Imagining a brighter alternative future for the Beta, and for Lancia.
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.
“To create an unfavourable impression, it is not necessary that certain things be true, but that they have been said. The imagination is of so delicate a texture that even words wound it”. [William Hazlitt (1778-1830) – Writer, critic, philosopher]
With a now unassailable position within the annals of infamy; derided and patronised by legions of uninformed writers and journalists, has sufficient time elapsed to speak dispassionately about the Lancia Beta? It’s difficult to be certain, but the point of today’s exercise is to Continue reading “Beta Living Through Chemistry”
The Beta and its derivatives were developed progressively over its production life. A smaller 1,297cc 81bhp (60kW) engine replaced the 1,438cc entry-level unit in 1974, at which time power steering was offered on LHD models. In 1975, the 1,592cc engine was replaced by a slightly smaller capacity 1,585cc 99bhp (74kW) unit and the 1,756cc engine was supplanted by a 1,995cc 117bhp (88kW) powerplant. Electronic ignition was fitted from 1978 and automatic transmission became an option, making the Beta the first Lancia to Continue reading “Deserving Beta (Part Two)”
The 1972 Beta heralded a brave new start under Fiat ownership for Lancia. We tell its story.
Over six decades from its foundation in 1906, Lancia & C. had earned an enviable reputation for the excellence of its engineering and its finely crafted, innovative and desirable cars. Unfortunately, Vincenzo Lancia, his friend and business partner Claudio Fogolin, and Vincenzo’s son, Gianni, who took over the company when his father died suddenly in 1937, were far more talented engineers than they were businessmen. Consequently, Lancia always struggled to Continue reading “Deserving Beta (Part One)”
Attraction is a difficult feeling to describe or give substance to, one man’s glass of Chateau Neuf de Pape is another’s Suzuki X-90. And while I’ve never been allowed into DTW Towers (for reasons that cannot legally be divulged), there is widely believed to exist amid its expansive halls an unbridled acceptance of most things wearing a particular shield badge.
It was through a search for Lancia that these eyes did land upon Driven To Write, a smattering of time ago. Realising the sheer depth upon all matters motoring but leaning heavily towards the FCA (now enigmatic Stellantis) subsumed manufacturer, I dived in – eyes wide – head first. No arm bands, either.
There surely comes a point in proceedings where one simply has to bow to certain ineffable truths and admit to the error of one’s ways. For some years now I have been calling (futilely I might add) upon its maker to do the decent thing and euthanise the Lancia Ypsilon, in the earnest, if mistaken belief that it would be better for all concerned if the hapless Shield and Flag was allowed to Continue reading “Hope Is the Thing With Feathers”
In 1960, outside of a few shall we say, niche carmakers (and Citroën of course), front-wheel drive was still viewed as a somewhat unproven concept. Therefore, when Lancia introduced the front-driven Flavia that year, there was bound to have been some surprise amid observers, and maybe too, an element of scepticism, especially amongst Lancistas of a more traditionalist stripe.
It was after all, a significant technical pivot from Borgo san Paolo’s engineering orthodoxy, and one that was unlikely to have occurred had Lancia’s technical dial not shifted so dramatically by the appointment as engineering chief of Antonio Fessia. The good professor, technically gifted but single-minded in approach, was a staunch proponent of front-wheel drive and there can be little doubt that the Flavia was more attuned to his own ideals and orthodoxies than to Continue reading “Everything to the Front”
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 Continue reading “Academic Revolution”
Car advertisements offer a snapshot of a different time. Welcome to a vision of Italy – mid-’70s style.
Today’s visual meditation rests upon that perennial DTW favourite, featuring press ads for two of the more indulgent offerings from Lancia’s abundant Beta family. These were expensively shot advertisements featuring high production values, and targeted at a discerning audience. During the 1970s, (before it all unravelled for them) Lancia’s UK importers spent a sizeable portion of their ad budget with publishers, Conde Nast, between full-page colour ads like these, and multi-page spreads made in conjunction with a fashion house(s) of choice.
