Academic Revolution

A totally new kind of Lancia.

Image: Klassik-Auto

From a six-decade perspective, it is difficult to gain a sense of where the carmaking firm of Automobili Lancia & Compagni was once positioned in the marketplace, or indeed an accurate breakdown of a typical Lancia owner. Hailing from the fringes of nobility to the more recent emerging middle classes, they tended to be affluent, cultured individuals who prized the finer things, but were not inclined to make a statement of it. Despite appreciating tradition and craftsmanship, they were not averse to bracing modernity either. But more to the point, they were prepared to pay a premium for an exclusive car built to a high standard of engineering rigour and build integrity.

Technically sophisticated, stylistically advanced, yet compact and discrete, the 1960 Flavia would embody Lancia’s direction for the coming decade. It was a model line which took the carmaker into potentially the most lucrative section of the market, where the bulk of the action would take place as the Sixties unfolded. Intended to transform Lancia’s fortunes, it proved to be only a limited success.

Dr. Antonio Fessia[1] was hired by Lancia as an engineering consultant in 1955, following technical director Vittorio Jano’s departure for Maranello. A gifted theoretician, Fessia had been inculcated under Gaudenzio Bono at FIAT, but gained a reputation for dogmatism and intransigence.[2] Technically speaking, Jano was a classicist, whereas Fessia was a revolutionary, wedded to the concept of front wheel drive, and having been the lynchpin for the advanced CEMSA F11 project in 1947, he clearly saw his position at Lancia as a springboard, not only to further his muse, but also to reimagine the storied carmaker’s range along broadly similar lines.

Schemed as Lancia’s mainstream model[3], the Flavia was not intended as a replacement for any contemporary model, nor to compete with anything then available within the Italian market; certainly, not Fiat, whose offerings were a good deal cheaper[4], nor Alfa Romeo, who at the time had nothing directly comparable. Perhaps closest in concept would be BMW’s New Class 1500 introduced the following year.

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The first Italian front-wheel drive production car, the Flavia was a statement in modernism, sharing no componentry, nor indeed much by way of orthodoxy with any previous Lancia. The oversquare OHV 1488 cc all-aluminium flat-four with a single camshaft for each bank was mounted longitudinally; both engine and gearbox bolted to a substantial steel subframe, attached to the body with six flexible rubber mountings, the power unit cantilevered over the front axle line.

Also attached to the front subframe were double wishbones and a stout transverse leaf spring, while an anti-roll bar kept everything in check. At the rear, a rigid axle employing an anti-roll bar and Panhard rod was fitted, located on longitudinal half-elliptic leaf springs. De Carbon telescopic dampers were fitted all round as were powerful Dunlop disc brakes – the latter another Italian production first.

But while the technical specification might have sounded a reactionary note in places, it all worked remarkably well, and there can be little doubt that while Fessia might have adopted a more advanced suspension layout had he not be constrained by cost considerations,[5] his engineers were quite adept at using what seemed to be prosaic componentry in quite inspired ways.

Image: automobile-catalogue

Clothing all this was a medium sized formal saloon body, designed in-house under longstanding Lancia designer, Piero Castagnero, designer of the first two Appia series and later the Fulvia. It has been suggested that Pininfarina had a hand in the design, and certainly one can discern an influence in the shaping of the canopy and aspects of the nose treatment.

The Flavia body was by 1960 standards, quite modern in appearance, shorn of the stylistic excesses of the previous decade, with an almost austere formality to its sheer-sided flanks; the only stylistic flourishes being the downward sloping swage line which ran from the tail, fading out over the rear wheelarch, and the assertive front end with its recessed grille and quadruple paired headlamps. Perhaps the most dated aspect of the design was its canopy, particularly the almost vertically raked windscreen.

The Flavia’s unconventional line was underlined by its uncompromising proportions, dictated to a large extent by the technical package. Dominated by a broad wheelbase, the combination of upright centre section, elongated front overhang, and odd nose-down stance, lent it a slightly awkward mien. Certainly at its November 1960 Turin Autosalon debut, it is said that some found its visual dissonance off-putting.

