Cohort poster S. Forrest was undoubtedly surprised to encounter a Lancia Beta Zagato in a parking in Ontario, in the winter no less. The last time I saw one of these was in sunny Los Angeles, over 25 years ago. And they were hardly a common sight then. One of these days, we’ll have to do the Beta family full justice here, but for today, let’s just briefly touch on this uncommon find.
The Beta family of cars were the first new cars from Lancia after it was taken over by Fiat in 1969. Three years later, the first Beta arrived, in the form of the sedan. The short wheelbase coupe followed a year later, and then in 1974, the 2+2 Spider, called Zagato for the US market, presumably to avoid confusion with the Alfa Romeo and Fiat 142 Spiders. The Spider was actually designed by Pininfarina, but built by Zagato, hence the name.
Although it now used Fiat-designed engines (1.4 – 2.0 L DOHC fours), and Fiat’s pioneering FWD layout, with the engine and transmission side-by-side, the Betas still showed some of Lancia’s innovative spirit, such as the rear suspension using MacPherson struts, which was widely copied. Although the early years of the Beta family was very rust prone, later ones were no worse than average. Still, seeing this one in this setting is a bit unexpected, even if there’s no snow on the ground.