Designer, Tom Tjaarda took two very different bites at the Lancia Flaminia during the 196os. Only one however is truly memorable.
During the Autumn of 1969, carrozzeria Ghia debuted the Marica concept at the Turin motor show, a styling study based upon the platform of the Lancia Flaminia, a car which had already ceased production. Not only that, but its maker had also gone bankrupt and was desperately seeking a benefactor.
Enter Alejandro de Tomaso, a phrase which would be uttered with increasing regularity within the Italian motor industry over the coming decade or so. Having purchased carrozzeria Ghia in 1967, he is alleged to have sanctioned the Marica study as a means of assisting Lancia’s bid to find a buyer – a statement which sounds suspiciously altruistic for such an automotive opportunist as he. But we are perhaps getting a little ahead of ourselves. Allow me to Continue reading “A Right Pair of Nymphs”
The Lancia Trevi is an unusual car, not simply because it was and remains an intriguing one to behold. For one thing it may well be the only car that began life as a fastback saloon (with a separate boot compartment), and ended it as a three-volume version. There have been innumerable saloon from hatchback conversions (and vice-versa), but a saloon from a saloon?
It’s clear that the Trevi was a stopgap. By right, Lancia should have readied an all-new replacement by then, but that failed to materialise. Of course lengthy production runs were by no means unusual either for Lancia or within the sprawling Fiat Auto grouping they had become an unwilling hostage to. Couple this with a crisis both of confidence and managerial competence which afflicted the entire Fiat Auto group in the wake of the 1973 oil embargo, to say nothing of Fiat’s inability to Continue reading “Fontana a Tre Vie”
If one was to carry out a poll amongst Lanciaphiles as to the quintessential model in the storied marque’s history, there is likely to be a certain amount of heated debate. While some might cleave to the innovative and undoubtedly influential Lambda of 1922, it’s probably more likely the Aurelia would garner the majority vote.
Borgo San Paolo’s 1950 entrant was Lancia’s first genuinely new product of the post-hostility period, replacing the emblematic Aprilia, which ceased production the previous year; the latter model itself a ground breaker in design terms mating fully independent suspension, a narrow-angle V4 engine and pillarless construction within an aerodynamically streamlined, stressed bodyshell.
The Aurelia was intended as a larger, more refined car, aimed at the affluent owner-driver. Italy was for the most part impoverished and war-torn from years of conflict by the close of the 1940s, with large swathes of the population who could only dream of car ownership, but there remained a base of professionals, wealthy industrialists and titled nobility who could Continue reading “The Aurelian Way”
In this concluding piece, we consider the Lybra’s appearance and ponder its ultimate fate.
So much for the underpinnings. The dealers’ main worry had been the styling, which had been a fraught process throughout. At the start of the project, proposals from the Enrico Fumia-led Centro Stile, Leonardo Fioravanti, and the I.DE.A consultancy had been evaluated. Team Fumia’s 1992 design was thematically similar to – if visually richer than – the outgoing Dedra, also marrying obvious cues from the forthcoming 1995 Y supermini. Elements of the design also reflected the Fessia era, but in a broadly contemporary manner. Overall, it was an attractive proposal, somewhat reminiscent of Peugeot’s subsequent 406, if perhaps a little derivative in certain respects. Continue reading “Tilting the Scales (3)”
As the crisis-torn Lybra programme came under microscopic scrutiny, longstanding Lancia engineer Bruno Cena took responsibility for its salvation.
Cena, a talented engineer who came to mainstream attention for his work on the dynamic setup of the Alfa Romeo 156, was a self-described ‘Uomo Lancia’ from way back. Joining Fiat in the early 1970s, he had moved to Lancia in 1978, working under Ing. Camuffo on the initial stages of the Type Four project.