Image: wheelsage

Inside however, while the cabin was not only commodious (owing to the long wheelbase and unobstructed floor), the style of fittings were of a distinctly modernist appearance. Most striking was the curved floating console mounted to the lower left of the instrument binnacle containing minor switchgear (a proto-Lanule perhaps?) Overall, it was an orderly if stark affair, but in Lancia fashion, well finished and wrought from fine materials.

Appearances aside, the Flavia drove beautifully, with excellently judged steering, sound handling, a superbly modulated ride and a high level of mechanical refinement being stand-out qualities, alongside excellent build and finish. It was also sufficiently compact and narrow to navigate Italy’s byzantine medieval streets. Very much an engineer’s car, its appeal revealed itself over lengthy acquaintance rather than instant gratification. So much for rationality – Lancia’s discrete image also ensured the Flavia enjoyed a very well-heeled clientele.[6]

In 1962 a handsome and popular Pininfarina designed and built 2+2 coupé was introduced, as was a four-seater convertible, designed by Giovanni Michelotti and built by Vignale, which was made in small numbers until 1967. Also first shown that year was the more outré Zagato Sport model. The following year a larger capacity 1.8 litre (92 bhp) version was offered and in 1965, Kugelfischer mechanical fuel injection became an option for the 1.8, boosting power further by 10bhp.

Over seven years, the first series Flavia proved to be the most commercially successful, with around 28,000 leaving the Chivasso plant in Turin. While later versions were stylistically more resolved and technically further developed, the Flavia’s competition was a good deal stronger towards the latter end of the ‘Sixties.

In total, around 96,500 Flavias were built over 14 years in three distinct series. Not a bad figure by Lancia standards, yet the Flavia proved unable to provide Lancia with a sufficiently robust bottom line to underpin either the company’s prosperity or fund a successor.[7] The reasons for this however are probably as indistinct as Lancia’s position in the marketplace.

Image: favcars

However, one reading could lie amid the societal changes that took place in Europe, where class and position lost its previous significance. By the close of the Sixties, it is possible that the Flavia, fine car that it was, had become viewed as just another mid-sized offering up against other, less expensive, more modern looking (if not necessarily better engineered) rivals. As its traditional customer base faded away, Lancia failed to move with the times.[8]

By the time the third series arrived in 1971, it was perhaps already something of an anachronism. It could be suggested that the carmaking firm of Automobili Lancia & Compagni died with it in 1974, but in truth Lancia died many times over.

In a forthcoming article, we’ll examine whether this was the correct course for the Flavia, and draw some comparisons with a fellow traveller.

[1] Dr. Fessia was also a professor of automotive engineering at Turin Polytechnic, one of his better known students being Leonardo Fioravanti, later senior engineer and designer at Pininfarina.

[2] In his memoir, former FIAT engineering chief, Dante Giacosa, while praising his technical skill, described Fessia’s personality in less than complimentary terms.

[3] The Flaminia model was largely a Vittorio Jano design and was therefore very much a secondary consideration for Fessia.

[4] It has been suggested that Carlo Presenti, following his acquisition of Lancia gained an audience with Fiat Auto’s Vittorio Valetta, where the two men agreed a non-compete pact. Valetta allegedly reneged upon this, Presenti later stating that he would never have invested in the Chivasso plant, had he known that Fiat would not honour its agreement.

[5] Fessia was also developing the Fulvia model which would have to share a good deal of componentry, while still being a cheaper car.

[6] One notable Flavia berlina owner was said to have been a certain former Grace Kelly

[7] The Flavia may not have funded the Gamma, but it certainly inspired it.

[8] One has to wonder what the good professore was doing for much of the decade, prior to his illness and death in 1968. He certainly left no vision for the next generation of cars from Borgo san Paolo.

