Photos For Sunday: Lancia Thema 8.32

We’ve probably said as much as about this car as can be said, short of taking it for a lengthy celebratory test drive. The only new experience to be registered today is about how the car sounds.

Lancia Thema 8.32

Sitting in the car and, now reflecting on the vehicle in hindsight, it sinks home that the effect of putting a Ferrari engine in a Lancia is to make a car much more interesting than anything Ferrari itself has done since, with maybe the exception of the 1992 Ferrari 456 GT.

How can we understand this car? Do we understand the meaning of this car? If it helps to understand the remarkable nature of the Thema 8.32 maybe imagine an Opel Insignia with a Porsche engine. Even that is not quite an analogue because the Insignia, nice as it is, doesn’t mean the same thing as the standard Lancia does.

I can’t think of a good modern analogue for this. Alfa’s Giulia already has a kind of Ferrari engine in it. Would it perhaps make sense to imagine a Ford Vignale (Mondeo-body) with an Aston Martin engine? That is the best I can come up with for today. The Vignale is already a rather plush device which corresponds to the top-range Thema; the Aston engine is as exclusive an engine as you can get without heading off into Zonda/McLaren territory.

Which makes me think to ask, could you put a McLaren engine into a Ford Vignale?

Illustrating a brilliant article
Lancia Thema 8.32

Back to the Thema. From a mechanical point of view here is one of the most understated car bodies of the 80s with an eight cylinder, 32-valve motor, one Car (Nov. 1987) described as one which “felt immense”. It’s not the outright speed (high enough) that is the point, but the torque, 215 lb ft at 4500 rpm but the point is that 80% of it is delivered at 2500 rpm. That makes the car very much in line with Lancia’s alpine character. I like to think that the car is a direct successor to the Trevi Volumex whose supercharged engine was all about torque too.

Lancia Thema 8.32

The engine sounds delightful too: turn the key and savour the dry, deep roar which is almost incongruous given the low-key nature of its housing. I do love the understatement, a lower-case q-car. More or less nobody will notice the car thanks to its neatly-tailored and very conservative bodywork. The contrast between the flamboyance of the Ferrari engines (and the associations with cars that more often than shout a bit) and the quietness of the Lancia image makes for a very cerebral kind of enjoyment.

For the sake of comparison, the V6 looked like this:

1986 Lancia Thema

On a side note, I went hunting for Lancia Prismas on Autoscout. For a very long time this car has been like the dust at the bottom of a bag of Cornflakes, the perpetually not-more-than-2000-euros sort of car. I now notice that there examples running for 6ooo thousand euros which is remarkable given how unremarkable the Prisma was, not a patch on the Trevi/Beta.

Has anyone else noticed this firming up of the 30+ years car market? My XM is 29 year old this year. Next year I expect values to skyrocket. Is this increasing value of older cars something to do with demand beginning to outstrip supply and an increase in demand?

(Thanks again to Deane Motors, Dublin for letting me inside the car.)

Author: richard herriott

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

8 thoughts on “Photos For Sunday: Lancia Thema 8.32”

  1. Good morning, Richard. There is a more modern expression of the thinking behind the Thema 8.32, the 2003 Rover 75 V8 and MG ZT260 siblings. Admittedly, the US Ford V8 doesn’t have the pedigree of the Ferrari engine, but the transformation was even more radical in that it required a switch to RWD. Was it worthwhile? Autocar was rather ambivalent about the Rover, but the Prodrive tweaked MG was, reportedly, a great Q car. That said, the MGR pairing were almost as much a niche product as the MG SV and, ultimately, a pointless distraction for a company that had much more pressing matters to address.

  2. Lancia had a big advantage here because the engine was designed to fit into a car transversely. That would be very rare in a sports car engine of today.
    There was an Audi S8 with a ten cylinder engine that later found its way into the Lamborghini Gallardo. That’s similar but the wrong way round.

    Here’s a video of the very same car pictured here:

    The engine sounds wrong for an Italian car. It sounds like what it is, an American style (cross plane crank, uneven firing order) V8 of unusually small capacity running at unusually high revs for this kind of engine.
    Here’s what the same engine sounds like in Italian configuration (flat plane crank, even firing order):

    1. What, are we now blaming America for coming up with civilized V8 engines in the 1920s ? The crossplane V8 engine is NOT uneven firing at all – it has a power stroke every 90 degrees, and the configuration allows piston and conrod mechanical weight to be counterbalanced on the crank. It’s not a buzzy flatplane crank which does allow alternate right and left bank power strokes, but sacrifices smoothness on the altar of ultimate power and revs. Fine for specialty sports cars and Grand Prix engines, pretty much useless for everyone else. If by “uneven” firing on a crossplane V8 you merely mean the configuration doesn’t allow alternate right and left bank power strokes, then your nomenclature is incorrect.

      Name me an Italian V8 road car EXCEPT Ferrari that uses or has used a flatplane crank. Maseratis never have. Alfas haven’t either. Nor Lancia. The only magic for the flatplane crank for everyday use is exhaust note and PR blather. Plus much cheaper manufacture of course.

      For those seduced beyond reason by flatplane cranks and to make an extra buck on myths and legends, Ford makes a 5.2 litre engine for Mustangs at far less than usurious Ferrari prices. It’s normally aspirated and revs to 8250 rpm. It also has a different crank setup, with alternate 180 degree throws instead of the two centre throws lying side by side. Not relying on the crutch of turbocharging, it’s a screamer to hear all right. No Ford V8 rumble, which always sounded different from everyone else by dint of Henry’s favourite firing order anyway.

    2. Thank you Bill for your comment and informative link. Despite the implication that the Ford Voodoo engine appropriates a European design philosophy, it appears resolutely and uniquely American. In addition to the alternating 180° throws, another difference between the Voodoo and the European exotics is the presence of large counterweights at both ends of the crank. Also the Voodoo uses a durable timing chain, not a fragile belt.

      And How does it sound?

      I’ll say “robust”, if not as musical as a typical Ferrari, and way less fizzy than the 8.32.

  3. This Lancia is on expired German export only number plates valid till the date indicated in the red section.

  4. A thought-provoking post. I guess getting Lotus to tweak a Mondeo or Insignia is out of the question (an Adam or a Ka, when they were in production, would have been fun). Cosworth are still going – I wonder if Ford still have links to them. Brabham?

  5. Nice to see some Thema photos! I’m still very fond of this car, and it’s one of those I frequently look up on used car portals (without any serious intention to buy one, actually). Interestingly, about 80% of the vehicles for sale in Switzerland are always of the 8.32 variety. Probably they were considered worth keeping, unlike the rest of the line-up.

    1. The 8.32 preservation rate is probably up there with Porsche and Ferrari. Ordinary Themas are probably running at the average of cars of that price and class.

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