Appointed head of four-wheel drive development for the marque in 1984, he was promoted to head of Lancia development two years later, and given responsibility for vehicle testing across Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo in 1991. In October 1996, he was made Fiat Auto’s ‘D-platform’ director – just in time to Continue reading “Tilting the Scales : (2)”
Fables of the reconstruction: Another inglorious tale of Lancia.
It would hardly be inaccurate to suggest that under Fiat Auto’s purview, Lancia was never Job #1. In fact, it has been an awfully long time since the presence of Lancia earned more than a grudging acknowledgment and a, “Huh, is that still around?” grimace from Elkann’s crew. Would that we knew it at the time, but the restructuring of the marque’s residual engineering independence into the Fiat Group morass towards the end of the 1980s was, in hindsight, the harbinger for the extinguishing of Lancia’s brief revival in the ‘executive set’ ranks under Fiat ownership.
Certainly, within a decade, matters had reversed dramatically, Lancia’s record levels of production at the beginning of the nineties an already-distant memory. With sales of its larger models having almost entirely collapsed outside its native Italy, the brand was carried then – as now – by the indefatigable Y. Continue reading “Tilting the Scales : (1)”
The 1989 Dedra brought Latin style and a more competent package to the compact executive segment. Sadly, it left behind a few more pressing concerns.
Italians have never needed to be convinced that a luxury car could also be a compact car. With a land and cityscape which militated against corpulence and a taxation system which proscribed large-capacity engines, Italian carmakers made something of an art out of geographical and fiscal necessity.
As artforms went however, it wasn’t the most expressive, the post-war Italian upmarket berlina conforming to a degree of visual rectitude that was almost flamboyant in its subtlety. Foremost amongst its exponents was Lancia. From the Ardea, its Appia successor, to the seminal Fulvia, these saloons gave the upwardly mobile a refined, well engineered and reassuringly patrician vehicle – one which could Continue reading “Euro Standard”
Music history has frequently been littered with the broken wreckage of bands who blasted into the public consciousness with an precocious debut, only to lose it with the follow-up. Artists such as the Stone Roses, The Sugarcubes, Franz Ferdinand and perhaps most notoriously, 80’s pop sensation, Terence Trent D’Arby all followed their well-reviewed debuts with what were varying degrees of disappointing to disastrous.
We compare a couture twinset from the tail-end of the GT era.
It’s an incontrovertible fact that the end of the 1960’s marked the apogee of the Gran Tourismo concept, both in design terms and in appeal to the broader swathe of the car market. Certainly by then, the choices available to the upwardly mobile individual who wanted to express their more indulgent side were of the more fecund variety. However, those who couldn’t Continue reading “Il Sarto Piemontese”
Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world…
Here at the gateway to the wilds of West Cork, we welcome more than our share of visitors from foreign lands. This mostly pleasant state of affairs affords us a degree of human variety which would be otherwise denied our pale, light averse, predominantly sandblasted natives. It also lends itself to a degree of automotive variety which to a dedicated driven to writer can prove something of a godsend.
However, not all such encounters are as timely or fortuitous as today’s. Having touched at some length earlier this week upon the lore of the Tychy White Hen, to encounter one in three dimensions proved something of a novelty. Although to be strictly accurate, what we’re looking at here is, if anything a grey hen – or in Lancia parlance, Elefantino Blu – a shade particularly redolent of the Shield and Flag’s Sixties heyday.
Throughout our culture, the colour black has long been synonymous with death. In popular culture too – take for instance William S. Burroughs’ Black Rider or indeed the black swan in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. In keeping with the theme of fowl therefore, it may not be a coincidence that with the advent of the black hen, FCA are quietly softening us up for an impending demise.
Because the problem here appears to lie with the serial refusal of FCA’s Lancia-badged Ypsilon to do the decorous thing and shuffle off this mortal coil. Indeed, not being content to swerve death’s clammy embrace, the Tychy White Hen is still doing a decent number humiliating far more recent domestic contenders – most recently the troubled Biscione of Milan.