 

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

36 thoughts on “Academic Revolution”

  1. Lancia’s market position was such that the founder of a new manufacturer in Modena ordered that his cars should use as many Lancia parts as possible for their ‘user interface’ for a more upmarket impression.

    The Flavia recycled some of Dottore Fessia’s ideas that had already prevented CEMSA from putting the F11 into production. The front suspension not only had a subframe, the double wishbones were mounted to voluminous cast aluminium carriers that in turn were mounted to the subframe. A solution very expensive to make (and one of the reasons the F11 never became reality) and with no apparent benefit.
    The Flavia also was made from very heavy material which in turn made it slow. Lack of power is a deadly sin for an Italian car and was a Flavia characteristic for all of its life including the late 2000 models. This lack of power later was the reason for the Fulvia’s -that otherwise was closely related in its technical base- new engine, a flat four with less capacity made the car so slow that it would have had no success in the market.
    The Flavia was expensive to make with nearly no profit, its looks were an acquired taste and it was slow- surely not a recipe for success.

  2. These cars and this period and this place capture my imagination. Would it be possibe to compare Lancia with Jaguar, even if Jaguars were a bit more flamboyant? They made upper middle market cars with fine suspensions and their model cycles were on the slow side (but this 7 year model cycle was meant for the mass market!).
    If I ever felt like wasting serious money I´d get a 1960s Lancia and have it dismantled, zinc coated and rebuilt with a reliable set of electrics. And I´d do the same for a CX.
    The next time I´m back in Ireland I shall endeavour to contact the Lancia club and have a close look at a Flavia.

    1. Yes, Lancia and Jaguar can be compared. There are the reasons you stated and also some things mentioned by Eóin.

      First, “from the fringes of nobility to the more recent emerging middle classes, they tended to be affluent, cultured individuals who prized the finer things, but were not inclined to make a statement of it”. I think that, aside from the obvious differences between British and Italian societies, Lancia and Jaguar customers in the 1950s and 1960s shared a profile. Also, Willian Lyons and the Lancia family did not come from nobility but had them in mind as customers.

      Second, “Very much an engineer’s car, its appeal revealed itself over lengthy acquaintance rather than instant gratification”. Again, Lancias and Jaguars are mainly engineer’s cars, aren’t they?

      Anyway, Lancia and Jaguar are my two favourite brands, so I’m obviously biased towards finding similarities between them, haha.

    2. Another irony is that Chrysler (marque and division) enjoyed a similar market position in the ’50s (alongside Buick and Oldsmobile) although it was about to begin its’ first foray downmarket with the 1961 Newport whose “every Chrysler is a big Chrysler- no jr. editions” ad campaign added a reactionary note.

  3. Good morning Eóin. I was somewhat surprised when I first looked at the images in your interesting piece, as the car I recalled as the Flavia was actually the Series II model:

    I’ve always regarded this as the definitive late but pre-Fiat Lancia, with its handsome but understated looks and somewhat unusual proportions.

    The Series I model is really intriguing, however. The front end is conventional enough, although the unusual headlamp treatment suggests that there might have been plans instead for single round (or oval) units rather than the twin headlamps used.

    The flanks are notably smooth and unadorned, but then you suddenly encounter that very disruptive slash running around the rear of the car, forming a heavy ‘eyebrow’ over the tail. It really is a dissonant detail. Was the designer concerned that the styling was too bland and this was an attempt to add ‘character’. It would be fascinating to understand his intent.

    1. Well, for me, the Flavia joins the short list of cars where the appearance was improved by a facelift (DtW passism).

      The original is ungainly in my eyes. The coupe somehow wears that unfortunate four-lamp face better.

  4. I still remember a few years ago when The Wife and I went to a classic car meeting here in the area. We brought the Alfasud Sprint with us so that the locals could see something exotic and not just what the middle classes usually bring along.
    We strolled through the village, past the usual tin. There was a Flavia Zagato at the edge. Beautifully restored in dark blue, to kneel down on.
    As we looked at the car, oblivious to the hustle and bustle around us, The Woman said to me, “I think I’ve just fallen in love.” You can’t pay a vehicle a nicer compliment.

