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