Forgive the rash of smartphone holiday snaps, but a recent stay in Rome provided an opportunity to check out the local motor cars.
Sadly, the biggest impression left on me by scanning the roads of Rome from the Borghese Gardens down to the Colosseum was what I did not see: not one of my beloved Cinquecenti. And, I don’t mean bright, Broom Yellow, Sportings, I mean none of any type or colour; not one! I am not sure what that says about that model – I saw examples of both its replacement (the Seicento) and antecedents (the 126 and the Nuova 500), but of the Cinq, ‘niente’!
The relative conventionality of the Delta dismayed marque aficionados in 1979, but it would go on to embody marque values of both performance and commercial longevity far beyond its seemly narrow remit.
The old guard was falling away. After a decade on sale, Lancia’s entry level Fulvia Berlina ceased production in 1973. The patrician compact saloon had proven a modest commercial success in its native Italy over that period, appealing to those who had both the means and the discernment to appreciate a such a finely wrought and technically noteworthy vehicle.
But while its mechanical specification left little to be desired, the level of complexity it incorporated would not square with that of Lancia’s new owners, who were masters of cost-control. Furthermore, its uncompromisingly rectilinear three-volume style had become widely viewed as outdated.
More than two decades ago, two proud nameplates in the process of losing their lustre joined forces to create a splendid concept car perfectly in tune with its time.
During the mid-’90s, car buyers and enthusiasts were in an unashamedly romantic mood. Roadsters and coupés were the kind of niche models devised not just to polish a marque’s image, but to actually sell and earn money. Peugeot’s splendid (Pininfarina-designed and built) 406 Coupé being a particularly resonant example of this phenomenon.
In those days, Lancia not only offered a full range of models, but the marque’s image hadn’t been tainted quite beyond repair either. The recently launched Kappa executive saloon and second-generation Delta hatchback may have constituted the first steps of Fiat Auto CEO, Paolo Cantarella’s ambition to Continue reading “Denied: Lancia Kayak (1995)”
The Driven to Write’s predilection for all things Lancia is known and quantified. Today’s offering however is unquestionably topshelf material.
Amid the many series-production outliers the fabled Torinese shield and flag emblem has adorned over many decades, the Flavia Sport from carrozzeria Zagato is perhaps the most visually outré and certainly amongst the most scarce, with only 629 built in total.
First introduced in prototype form in 1962, it was the final and most exotic flowering of the coachbuilt Flavia line, following the 1960 in-house berlina, the Vignale-bodied convertible and Pininfarina’s four-seater coupé – all of whom bore some passing resemblance to one another. But not only did the Flavia Sport Continue reading “The Road to Dalmatia”
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. Continue reading “Photos For Sunday: Lancia Thema 8.32”
Sometimes what you are looking for is not far from the front of your face. I have often bemoaned the lack of a modern equivalent of Lancia’s Spartan but high-quality interiors. It was under my nose, so to speak.
I wasn’t paying attention, was I? While in Scotland recently I had the time to take a look at the dashboard and interior of a Range Rover Evoque. They have only been on sale for eight years now so it was maybe a bit much to expect I’d get to Continue reading “If So, Then Yes”
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 Continue reading “Ashtrays: Lancia Thema 8.32”
Something of a quest this, to drive as many Lancias as possible. So finally I am behind the wheel of a rather miley Kappa 2.0 with its transversely aligned five-banger.
So far DTW has driven and documented the Trevi, Lybra, Delta Mk3 and the Thesis. I did also drive a Kappa coupé a long time ago but have forgotten much of the experience except the deep disappointment about the ashtray. The coupé is also the car I most regret not buying.
It seems unfair to keep you on tenterhooks so I have decided to reveal/confirm the identity of today’s mystery car.