    An acquaintance is in the process of restoring a silver Flavia Zagato. Hopefully, there will be an opportunity to drive this car when the housing prison period is over.

  5. Thanks for writing this Eoin, Lancia reading is Monday morning happiness!
    Did the Flavia’s 60’s tailoring really hold it back? I suspect not. By the 70’s many of it’s obvious and less obvious rivals were wearing the last decade’s suits: Alfa 105, Rover P6, Triumph Dolomite and 2000 (The Flavia is a little between sizes Triumph wise, yes?), or if you want to be declasse various FIATS, Autobianchi A111, SIMCA 1500 and the Humber Sceptre/ Hillman Hunter. A thoughtful erudite driver like our Lancia man would have investigated the less obvious alternatives before confirming the rightnesd of his decision and opting for the Lancia, surely? Most of these clung on longer than the Lancia.

    A bigger threat would have been the growing strength of certain rivals. A motorist with the money to buy a more obvious “Premium” marque opting for the rational engineering lead alternative; isn’t this a SAAB buyer in waiting? Woodlouse shaped 96’s probably wouldn’t have tempted him but the SAAB 99, here would be a real threat. Fast forward a decade and a half and even if buils quality hadn’t crashed out under FIAT’s stewardship the Mercedes 190 comes scooting over the horizon. Here surely is a Germanic midsize Lancia and I don’t see “Son of Flavia” been able to compete irrespective of it’s platform, just like the SD1 and Alfetta couldn’t compete.

    1. Hope that makes sense, spelling has gone right off today, Lancia man wouldn’t have been so “Fat fingered”!

  6. Spot on, Richard. As for Jaguars, no they weren’t engineers’ cars; they appealed to a different buyer more interested in image than what went on in the oily bits. Undoubtedly well-engineered though they were, Jags were for spivs and gangsters; engineers would have placed Lancia alongside Riley, Alvis, Lea Francis – even Jowett. Note, though, that I use past tense when referring to Jaguar – real Jaguars date from before the days of British Leyland…

    1. JTC: I cannot allow that last sentence pass without comment. The BL era might have been a pretty depressing time at Browns Lane (and it undoubtedly was), but the cars that emerged from the factory gates were without exception, every inch a Jaguar. The rot set in (in product rationalisation terms) during the mid ’90s.

      Daniel: As regards the Flavia’s stylistic evolution, I intend to cover this in a forthcoming piece.

      May I also extend my apologies to any Lancistos who have stopped by and are wondering why we are debating Jaguar when there is a Flavia to be considered. All I can do is apologise and point an accusatory finger at that Herriott character. He never lets it lie…

    2. I think the comparison is not so far-fetched.
      Both products appealed (roughly) to the same target group, you have to look at it in a temporal – and above all – local context.

      Lancia was an Italian brand primarily for the Italian market (even if they found one or two buyers outside Italy).
      And they were upper class vehicles for the upper class.
      You can still see it clearly in old documentaries and feature films. Up until the 1980s, the people in power drove Lancia cars.
      In this respect, a comparison of luxury car X in country Y with Lancia in Italy is quite justified.

      The view from north of the Alps of the lack of large displacements somewhat clouds the picture. I don’t think we have any idea how prohibitive the tax surcharges for engines over 2000 cc were in Italy until the 70s.

      I also think the local context explains why Lancia – especially with the Flavia – never reached the unit numbers of other companies in other countries. The choice of a car as an expression of social status was not common in Italy until the 90s. A judge, mayor, engineer, even an entrepreneur with a small car or a lower middle class car was not the exception, but rather the rule.

      The design of the Flavia, which can be described as quirky and conservative, can be understood if one also considers it in a temporal and local context.
      Those who stayed in Italian luxury hotels in the 1960s – and until the late 1980s – may remember how differently luxury – i.e. upper class – was presented there compared to other countries north of the Alps.

