Beta Variations

Imagining a brighter alternative future for the Beta, and for Lancia.

Lancia Beta Series III. Image: lancia.com

In an alternative reality, the Beta berlina would not have suffered the structural corrosion problems that proved catastrophic to Lancia’s reputation and prospects. Instead, it would have evolved into a full range of models in its own right.

Lancia attempted to distance itself from the Beta by dropping that name from its coupé, spider, HPE and Montecarlo derivatives and choosing a new name, Trevi(1),  for a three-volume saloon version of the Beta, launched in 1980.

1980 Lancia Trevi. Image: lancia.com

Unfortunately, the styling of the latter was, in this writer’s opinion(2), handicapped by the decision to retain the Beta’s existing rear door window frame, the trailing edge of which was rather too upright to blend easily into the new C-pillar. A rear quarter-light window might have resolved the mismatch, but the designers instead chose to install an angular ventilation grille in this space.

Perhaps a four-light bodystyle was regarded as more prestigious than a six-light design because of the additional privacy it typically affords rear seat passengers? Moreover, the new rear windscreen was rather flat and angular, and sat uneasily against the rounded contours of the Trevi’s new front and rear end treatment.

Here is an alternative and more conventional proposal for a new three-box Beta II berlina, utilising the Trevi’s rear end, but with a six-light DLO and more curvature to the rear windscreen:

Lancia Beta II Berlina.  Image: the author

This would have lent itself easily to conversion into a handsome and capacious estate car:

Lancia Beta II Estate.  Image: the author

By 1980, large five-door liftback designs were becoming more popular, following the launch of models such as the Rover SD1 in 1976 and Audi C2-generation 100 Avant in 1977. Lancia could have tapped into this growing market by adding such a version to the Beta II range:

Lancia Beta II Liftback.  Image: the author

Finally, four-seat pillarless formal coupé and cabriolet variants could have been built on a shorter wheelbase platform, similar to the one that underpinned the 2+2 coupé and spider models. This pair would have been  natural competitors for the BMW E30 convertible and the (larger) Mercedes-Benz C124 coupé and A124 convertible:

Lancia Beta II Formal Coupé. Image: the author

Stylistically, the Beta II range would have sat comfortably alongside the smaller 1979 Delta hatchback and 1982 Prisma saloon, providing 1980’s Lancia buyers with an opportunity to trade up and remain faithful to the marque. Having a broad range of models based on a common platform in three different wheelbase lengths and sharing a high percentage of components would have ensured the economies of scale that had previously eluded Lancia.

Lancia Beta II Cabriolet. Image: the author

This is, of course, now all just fantasy, but it is not difficult to imagine how the Beta, a handsome, comfortable and dynamically accomplished car, could have been evolved successfully. Lancia’s (over?) reaction to the corrosion issue was to scrap the Beta platform and abandon the D-segment completely(3). This decision(4) was arguably even more injurious to the company’s prospects than the corrosion issue per se and was one of a series of missteps that resulted in the company’s subsequent decline and near-extinction, a tragedy for Lancia and its many admirers.

(1) This was initially used as a suffix to the Beta name, but the latter was subsequently dropped and the model simply called Trevi.

(2) I must acknowledge that the Trevi has many admirers, not least amongst DTW’s contributors and readers.

(3) The Beta and Trevi’s nominal replacement was the Prisma, which was simply a booted version of the C-segment Delta hatchback.  It was 140mm (5 1/2″) shorter, 90mm (3 1/2″) narrower and had a wheelbase 60mm (2 1/4″) shorter than the Trevi. The reduced width is the real giveaway that the Prisma was a smaller car trying to punch above its weight.

(4) A decision that may well have been taken by Fiat rather than Lancia, of course.

Author: Daniel O'Callaghan

Shut-line obsessive...Hates rudeness, loves biscuits.

