This week, the Lancia Gamma receives the DTW Longer Read treatment.
It’s a question I’ve been asked on a number of occasions: Why the Gamma? Why devote well over ten thousand words to a car whose failure hastened Lancia’s headlong spiral towards infamy and oblivion. The answer is, like the Gamma’s story itself, somewhat convoluted.
The French have an elegant phrase; l’appel du vide, which roughly translates as the call of the void, which neatly encapsulates not only our ingrained fascination with disaster, but may also go some way to explaining the rationale behind the piece. Basically, for a writer, failures are more interesting subjects, containing as they do, hopes and shattered dreams, not to mention a sizeable share of drama, a quantum of which lies scattered like fallen leaves amidst the Gamma’s via dolorosa.
In truth however, I came to write about Lancia’s 1970s flagship as the result of what turned out to be an abortive commission. Searching for a subject that fitted the brief, I landed upon the Gamma as a car I knew little about, but which nevertheless exuded a dark allure.
As with most of these ventures, by the time I had carried out the necessary due diligence, my view of both it and its creators had shifted markedly and having initially approached it with some prejudice, I found myself, if not wholeheartedly defending Sergio Camuffo and his engineering team, at least attempting to tell their story in a manner which I felt, went slightly deeper than the usual shopworn retellings of automotive fables such as this.
Every road to perdition begins with sound intentions, after all, Lancia obviously didn’t set out to produce a flop. But what the Gamma abundantly illustrates is what can go wrong when two strong cultures are bound together but are failed by management. Because if anything holed the good ship Gamma below the waterline, it was politics.
Signs and Portents, now in its longer-read format can be viewed in full here.