I ducked to the store on Sunday to buy some ingredients for a slow-cooked beef and red wine casserole. When I was heading back to my car, I spotted this Lancia Fulvia and BMW 328i. These two fine reds certainly beat my bottle of cheap Shiraz.
The Lancia stands out, especially against the background of a drab shopping mall car park and its unflattering lighting. As was typical of Italian brands at the time, the coupe is a huge departure visually from its sedan counterpart. There was also a Zagato-designed fastback which was even more distinctive. Although the fastback’s design was outsourced, the coupe was designed in-house.
Where the sedan is upright and boxy, the coupe is more delicate. There are some styling cues that tie them together, however, such as the quad headlights, the small taillights, and the unique use of chrome accenting around the rear.
This particular Fulvia appears to be a 1968-70 1.3 S, its narrow-angle V4 engine producing 92 hp at 6000 rpm. When the Fulvia was launched in 1963, its front-wheel-drive layout was quite rare. By the end of its run in 1976, the Lancia was a little less unique but no less pretty.
Interestingly, Lancia debuted a concept car with the Fulvia name in 2003. A rather pretty compact, Fiat – Lancia’s owner since 1969 – decided not to put it into production, even though it looked ready. They did, however, dust off the Flavia name, used on an executive sedan and coupe in the 1960s, for a rebadged Chrysler 200 convertible several years later.
Lancia was the creator of so many beautiful, dynamic and well-engineered cars. Their purchase by Fiat was arguably the beginning of the end of this alluring marque. At least in Europe, the sport sedan market in the 1960s and 1970s had been owned in part by brands like Lancia and Triumph.
But it was BMW that really took the ball and ran with it, the 3-Series becoming renowned throughout the globe as a world-class sport sedan. 3-Series production volumes had been steadily increasing by 1985 when the 3-Series convertible was launched. The following year would prove to be the zenith of the E30 generation, with 329,460 units produced. There’s no doubt about it: these were hot stuff in the 1980s. The 325i’s inline-six was one of the most powerful 3-Series models available, its smooth and powerful engine producing 168 hp and 163 ft-lbs.
There’s not a line out of place on these. The detailing is so simple and elegant so, even though it follows a similar theme to many other cars of the 1980s, it ends up being an exceptionally memorable and cohesive design.
Looking inside, it’s remarkable to see BMW has kept the same basic dashboard layout for over 30 years, even as their cars receive more and more features each year. When I look at photos of new BMW interiors, I’m often disappointed they look the same as their predecessors’. “Why,” I ask myself, “can’t they look as fresh and interesting as the dramatic interiors in new Benzes, or look as techno-cool as a Cadillac or Porsche or Infiniti inside?” Then I remember how clean, simple and, most importantly, driver-oriented BMW interiors are. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
I have a choice of two shopping malls in my area but this is the one I prefer to go to. There are more stores, better parking and more curbside classics. What will I see next time I go grocery shopping?