57 thoughts on “Beta Variations”

  1. The literature in English is not exactly clear when exactly the pivotal date is, but the turning point for Lancia in my opinion was at some point between 1979 (the launch of the Delta) and 1989 (Dedra). At some stage in that decade, the independent engineering team that Camuffo had managed to rebuild and keep relatively free of interference was dismantled and folded in to Fiat’s existing structures. In the Delta’s case, although it was based on the Ritmo platform, there was virtually nothing that was interchangeable outside of the basic engines. The Thema was starting to become a little more afflicted by the enforced sharing policy, but it was – just – sufficiently differentiated from the Croma to justify its upmarket positioning. But by the time the Dedra launched, there was no separate Lancia engineering identity to speak of and anything that appeared on a Lancia but not a Fiat was simply by virtue of being the technology leader of the group. Lancia had become that most 1980s of things, a brand identity rather than a marque.

    There was a discussion a couple of days ago about why Alfa has been consistently prioritised over Lancia within the group. I can’t speak for the motivations of particular executives but I will say that the fact that Alfa managed to hold on, by hook or by crook, to some degree of engineering independence was surely vital in this, both in terms of cause and effect. Even when Alfa and Lancia were briefly merged together in the same business unit, by that stage Lancia had been stripped of its engineering independence. In real terms that means the brand lost control of its own destiny and became a pure follower of the diktats set by others, be it Fiat, Alfa or chain-smoking, sweater-wearing executives. Not that this excuses the idiocy that certain CEOs of the brand engaged in by not grabbing opportunities available to them as and when.

    I don’t quite understand why Stellantis has been prepared to give every marque a decade to justify its existence, but I am prepared to hazard a bet that the thinking is that EVs offer an opportunity to push the reset button by effectively levelling the engineering side of the ledger. I mean, who really cares what type of electric motor is powering their EV, as long as it motors? A lot less than cared about the precise makeup of the oily bits in the recent past, is my suspicion. If that is the case, then all of a sudden, the bits on top become more important – and if Lancia has any vestiges of traditional values left, then the bits on top are where they are to be found (they certainly aren’t in the bits that make it go or steer), along with shamelessly leveraging history and heritage out the wazoo.

    When Maserati launched the 3200GT, they had a parade of their history and previous models leading up to the new car. Only, there was a conspicuous gap in the marque’s historical activity between the 1970s and 1998. If the Lancia relaunch offers up something similar, I would be willing to bet that the Beta and Trevi are a couple of Lancias that will be “Biturboed” in the official version of the marque’s history.

    1. Interesting reflections, thank you Stradale. I wonder if Fiat really thought there was more potential in Alfa Romeo than Lancia, or perhaps the Alfa people within senior management were just better at playing politics and fighting their corner than their Lancia colleagues?

    2. Daniel: Fiat’s people were obsessed with Alfa (this has a bit to do with an inferiority complex w.r.t. Turin v Milan), and Alfa’s people, who were extremely adept at playing politics and pulling off underhanded tricks, took full advantage of it.

    3. Daniel,

      The only semi rational reason I can come up with for Fiat favoring Alfa Romeo over Lancia is that they must have believed that the AR nameplate had a better chance at cracking the US market. While Alfa had a less than stellar reputation in the States and were most associated with sports cars, Fiat probably thought that was a better starting point than Lancia’s, which was pretty much nil. Of course, Toyota with Lexus showed that starting from zero is doable.

  2. Good morning all. This bit of nonsense just popped up in YouTube this morning, presumably in reaction to my googling Beta-related information:

    I have zero time for the smug, self-satisfied presenter who has long ceased to be a credible journalist. His value as an entertainer is a moot point. Anyway, this is typical of the sort of nonsense pedalled about the poor Beta. Observers will note that the wheel trim in the pile of junk featured doesn’t even come from a Beta (nor does anything else, I would guess).

    Glad I got that off my chest and have a nice weekend!

    1. There was a point when he was sane and not too extreme. I have to point out that Clarkson´s bright idea was to take the extreme opinionation of 70s “Car” magazine and strip out the intelligence. His to-camera monologues can be thought of as extended GBU commentaries. Entertainment is empty if it´s not in some sense connected to reality. Clarkson forgot to retain at least a little bit of ethical correctness. Being an exaggerator and hyperbolist was too lucrative.

