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.
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?
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.
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:
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.)