It is, of course, a Lancia Fulvia saloon, produced from 1963 to 1976 which really is a very long time indeed. The Fulvia was still good when it ceased production but the market’s tastes had changed. While everyone adores the admittedly perky, perty and pretty Fulvia Coupé, and many like the odd Zagato derivatives, I hold a candle for the austere and formal saloon, attributed to Piero Castagnero at Lancia’s Centro Stile. This and a few other cars suggested to me that if you want to Continue reading “The Big Reveal/Confirmation”
It’s in many ways just an ordinary sight south of the Alps yet I can’t help my fascination with these fine cars. You don’t see them much in Denmark, so rarity is part of the appeal. But…
… I will concede this interest is definitely peculiar to me, that among the short list of cars I will always stop and look at for as long as I can is included a car like the one above: Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday”
This week, the Lancia Gamma receives the DTW Longer Read treatment.
It’s a question I’ve been asked on a number of occasions: Why the Gamma? Why devote well over ten thousand words to a car whose failure hastened Lancia’s headlong spiral towards infamy and oblivion. The answer is, like the Gamma’s story itself, somewhat convoluted.
Not content with having laid out their stall for the next five years, FCA has further surprises in store.
Lancia is back! Driven to Write can reveal FCA’s secret plans to return the revered car brand to European and Chinese markets with five new models set to beat the established luxury elite at their own game.
While the mainstream press focused upon the Alfa Romeo and Jeep portions of FCA’s highly anticipated presentation last week, anonymous sources within the carmaker have revealed to us FCA’s bold plans for Lancia, encompassing as many as five new models to be introduced between now and 2022.
Today we take up once again the baton carried by earlier instalments of this mind-provoking series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4).
In the last instalment, we reached number six. The pace will slow down as we near the summit. Today we consider only number 5, an example of the “Italian art of living”.
No list of great European cars would be complete without a Lancia, one of Europe’s most storied and, some would say, venerable marques. Lancia embodies low-key classiness, comfort and style with many landmark cars to its credit. Its great cars include the elegant Flaminia, the ground-breaking Aurelia, the innovative Beta, the nimble Fulvia, the rally champion Delta, the aristocratic Flavia, the agile and distinctive Trevi and the practical and refined Lybra.
Lancia’s 2004 B-sector monospace was that rare thing – a commercial success. But was it a better Idea than its Fiat sibling?
It has been suggested that the Lancia Musa died prematurely, production ceasing when Fiat Auto’s Stabilimento Mirafiori car plant was idled in 2012; victim of the catastrophic fall in Italian new car sales in the wake of the financial crash, sovereign debt crisis, not to mention the legacy of Fiat Auto’s inability to Continue reading “The Muse of Melpomene”
The author characterised the Fiat as the “underknown sportsman”; the Alfa is portrayed as the “playboy from Milan” and not surprisingly the Lancia they called the “noble professor”. It was also called a “cult car for connoisseurs”. What more did they write?
Two of the more storied automotive marques happen to have owned representative headquarter buildings at some point. The respective fates of these edifices has proven somewhat poignant.
High-rise buildings inevitable lend themselves to illustrate human hubris. As the building of a monument to oneself is among the least humble of acts imaginable, skyscrapers typically invite less-than-kind comparisons: From the bible’s Tower of Babel to JG Ballard’s High-Rise, architecture aiming for the skies regularly acts as a metaphor for an aloof state of mind.
The automotive industry, whose core business of selling a commodity finds itself in constant battle with that product’s simultaneous role of a social entity, is even more prone than others to Continue reading “A Tale of Two Towers”
Sometimes there are cars that seem not to merit a whole day to themselves, especially not a Sunday. This is one of them: the 2011 Lancia Thema nee Chrysler 300.