    2. I, too, have no more time for Jeremy flippin’ Klaxon, his stereotype-infested thinking processes, his edgelordy, borderline alt-right writing, and his pathetic attempts to out-Buckley Martin Buckley (another writer I have zero time for).

  3. An interesting article Daniel. I am very impressed by your computer skills but even more so by your take on Mr Clarkson.

  4. Well these are all jolly decent attempts in my eyes, Daniel. Thanks. I’ll have a Formal Coupé, please, as is but one of those flat colours mentioned in previous related posts would look just as nice. Second place to the Berlina. Bottom podium step for the Liftback.

    Rather like a friendship of old, what started my own interest in the shield is lost in the mists. Could it be rallying? Although the tv coverage was, as a youngster, hit and miss. It certainly wasn’t for seeing a plethora of Lancia’s on the roads. Most of what little I remember from the 1970’s and 80’s were a stark few suffering bonnet up, broken down, syndrome. Perhaps then their mysterious ways, enigmatic style and seen mostly as black and white pictures in magazines nurtured the underdog status that we adore?

    Or is it simply feeling sorry for them and what happened over the intervening years? Whatever the cause, thank goodness the readers and DTW contributors have kept that heartbeat going.

    Is it better to hope for a Lancia rebirth under Stellantis? Or a time machine, along with some considered wording and excitable hand gestures, revealing what will happen should you follow this route?

    1. Good morning Andrew. I think I first became properly aware of Lancia when the son of a neighbour of my parents bought a Series I Beta to replace a Toyota Celica Mk1 Liftback. It was, I thought, an odd choice for a single man who had owned a Capri Mk1 prior to the Celica, but the Beta looked so modern and stylish, especially after the rather chintzy Toyota. It was metallic silver with blue velour upholstery.

      Here are the two cars by way of comparison:


      Hard to believe they were contemporaries, although, in fairness, the Celica was the earlier design.

    2. Well, since Andrew wants a different colour anyway, then I’ll take the Formal Coupé as is. The exterior colour is just perfect – and it has a beige interior, doesn’t it?
      When can it be delivered?

    3. That would be my choice too, Fred. My ‘formal’ coupé is aimed at a different demographic to Lancia’s production ‘sports’ coupé, so there would be plenty of room for both in the market without cannibalising sales of each other.

      As to delivery, that would be April 1984, just in time for a spring trip to Monaco…

  5. Wow Daniel! Your Photoshop skills are considerable. Hey, I work for Adobe myself (well, until next year when I retire). Are you looking for a job? 🙂

    1. Hi Ric. Thank you, but I’m a complete fraud: the above images were created using old MS Paint 2D as I’m too lazy/dim to learn how to use Photoshop!

      As for retirement, I’ve done it (twice!) and thoroughly recommend it as I’ve never been busier and happier. The trick is to concentrate, not on the job you’ll no longer have to do, but all the things you’ll have time to do instead. Best of luck with it!

  6. Also, I’m a sucker for insane dashboards. I’ve always loved the Trevi’s. Right up there with some of Citroën’s efforts 🙂

    1. Yes, Ric, the Trevi’s dashboard was quite a statement piece:

      Note how the air vents at the ends of the dashboard are actually part of the door trims. Unfortunately, the materials used and standard of construction rather let it down. It could be much better executed today, however.

    2. Bellini´s dashboard was beyond the ken of the journalists and customers. That´s in a way a bit of a problem if you really want to design for the customer but sod it, sometimes you have to pursue a vision. I think it´s just brilliant, up there with the CX Series 1 and the Multipla.
      Good work Daniel. All of those look convincing. I like the 2-door coupé especially. I would like to write more but I am a bit busy today. Also, it´s grear to see the Trevi getting some attention.

    3. The Trevi´s dashboard needed to be made with smaller tolerances. The two things the disrupt the overall form are the base of the dashboard-to-centre console and the glove box gap. Bellini put the breaks in the right place but they are too big and destroy the flow of the main surface. It´s still a staggering vision.

      Here is how it might have looked if manufactured to closer tolerances:

    4. The Trevi’s dash is a weird thing to my eyes. I like the wrap-around effect, but the rest, not so much. The execution is indeed very poor: choice of materials and panel gaps don’t look good.