      In this respect, I think a comparison with brand X from country Y is quite justified, even if not necessary. Since the end of the 1980s, with the beginning of globalisation in trade and cultural exchange, we have lost more and more local colour, for many reasons.
      With the disappearance of local colour, a product like the Flavia also disappeared, a product that could only be created in this form at this time and in this place.

      Because I miss this time and the disappearing local colour – I’m an old fart – I also don´t resent the Flavia’s strange wrinkle at the rear – call it meekly through old age.

    3. “Those who stayed in Italian luxury hotels in the 1960s – and until the late 1980s – may remember how differently luxury – i.e. upper class – was presented there compared to other countries north of the Alps. ” I am interested to hear a bit about this. If I may say, German hotels are also quite good at striking the right note. Your recollections of the Italian version are of interest to me.
      I have a number of visions of what would constitute an acceptable way spend the afterlife. One is a perpetual 0850 on an Itlian terrace with the day´s paper and a Wuhrmann cigar; another one is to wake up every day in a new European hotel, or possibly any Austrian/Alpine hotel lounge at about 2100 hrs with a cocktail and a cigar.

    4. Fred’s point is a very good one.
      At that time Fiat owned the Italian market and the majority of cars they made had 600 or 1,100cc. When Alfa presented the Giulia that only really took off sales-wise when they introduced the 1,300cc version which accounted for more than ninety percent of Giulia production. A Fiat millecento was considered an upmarket at that time. Under these circumstances a 1,500cc car like the Flavia was positioned at the upper edge of the market anyway and it stayed there when it grew to 1,800 and 2,000cc. The 1,100cc Fulvia wasn’t created without reason and it also took pretty long time to grow to 1,300cc (please ignore the handful of larger HFs).
      By the way, Italy not only had a prohibitive tax barrier for cars over 2,000cc, you also weren’t allowed to drive such a car when you were less than 21 or more than 70 years old. All those turbocharged two litres like 208, Urraco, Merak or Alfa didn’t exist without reason. Even Mr. Ferrari had to make do with a Tipo sedicivalvole.

  7. Great article and commentary; the MB 190 comparison would never have occurred to me but is fascinating.

    I think my favourite Flavia is the run-out 2000 version (coupé, ideally) so this does seem to be a rare example of a car that kept getting nicer through evolutionary development and facelifts.

    Having one restored to rust-proof and reliable daily driver condition is an idea I need to stop thinking about right now…

  8. Eóin, thanks for the nice text. It’s sad to see that Lancia was then catering to a market that no longer exists today.

    Some weeks ago I was browsing through autoscout24 and sought for a Flavia 2000. I don’t expect the cost of ownership of such a great car to be sensible when compared to, say, a early-70s Benz or a Volvo 240, but the will to become a Lancia owner (even if it is a diesel Thesis) does not go away.

    And of course this article (or its follow-up) must have this clip:

    1. Oh, please, remind me. The year after this film, the vehicle was offered for sale. I was on the verge, but the-best-wife-of-all gave me that look. I’m still annoyed today…

  9. I fell in love with the Pininfarina Coupe in the 60s, but even as a schoolboy I realised that the price was prohibitive – this was before Britain joined the common market of course.
    The original saloon was just ungainly – the sort of thing Issigonis might have drawn…

  10. Styling wise much prefer the Flavia Series II saloon along with the 2000 saloon and 2000 coupe models over the Series I.

    With the comparisons to the likes of the BMW New Class and others, would the Flavia’s fortunes have been any better had it featured the Series II styling and an OHC development of the Flat-4 engine (albeit thoroughly developed compared to what powered the Gamma – assuming such ideas were not already considered during the Flavia project)?

    1. Bob: is there any pattern to the engine development in the 1960s? I know they got larger but what else was happening in systematic terms? Was it technological innovation or incremental refinements? Or both?

