a pedantic nature, others of a more whimsical stripe.
The most striking aspect of the Beta brochure is the lack of narrative. Normally when manufacturers promote an aspirational model such as this they project a lifestyle; attractive models (of either gender) cavorting around yachts/gliders/light aircraft or involved in wholesome looking adventure sports. Yet here, we are presented with the car amidst forestry, open land and a number of suggested seascapes, but apart from a lone image where the driver is just about visible, Lancia appeared uninterested in suggesting who a Beta Coupé owner might resemble.
There is also a dearth of copy, although what is there is quadrilingual which does eat into the available space. Much is made of the car’s heritage, practicality, safety and interior space. Little however about more normative concerns like performance, handling or indeed power. At launch, the Beta Coupé was available with either a 16oo cc or 2.0 litre engine, mechanically related to that of the berlina. Clearly, Fulvia 3 owners wishing to trade up would either have to stump up the extra or await the introduction of a 1.3 litre model in 1976.
Images abound of seemingly hurriedly vacated Beta’s, doors left ajar in the haste for egress. Was there an unsavoury smell? It can’t have been the interior ambience or colour, which as represented here appears rather nice. Lancia claimed to hold the patent for the anatomic seat design, which look like a straight lift from a Fulvia 3. Despite the plenitude of gauges, the dash was a major letdown on preceding Lancia’s, but the Italians really couldn’t seem to get a decent handle on large plastic mouldings during this period and frankly the berlina’s dash wasn’t much to write home about either.
An anomaly which always bothered me when I perused this brochure as a youngster was the fact that the yellow example has open headlights and a full and quite elaborate grille arrangement, while the red example has the more simplified black grille with five horizontal bars at the base, which was fitted to most of the first and second-series models I came across and looked slightly unfinished to these eyes. The literature provides no enlightenment. Was it a matter of denoting engine size? If anyone knows please write in and put me out of my misery.
Just like its four-door sibling, the Beta Coupé straddled the upper end of the Fulvia market and the lower reaches of that of the 2000 Berlina and its derivatives. In 1974, the lovely Flavia-based 2000HF would still have been available, but in 2.0 litre form, the Beta offered a more modern, if not palpably better proposition – certainly not from a durability or build integrity point of view.
What surprised at the time and seems staggering now is that Fiat sanctioned not only this, but two additional bodies on a broadly similar theme, and that’s before we mention the mid-engined Pininfarina bodied Montecarlo model. Is it any wonder the Beta programme cost so much and gave so little in return?