      Also ergonomically I think it’s rather weak. The most important instruments, speed and revs are too far apart and will be blocked by the hands of the driver. The right hand stalk also seems to block it, or is that because of the postion of the camera lens? The radio is placed way too low and I always give bonus points to dashboards where the middle air vents line up with the one the end or in this case in the doors. I’m OCD in that respect.

    5. I wonder if the Trevi’s dashboard was triggering for trypophobia sufferers?

    6. I’ve never been a fan of the Trevi’s dash. Not only does it place the instruments too low and too far apart, it also sends the tell-tales way out of the driver’s immediate field of vision, and it also has a very weird HVAC control layout. Then, there are the aforementioned tolerances. I think the Beta Coupé’s later dashboard would have been a better option.

    7. Today’s DTW fact of the day:

      Tyopophobia: fear or disgust of closely-packed holes.

      Thanks, John!

  7. Food for thought here although the counterfactual Betii don’t quite float my boat. The have the look of cars that are stood still when they are doing 60mph. Why is this? Resolve that conundrum and I think the overall look will pop into place, making them look emphatically correct from any angle.

    Another visual oddity, the Beta Coupe would look identical to the 2 door Escort mkll if sketched from memory but one is a bleak little thing, evoking a time before central heating, fitted carpets or duvets. The other suggests an era where people only ever wore vicuna, smoked expensive ciggies and went abroad by hovercraft.

    1. Oh dear, Richard, the Mk2 Escort was certainly not the look I was after! I had the Mercedes-Benz C124 pillarless coupé and BMW E30 convertible in my mind’s eye when drawing those two.

      As to the ‘static’ nature of the images, that’s probably a function of my limited illustration skills, rather than the designs per se.

  8. Relating to Lancia in general and loosely to the Beta. Another way that Fiat screwed over Lancia was when they ditched their own (still 127-based) Supermini Project 143 to replace the 127 (and pensioned it off to Zastava to create the Yugo while the styling was recycled to either the Nissan Micra K10 or possibly the Skoda Favorit), appropriated Lancia / Autobianchi Lambda – Project 144 for itself to create the Fiat Uno and then foisted the inferior Panda-derived Lancia Y10 project onto Lancia to replace the Autobianchi A112 city car (instead of approving a Pininfarina or Giugiaro rebody).

    A better bet for Lancia would have been to either somehow retain the Lambda project or if out of necessity develop a Supermini from the (reputedly Ritmo-derived) Delta in the same way SEAT created the mk1 Ibiza out of the Ritmo/Ronda, which together with the rebodied A112 would have given Lancia a decent presence in the A and B Segments as more sporty premium offerings prior to themselves being replaced by the Punto-based Y (and ideally an early/mid-90s Punto-based Fulvia family).

    Speaking of Daniel’s considerable photoshop skills, it would be fascinating to see a Prisma Integrale “Evo Coupe” that from the B-Pillar to the rear features traits of the Maserati Ghibli II or regular Maserati Biturbo Coupe.

    1. Hi Bob. Thanks for the additional information regarding the Uno. It really does sound like Lancia was the victim of considerable corporate vandalism on the part of Fiat.

      Regarding the proposed Photoshop, we’re looking at a two-door ‘Prisma Integrale coupé’. Sounds like fun, I give it a go tomorrow!

    2. Daniel: It certainly does and was needless considering they would later produce the Punto / Y together onwards (the rally success of the original Delta likely delaying the introduction of the Delta II by some 5 years).

      OTOH could a Lambda derivative of the Uno have been modified to be more dynamically accomplished and provide a closer challenge to the Peugeot 205, compared to say a supermini that carried over much of the hardware of the larger Delta (up to the 130-140 hp 1.6 HF Turbo and AWD)?

      Looking forward to seeing the result, a Prisma with the looks/ability of the Delta Evo and the coupe body of a Maserati Biturbo is something that have been curious to see.

    3. Thanks Daniel for taking the time to create it, like the result and can easily imagine it taking on period rivals like the M3, 190 Cosworth, Quattro, Sierra Cosworth and Biturbo.