    2. Honestly do not know, others much more knowledgeable would be able to answer that question. Brought up the idea of an early OHC development for the Flavia OHV engine because it would have both drawn further comparisons with the BMW New Class as well as provided the Flavia with more pace.

      It is surprising the Flavia OHV engine was initially conceived as a 1500 rather than a 1300 though even the 1500 was viewed as underpowered, OTOH the Fulvia V4 was a DOHC design which makes one think whether Lancia missed an opportunity to develop the Flavia engine as a SOHC or DOHC. The same goes with an SOHC or DOHC update of the Lancia V6 OHV (which was apparently one option considered at Lancia under Fiat during the development of what became the Gamma).

    3. Bob: your modesty is impressive. I´d be very happy to read a thematic story of engine development in the post-war period. I have some basic questions about what the fundamental problems were and how they were solved. I suppose the aim is as much reliable power as possible from a given gallon of petrol plus some matters of cost and refinement. But since my technical knowledge can be written down on the back of an envelope, I have no idea which bits of the engine were key in these areas. I tend to wonder about refinement (Fords seem to be kicked for this) and also the matter of power outputs. Apart from tax ratings, why is it so many engines started as, say, X000 cc and then get upped in 200 cc/300 cc increments a few years later? Why not launch them in the biggest capacity possible as well as the lower cc variants? I´ve no idea. Someone does.
      Refinement? What´s the controlling factor there?

  11. Very interesting article – thank you. Here’s a contemporary road test for those who wish to see how it was viewed at the time. It was seen as being very well made, and quiet and refined, but a bit slow in top gear.

    It would have been a very exclusive car – its price in 1961, in the UK, was £2,200 – the equivalent of £50k, now.

    https://www.flickriver.com/photos/triggerscarstuff/tags/flavia/

  12. I have been intrigued by the Flavia for a long time now, scouting specimens on the sales websites now and then, the Series II Berlina and the Coupé being on my (mostly imaginary) shopping list.

    Just a few weeks ago, I finally managed to test drive a 62 Coupé. It is remarkable how spot on the reputation of these cars is! To me, the Pininfarina lines are extremely
    elegant, while keeping enough visual challenge with the (to my eyes) rather special nose and rear treatment. The car I drove felt very solid, comfortable and well built, to an extent I only know from classic Mercedes. An Italian W108, that was my perception. Very sophisticated overall and – to me – a very appealing proposition. However, it was (a 92hp „milleotto“, no less) really really slow. Virtually no low-end torque to speak of, paired with an engine clatter similar to a VW Beetle.

    That makes the car a pass for me. And I believe it was the same in the 1960s. The parallel you draw to the Neue Klasse is interesting. The BMW was and still is seen as „the right car at the right time“. Had the Flavia had a different engine and Lancia the resources to actually sell it abroad (I read that up until the FIAT take over, a sales network outside of Italy was virtually non existent), things might have worked out differently for the brand?

  13. Must say, I am gradually being pulled into the old Lancia orbit by the concerted efforts of the DTW staff. About six months ago, I downloaded a history of Lancia, a rather nice production. But it rather faded out for 1960 and newer cars. Who knows, perhaps the author wasn’t impressed with the ditching of the sliding pillar front suspension, the independent rear and elegant looks of the Aurelia BGT and regarded the Flavia as the beginning of the end.

    So these pics from original brochures on the Flavia layout intrigued me. I eventually discovered, not being a dab hand at Polish and with my sister-in-law three thousand miles away out west in Canada, that your picture credit for Autoklassik is incorrect, it’s KlassikAuto.pl.

