Ashtrays: Lancia Thema 8.32

Driventowrite has bagged another rare ashtray: the Lancia Thema 8.32. Pretty damn fine it is, too.

Lancia Thema 8.32 interior

The kind people at Deane Motors, Dublin, permitted me the chance to experience the lush interior and the acoustic charm of this rarest of Lancias, the Ferrari-engined 8.32 for which I am rather grateful. One doesn’t get a chance to sit inside one of these all that often.

For starters Mk1 Themas don’t clog our streets; and the 8.32 in particular is a rarer bird still. Around 4ooo of them were made. Before going on to consider the car’s general merits let’s cut to the chase and look at the ashtray arrangement.

Since it’s the flagship of the Lancia range, we discover a walnut-trimmed flip-over lid. You press the lower edge and the lid retracts into the fascia. If you think about it this concept is both useful and incredibly counter-intuitive: you push to make the tray begin a rotational movement upwards and backwards.

The input motion – pushing – is precisely not what one would expect to do to encourage the lid to move in the direction opposed to the pushing. I can’t easily imagine how someone thought of that except by pure inspiration.

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The ashtray is nicely positioned in relation to the steering wheel and gear-lever. If you are in fifth the lever is well out of the way. It also seems to be a pretty commodious too, or at least adequate (in the Rolls-Royce sense) while not being exactly huge.

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In the back the ashtrays perch on the arm-rest. They are flip-up lids.  Regular readers will know the Thema’s successor had a single, central tray in the rear of the centre console. That’s not bad but I think that each passenger should have their own ashtray and not have to lean forward. The compromise is that the ashtray can’t be all that large.

So, yes, fine ashtrays.

In some cases in this series the ashtray is much the most interesting thing about the car. In this case, this is a long way from the case so I have to turn and look at the car with, shall we say, a much less narrowly focused lens.

The other insight related to the rear seats. It’s now becoming something of a pattern: Italian cars of this period and earlier tended to have snug, accommodating seats. Compared to my benchmark, my own Citroën XM, the Thema is even better. There’s nothing wrong with the XM – the rear seats offer superb lounging room and a good view out.

The Thema offers something more like a sports saloon approach. Maybe a Jaguar XJ does it the same way. It’s to do with the bucketing of the seat and the precise amount of bolstering. In front of your knees is enough room to feel unhemmed. It helps the Poltrona Frau leather is so buttery good.  There’s no doubt this would be a very good car for a cross-continental run.

That then is the interior of the Lancia Thema 8.32, a rather unusual and delightful mix of ingredients: sobriety, useful comfort and usable speed.

(I will be writing about more about Themas generally in July including more images of this exquisite car).

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

14 thoughts on “Ashtrays: Lancia Thema 8.32”

  1. Those “push to open, push to close” catches are commonplace in modernist furniture and, in particular, kitchen design because they negate the need for handles, allowing uninterrupted, sheer surfaces. They are, however, of questionable practicality. As Richard points out, they are counter-intuitive in use. Moreover, when faced with a sheer wall of high-gloss kitchen cupboards, one only has to look for the greasy finger marks to know where to push, rather spoiling the intention of the design. In the case of the Thema’s ashtray, the effect is achieved/spoilt by a naff “push” sticker. Thankfully it appears to be removable without damaging the wood surface.

    I assume that is real walnut in the Thema, not “plastique”. It looks even better with brown or tan leather:

  2. Towards the end of the Thema’s production run you could buy a turbo or (Alfa) V6 powered LX with the 8.32 interior. The V6 is even rarer than the 8.32, every bit as good and far less troublesome to own than the fragile V8 which needs a new cambelt every 20,000 kms at 2,500 EUR a pop.

    1. The 8.32 is living proof that if the Italians want to they can create wonderful interiors.
      It doesn’t all have to be creaky ill fitting cheap plastics – it can be creaky ill fitting expensive leather just as well.
      Here’s a V6 powered LX giving you the same interior for a lot less trouble:

  3. “…a lot less trouble” are not words you normally associate with any Lancia! You’re right, if course, Dave.

    I took a look at Deane Motors’ website. They have a lovely W115 in Duck Egg Blue. If it’s good as it looks, is it a bargain at €14k for a now quite rare RHD car? Here it is:

    They also have a nice w124, but I couldn’t live with that interior colour:

    1. I’m not easily intimidated by anything with wheels and an engine, particularly not if it’s frm Italy.
      But the 8.32 is simply too much with no or very little apparent benefit.
      Running that car needs pockets as deep as the average Ferrari driver’s with several thousand Euros per year for maintenance and yet you don’t get that much more than in an Arese-engined LX. The 8.32’s engine isn’t even particularly Ferrari-like with its cross plane crank (to reduce vibrations) and you it’s very difficult to get spare parts because nearly no part of the engine was taken from the 308 engine unchanged.
      The 8.32 is a wonderful example of Italian madness just like the Stratos and without doubt it’s a classic in the making with a strong follower base but as a car it’s just over the top.
      If it has to be a Thema I’d take one with the Alfa engine which easily has enough character and if I wanted an Italian executive express with leather everywhere I’d take a late model Alfa 166 Exclusive or Collezione with Poltrona Frau leather on its dashboard and door cards as well.

    2. I love the green cloth interior in that Mercedes. Horses for courses.

      Back to the 8.32, I remember that contemporary road tests criticised the epic levels of understeer produced when trying to deploy power through the front wheels.

      All in all, a flawed car, but no doubt highly collectible.

  4. Out of curiosity, I went to to assess Thema prices. Firm is the state. Prices start at 1500 euros and quickly ascend. I did not expect this.

    1. Beware of cheap Themae with skipped maintenance and lots of rot in their bodywork.
      Maintaining a Thema is not cheap and nowadays spare parts availability is a serious problem for body as well as mechanical parts.
      Good and fast Themae (turbo four, Alfa V6) with good equipment levels (LX) fetch five digit prices.

  5. Lancia would not have the cheap GM materials, but as soon as I saw the interior of the Thema I was reminded of 70’s era Pontiacs.

    1. No need to look for American plastric wood when there’s plenty of Italian real stuff.
      Fiat Dino coupé

      Fiat 124 spider:

      Lancia Fulvia Zagato:

    2. I’m sure Pontiac was copying from the Italian designs of the time. I was just struck by the resemblance, not just the general dash layout and look, but even the door arm rest, seat upholstery pattern, steering wheel “triangle” center …etc.

  6. Impossible to argue with Dave, this car would be a nightmare to own. A magnificently crazy way to ruin oneself, though. I happened to hear it for myself today (it has to be same one, there can’t be two in this country), and there’s something gloriously incongruous about a sober saloon with that engine note…

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