      Would a fastback or liftback coupe variation of theme have worked just as well, drawing inspiration from the fastback Biturbo mock-up below as well as the Audi Coupe B2? Like the simplicity of the three-box Prisma Integrale coupe photoshop, whereas a two-box coupe bodystyle would not be that different to an enlarged Lancia Delta Futurista 3-door hatchback.

      Also have to wonder if the Prisma would have fared better had it simply been renamed the Delta saloon and coupe on top of downing HF Turbo / Evo versions of the latter? A similar idea can be said with the Peugeot 309 being integrated with the 205 range as the 205 liftback and carrying over the styling of the latter (with a 405-esque rear) under difference circumstances, instead of originally being conceived as the bitza Talbot Arizona.

    4. Hi Bob. Here’s the liftback coupé version you wondered about:

    5. Nice work Daniel

      It really is a pity Fiat did not have the imagination or inclination to design such appealing bodystyles into the Delta / Prisma programme, preferring instead to treat Lancia like a red-headed step-child to occasionally steal lunch money from.

  9. I meant the Castagno(?) penned b coupe of 1973, rather than yours, which looks a bit higher status than the original. The Trevi in the metal had a staticyness so it’s no reflection on your skills, maybe the front windshield angle sets the visual agenda??

    1. Ah, I understand, although I think you’re being a bit harsh on Also Castagno!

    2. Daniel: “a bit harsh on Also Castagno!”

      That old chestnut…

  10. On the subject of dashboards, the Beta Berlina’s was indeed a bit plasticy and austere, but not egregiously so for the era:

    The Beta Coupé and HPE’s was rather better, I think:

    While the Montecarlo’s was very modernist and minimalist:

    1. The revised “Plastic Fantastic” Beta Coupé/HPE dashboard is certainly more reasonable than the Trevi’s. I don’t care for the middle air vents’ placement; they should really be at the same height as the ones for the doors, but since their placement was inherited from the S1 Berlina, what can you do? I’d certainly tighten the tolerances, though.

    2. I always preferred the original cpupé/HPE/spider dashboard over the later black one.

      My spider looked like this, ergonomics left something to be desired but at least at the rearside of the instrument panel there was a lamp holder. When there was work to do behind the dashboard you simply put a 21 watts bulb in there and you could actually see something.
      The position of the central air vents is perfect. You don’t get cold air in your face and when the very effective heater is on you get warm air on the centre of your body and not on your feet or in your face.

  11. I like your modified versions, Daniel – especially the one that gets rid of the (fake?) vent panel (with due apologies to Richard). I’ve only just noticed that the Trevi has ‘small Volvo’ design cues about it externally.

    I’m struggling to put in to words what I used to like about Lancia’s designs beyond saying that they looked more ‘relaxed’ / confident than those from other companies, while still having an air of formality about them.

    I believe that Lancia thought about an estate version of the Trevi, but I can’t find a picture of it, annoyingly.

    1. I also have a recollection of a Beta Giardiniera, or maybe Familiare, or even Promiscuo. Probably by one of the small Italian coachbuilders – they were a dwindling bunch, but there still were a few active and extant in the Beta’s lifetime.

      I can also well imagine that somebody adapted the Beta fastback Berlina to a proper hatch. Caruna and Beutler did it for the CX, and Crayford for the Leyland Princess.

      Also, I recall that one UK dealer advertised the Series 3 Beta as the “Trevi hatchback”, although it was nothing of the sort. Desperation had set in by then (c.1982-1984, there were good deals to be had, or at least astonishingly low prices.

    2. Good morning Charles. That’s exactly how I used to perceive Lancia, like a finely tailored Italian suit, but worn without a tie.

    3. I really love the way you defined Lancia, Daniel: a finely-tailored Italian suit, worn without a tie. It suits the marque far better than any overpaid marketing copy written by the throngs of illiterates that buy MBA degrees each year. And this sensibility you’ve exhibited comes through in the alternative designs you’ve made for the Beta II. Now, let’s have a look at each specific version you’ve made.