    Then it began to dawn on me. The 60 degree V6 was a Lancia original, and so was this Flavia layout. Front overhung longitudinally-oriented water-cooled flat-four, well, Jowett had done that previously but I really cannot get excited about that underdeveloped Jupiter engine and the fact that positioning it so on a rear wheel drive car reduces tractive grip compared to normal placement. No, what Lancia had done with its nice brochures was to unwittingly give rise to the Subaru dynasty. Front-wheel drive with the overhung flat-four, exact same layout. Later in 1970 easily adaptable to hang on a rear driveshaft and rear wheel drive to make a comfy heated 4WD car for deprived electric utility workers running around the deep Japanese countryside in drafty ancient jeepish vehicles in the depths of winter. And a decade before Audi invented the quattro system based on the Iltis.

    What little there is out there on Subaru history, including Wikipedia on its engines, seems rather a triumph of misdirection over likely fact. They were going to make an air-cooled flat-four, looked at VW, Porsche and Corvair engines, supposedly. The sweat dripped off their brows as they deeply discussed pros and cons, how front-mounted air cooled engines were easier to cool being out in the breeze, and front-wheel drive was great, but darn it, putting that air-cooled lump up front made it noisy for passengers. No doubt they’d had a good dekko at the 1950s Panhard already, but no mention is made of that anywhere, and Renaults and Vdubs instead feature as the in-depth studies by serious Fuji Heavy Industries engineers in the “official” narrative, such as it is.

    So the solution was handed them on a plate. The Flavia big-bore short-stroke water-cooled flat-four, the transmission and driveshaft layout with full CVJ axle articulation, all alloy construction Subaru was at pains to point out was 14 times more expensive than cast iron at the time, and look here, TWO camshafts, one for each bank to reduce pushrod length! That one-upped the Jowett. Sold!

    One will remember that Nissan was busily making higher quality RWD Austins at the time. Toyota’s big six cylinder for the Landcruiser was an exact copy of the Chevrolet Stovebolt six, such that Chevy parts fitted and still do to this day. So if you’re going to ape another design, why not go for the gusto instead of the humdrum? Who wanted a new 1955 leaf-sprung lever damper Austin A55 a decade later? Just never breath a word, natter on about irrelevancies, and maybe nobody will notice, is my theory of Subaru behaviour in the matter.

    The Subaru 1000 introduced in 1965 for the 1966 model year was a smaller car than the Flavia. But it had two camshafts, gear driven at the rear of the engine, rather than Lancia’s two chain-driven front ones, new design NTN inner plunge joints for the front drive axles, rack and pinion steering – take that Lancia! — but inboard drum brakes. No discs here. Adding their dose of original Subaru weirdness though, the front suspension was double-wishbone with torsion bars. But wait! Why extend the torsion bars rearward to anchor points like everyone else since the dawn of time? No, Subaru instead forward mounted the torsion bar ends just behind the front bumper. Cunning. And to one-up everyone else, independent rear suspension was by a trailing arm each side with transverse torsion bars but with equal length wheelbase both sides. No Renault R4/R16 sleight-of-hand kludges for them!

    Nobody took a blind bit of notice of the Subaru 1000 at first, of course. A nonentity of a brand at the time and no manufacturing capability to churn out thousands anyway. The design was rationalized, the engine and car size increased gradually. The definitive Leone first emerged in 1970. Still, 60 years later, your average Subie is really the spiritual successor of that first 1961 Flavia in technical terms, if not anywhere close in coachwork or fitments quality or that fabulous cast alloy front overhead subframe.

    I’ve convinced myself that this is how Subaru came to their signature configuration. If I’m incorrect, well, then all I can say is — repeating that old saying — great minds think alike!

    1. Very interesting post, Bill. Yes, I suppose Subaru retains a bit of the Lancia eccentricity. It´s a pity they insist on every one of their cars being such a strange mix of the banal and not-very-appealing. There was a time when I was very much paying attention to Subaru and I realise it´s been a decade since they did anything much of interest on this side of the water. And why bother? The EU market is terrifically consistent in its pearls-before-swine attitude to interesting products. Their UK range has one relic of the saloon era, the Outback, which is a raised-height estate spun off a saloon and both saloon and estate are gone. The rest of the range is big lumps on stilts. No Justy, I wail. Not even a Focus-type thing.
      Your post also makes me regret Lancia´s absorption into Fiat where they expunged all that creativity. Has any take-over by successful company A of failing company B involved B´s technology becoming dominant? There must be but I am too frazzled by home schooling to think of answer. If only Lancia had been allowed to plough on with their approach we could have a company offering Subaru robustness coupled to striking styling and irreproachable controls.