It featured recently as one of my lame “guess the car” teasers. Did you know that this vehicle (as a Chrysler) has been in production since 2011? Or more, honestly, since 2004**? That makes this quite a coelacanth. The Thema left Lancia’s catalogues in 2014 though. The Chrysler version still soldiers on somewhere. Continue reading “A Photo For Monday”
Dateline: Thuringia, summer 2038. Internal combustion engines have been phased out across the EU for almost a decade now. However, their use has not been eliminated entirely and much as one can still ride a pony and trap or a stream train, one can still enjoy the petrol-driven experience.
It’s now autumn, a time to reflect. Recently, DTW has been driving Lancias and we have discussed the decline of this once noble marque. It is not the only brand to have faded away.
In the diagram I have marked the timelines of two other defunct brands: Rover and Saab. Rover closed in 2005 and Saab shut up shop in 2011. You’ll notice that while Rover had no new models in the Phoenix years (I don’t count the MG versions), Saab had new product in the pipeline right until the last minute. Lancia’s demise is more muddled.
DTW has had a chance to rewind the years and test a 2002 Lybra SW, the Delta’s predecessor. This puts in perspective the step-backward that was the Delta and reveals a car that probably deserves a wider audience. Lancia produced about 165,000 Lybras between 1998 and 2005. Production began at the Rivalta plant and shifted to the Mirafiori plant in 2002. The Lybra shared some basic elements with the Alfa Romeo 156 but you’d be hard pressed to spot anything overt. Continue reading “The Cormorant Rethinks”
Always first with the news that matters, this just in…
In a surprise move today, FCA’s Sergio Marchionne announced during an earnings call that the beleaguered Lancia brand could be set to make a comeback. During his conference call with analysts he left strong hints that a new Lancia model, (tipped to be a compact crossover), is being planned – a vehicle type increasingly popular across European markets.
So, Lancia Delta, what are you like to drive? Driven To Write continues its quest to test every Lancia available.
The Lancia Delta appeared under the banner of spearheading a rebirth at Lancia. The background to the Delta looked like this: a replacement for the Lybra saloon and estate and also a vehicle to cover a market the Bravo didn’t reach. As such, the Delta had to be luxury and estatey-wagony. Thus Lancia based it on the Fiat Bravo but with a longer floor-pan and a half-hatch, half-estate profile. Lancia sold the car with a quite broad engine range.
Reader Stradale kindly sent this photo which summed up some of the week’s subjects.
This week we discussed the Fiat Punto, quondam class-leader among superminis. The Lancia Kappa came up for more scrutiny (I have to test drive one). Driven to Write also applied its bifocals to rear bumpers – these cars have those. Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday: Jam and Marmalade”
Sixty this year, Lancia’s zenith gets the DTW spotlight.
There are in life, some affronts you can never quite forgive. For instance, the manner in which the Lancia name has been abased by its current owners remains a burning injustice. This germ of resentment about Lancia’s fate can be traced to one car to which my personal fealty to the shield and flag marque is indelibly attached. Built to exacting standards, and engineered like little else, this purebred ammiraglia is an automotive old master. Continue reading “The Pinnacle”
In contrast to the recent rather insipid Beta brochure, I can present a thoroughly aspirational 1975 Lancia HPE brochure such as this.
It shows how the product is intended to be used and the kinds of people who might be attracted to it. Shooting, diving, sitting down, gardening, conversing outside a hotel late at night: Lancia did not want for ideas to show how this rather fabulous vehicle could be used. What the brochure made you want to do was to Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – 1975 Lancia Beta HPE”
The 1973 Beta Coupé was slightly underwhelming – and to be honest, its sales literature was as well.
A year after the berlina’s launch, Lancia announced the first of four sporting Beta derivations, the 2+2 Coupé. Designed in-house in conjunction with Pietro Castagnero, the man responsible for the much-loved Fulvia amongst other pre-Fiat Lancia designs. This is an early sales brochure and it is notable for a number of reasons – some of a pedantic nature, others of a more whimsical stripe. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Beta than expected but not as good as hoped”