      1. Six-light Berlina: I love it. It may not have the “formal American sedan” look that some were trying to keep in life support back then, but it’s modern and airy in a manner that Audi had shown with its 80 B2 and 100 C2. Perhaps adding the scudetto at the bottom right corner of the rear quarter light would be a nice flourish.

      2. Estate: A version sadly missing from the Beta stable. I would consider giving it a slightly (5-10cm) longer rear overhang, the rear door of your six-light berlina proposal, and have the D-pillar and rear windscreen slope accordingly. Also, I’d design new tail lights to lower the bootlid. Perhaps these tail lights could equip the six-light berina as well.

      3. Liftback: Nice idea, but wouldn’t it have been more economical to convert the S1/S2 Berlina into a lightback instead?

      4. Formal Coupé: Add a little upkick to the rear side windows, similar to the rear quarter lights of the S1/S2 Berlinas, and then I’ll say “shut up and take my money”.

      5. Cabriolet: Nice idea, and more practical than the Spider Zagato. It’d need some serious structural strengthening, though.

  12. I agree – if someone said that Daniel’s Beta Liftback was a proposed design of the Volvo 34x, I would probably believe it. Where I disagree a little is with Stradale’s comment about this era being ‘skipped’ if Lancia presented its history: surely that honour would go to the rebadged Chryslers?

    In the latest James Bond film, the villains seem to oblige with the product placement and drive JLR products, but some of the film is set in Italy, where some local henchmen drive a Quattroporte, a mk1 Range Rover and at at least a couple of Lancia Thesis. Spoiler alert: it does not end well for them, so Lancia fans of a nervous disposition had better avert their eyes…

    (as their scenes were filmed on location, why would the cars from that sequence have been in the UK? In what seems to be pre-filming condition, too https://twitter.com/sniffpetrol/status/1202237158611935232 )

    1. “Where I disagree a little is with Stradale’s comment about this era being ‘skipped’ if Lancia presented its history: surely that honour would go to the rebadged Chryslers?”

      Well…

      When you hang out with Lancia types for long enough, it becomes evident many of them suffer from the foibles that afflict any group identity. If you have a surplus of spare time and fancy wasting it, assemble a group of Lancia enthusiasts and ask them what was the last “real” Lancia. I have heard it all on this subject – nominations including Thesis, Integrale, Thema, Beta, Fulvia, Flaminia, Aurelia, Aprilia. “When they stopped rallying.” “The Pesenti cars.” “When Gianni Lancia ceded control.” “When Vincenzo died.”

      But I suppose we can credit Marchionne with at least this. I have never – not once – ever heard even a murmur that indicates ANYONE who bleeds Lancia blue acknowledges the existence of the Chryslers, let alone considers them worth a word. To achieve such unification is normally the preserve of only the most accomplished leaders. Saying that they will be skipped over in the official record is a bit like saying that the people who Stalin airbrushed out of the historical record were ‘skipped over’. As far as Lancia people are concerned, that era doesn’t exist, never happened, isn’t that a lovely flower over there?

    1. That has elements of Michelotti’s gull-winged Beta Mizar, a fabulous 1979 design which seems to have been undeservedly forgotten.

  13. Congratulations Daniel. This is serious work. I especially admire the caravan, and the coupe that I find stunningly beautiful. For the liftback I would like a wider third window, in combination with a curved instead of straight rear glass. Alternatively, a fusion of third and rear glasses, close to Renault 25?

    1. Hello gpant, and thank you for your kind words. For the liftback, I wanted to do something other than simply put a tailgate on the production Beta, hence the treatment I chose, but I like your idea if a Renault 25 style rear end very much.

  14. A small detail that comes to mind is the second side door. Does it need a treatment like the Dedra with the small glass panel, or like beta that there is not one?

    1. That’s a good question. I wonder if the production Beta and Trevi’s rear door window didn’t wind down fully? Some manufacturers (e.g. Audi with the B2 generation 80) accepted this compromise rather than add the visual clutter of a fixed quarter light in the rear door.