    2. The US Subaru range is dizzying. And they have the Impreza. It doesn´t look like much though. Still.
      And there´s the BRZ which seems decent enough in the Miata mould.

    3. Thanks for your interesting post, Bill. Never heard about it before.

      Would it be too much of a heresy if I shoehorn a WRX drivetrain (engine + transmission) into an abandoned Flavia, creating a Flavia Integrale? Mmmmm… tasty…

    4. Subaru’s first boxer engine in the 1000 was closely related to the engine of the Lloyd/Borgward Arabella 900.

    1. Thank you very much, Pat. The best policy (if one can be so ruthless) was to close Audi. I suppose Mercedes didn´t want ruin Christmas in Sindelfingen and also thought VW would relabel Audi mechanicals as their own.

    2. I remember being surprised when Mercedes bought Auto Union, and even more surprised when they sold it again, after investing in an up-to-date four stroke engine to turn the Deek into something approaching a swan. Was it an act of sentiment – to save their contemporary ‘Silver Arrow’ from oblivion ?

  14. I look forward to Eóin’s promised further Flavia coverage (and my Jaguar comment was made with tongue in region of cheek). Lancia aficionados have existed in the UK since well before WW2; a select few who recognised a machine designed without compromise or apparent thought to cost. And the Aprilia is still appreciated for the jewel which it is, a worthy predecessor to Appia, Aurelia, et al.

    I have to hand a 1955 copy of Motor Sport, in which an 18-year old example of an Aprilia is advertised for £325 (= £8,600 today). To put that into perspective, similar age cars also for sale are: Alvis Speed 25 £125 (£3,300); Riley Kestrel £195 (5,150); Rolls Royce 2-str dhc £235 (6,200) & Jaguar 3½ litre £275 (7,260). The Aprilia had been with its titled first owner for 16 years; such attachment was not unusual, nor would I bet against the car still existing.

  15. Wonderful article and thread of comments. A few additions:
    – the Milleotto sedan is to my mind the best resolved. I had one in grad school, and can attest to its appeal to the opposite sex was far greater than the E type owned for 30 years…
    – Jag to Lancia comparison? As a long time Aurelia buff, the E type seemed the opposite: how to get the most impact for the least cost. Seems like the sedans might be more considered for their refinement, but the comparison doesn’t quite seem right. An Italian Mercedes, perhaps?
    – rumors of Lancia casting molds heading to Subaru have never been confirmed, but one wonders..
    – the bugaboo of the Flavia (and all of Fessia’s cars) was weight. He was enamored with refinement and did fascinating studies on noise and vibration, with computer modeling in the 1960s, etc. But the cars were overbuilt, relying on 1950s power/weight ratios, which he never updated for the 1960s motorway experience.
    – the myriad of engine adjustments in the 1960s for the Flavia were largely for displacement – don’t recall so many performance mods after the initial rush with Nardi tuning in the early 1960s for competition (remember the early 2 carb setup for the racing coupes). However in the Fulvia there was the usual array of Lancia changes – camshafts, V angles, displacement, carbs, etc. The Flavia largely had its performance enhanced with early use of injection, first Kugelfischer and then Bosch. Did any sizable company tinker more with their product than Lancia?
    – the footnote on the Flaminia needs a bit of clarification: the basic arrangement of the masses follows Jano design of the Aurelia, but Jano had nothing to do with the later car. Curiously, every nut and bolt is upsized just a bit on the Flaminia, so that practically nothing is interchangeable. Product rationalization? Nope.

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