    2. Yes – from pictures I’ve seen of the Trevi, they wind down about two thirds of the way.

  15. I’ve discovered the magnificence of the Trevi dashboard at around my teens (early to mid-90s) – I almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing then and it always remains a big favorite of mine. At the time I was trying to sketch cars so I had done at least one attempt to out-Trevi it (I remember that my design featured multiple little pill-shaped holes along the whole width of the dashboard instead of traditional air intakes!). I’ve also once seen a Trevi dashboard fitted in a 70’s Mini (I’m not quite sure if it was a regular one or a Clubman but its colour was either Harvest Gold or Limeflower snot green). Of course it didn’t feature the lower console and I guess that the side vents would also be missing, I remember that the side vents were awfully close to the floor but it did fit!

    I also have a souvenir of peeking inside a burgundy S1/S2 Beta Berlina at a very early age and finding it quite fancy – I still like its dashboard with the distinctive instrument panel, the many chrome accents and the β and 1300/1600/whatever badges. Apparently both this and the original Coupé/HPE/Spider dashboard were designed to be symmetrical like the one of the Rover SD1 – the instrument panel and glovebox seem to be interchangeable but it seems it’s not really possible to use the same moulding for LHD and RHD versions because of the hole for the steering column:

    Now that I’ve looked at many photos of Beta interiors, I couldn’t help but notice that the numerous variants feature a selection of imaginative two-spoke steering wheel designs – these look particularly good now that two-spokes are back in fashion.

    Considering the Photoshops, I’d say that all of them are nice ideas: Above all, the rear door design of the Beta is particularly well-suited for an estate conversion so it’s really a pity they didn’t offer one (perhaps at the time they considered such a bodystyle too utilitarian for the brand?). The taillights of the Berlina allow for a low and wide boot opening so these would be very appropriate (though it could be a bit tricky to shape the metal of a different bodystyle around them? Those of the HPE could work as well). I wonder if a proto-version of the distinctive Thema/Kappa estate roof mouldings would be a good idea.

    I like the Trevi just like it is but the six-light saloon is a sensible idea that could appeal to a wider public; it also looks a little bit Flaminia-like (as does the actual Trevi). A four-light version with bespoke doors with quarterlights could also be a good way of creating something more consensual. I like the elegant look of the Beta S3 berlina and would rather give this a tailgate, but a different liftback design with a new name could eventually be a good way to get some distance from the tarnished reputation of the Beta.

    The “formal coupé” looks very cool and a great fit for that interior, though it would probably be too much of an indulgence alongside the existing Coupé, HPE and Spider – same for the cabriolet, especially given the engineering work it would need (that said, perhaps at that time and given the price point of such a car, they could get away with a roll bar or a Baur TopCabriolet-like arrangement? The tonneau cover of the Photoshop would be a bit too modern for the era!). If I were them I’d rather save the money to commission Pininfarina for a completely bespoke Thema coupé (and cabriolet?) and/or a Prisma (which could have some carryover parts, like a Peugeot 204/304). A Delta 3-door hatchback with some S4-inspired touches on the sides could also be a good idea (which could attract some Golf II buyers?). That said I also like the two Prisma photoshops – especially the two-door? It would make sense to offer these mechanicals with a stiffer bodyshell. Perhaps I’d consider offering a new design for the rear windows and C-pillars, especially given that such a car would probably be presented at around the late ’80s?

    1. This dashboard is a late item in black without chrome trim around the vents. These and the according cars are really rare.
      The two spoke steering wheel was fun. In its centre you had a button activating the very Italian horn – high in pitch and enormously loud. The squishy rim on my spider was loose and could be twisted by about ninety degrees on the metal ring inside. This and loose pedal rubbers that would turn by a couple of degrees everytime you stepped on the clutch were typical for betas.

  16. GM handled the conversion from non-hatch fastback to formal 3-box sedan with the Buick and Olds A/G-bodies much better, they did that by owning the upright roofline dictated by the use of the existing upright door frames and using an unadorned C-pillar with the drip rail close to the door. Much less cluttered than what the Trevi had.

    I like the Michelotti-Felber hatchback but for production an all-glass hatch might be too “sporty coupe” for a full-size (by Italian standards) 4-door.

    The formal coupe is imo the best of the proposals from Carrozzeria O’Callaghan.

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