Car Show Classics: Lancia Rally At Castlemaine Part 3


Moving back in time again from the 1960’s era cars from the last instalment, the 1950’s Lancias are no less impressive.  The trademark of Lancia was innovative engineering and this period is no exception, with the first production V6 engine among other things.


The V6 was the power plant for the Aurelia which debuted in 1950.  Looking at the mechanical layout, the transaxle gearbox was something that Ferrari adopted for the 275 in 1964, yet here it was in a family sedan over a decade prior.  Another thing that waasn’t typical was the all-syncromesh gearbox, which was an influence of the Alps not far from Lancia’s Torino factory and the need to make the most of its initial 1754 cc engine that made 54 hp on the 70 octane post-WW2 fuel.


The suspension was a mix of the traditional Lancia sliding pillar front suspension and a new semi-trailing arm layout at the rear (de Dion from 1954) – how many cars have used this over the years?  There were inboard rear brakes, and the body with its pillarless construction between the opposed doors as incredibly rigid not just for its time but for decades afterwards.


As with any 1951 car, it is not fast by modern standards but will cruise at a credible 70 mph against its top speed of 84 mph (135 km/h), and uses fuel at a rate of 22 mpg (US) or 10.6 L/100km.  The car is 174” (4.42 m) long with a 112.5” (2.86 m) wheelbase, and weighs 2200 lb (1060 kg).


The 60° V6 is undersquare with 70 mm bore and 76 mm stroke.  Both bore and stroke would later be enlarged at each step as the engine capacity was increased.  Some raw engine castings were on display by one of the vendors.


Here is the interior of the sedan, the speedometer is centrally mounted in front of the driver (marked here in miles per hour) with a clock to the left and minor gauges to the right.  The large square gauge in the centre of the dashboard is a tachometer that peaks at 5,000 rpm.  The car was trimmed with woollen cloth, but this was covered in the tan vinyl seen here in 1967; this car is very original and was for sale on the day.


The cars are full of lovely details, such as these headlights.


The Aurelia B20 GT coupe followed the sedan in 1951, by which time the engine had 2.0L capacity with twin Weber carbs for the GT.  The car is renowned as one of the first modern Grand Touring coupes, and the Pinin Farina styling still looks great today to say the least.


This coupe is owned by the GM head of global design, Michael Simcoe, and is a good reflection of his automotive taste.  Note the original Italian registration plates.


And while the car came from Italy it is right-hand drive, as most Aurelias and indeed Lancias were.  The GT has a more dramatic dashboard with its very large speedometer and tachometer; the minor gauges are set rather neatly within the centre of them.  Another difference from the sedan’s column gear change is the floor-mounted shifter here.


Later the Aurelia’s engine was expanded to 2.5L, still undersquare at 78×85.5 mm, and producing up to 118 hp for the final 1957 models.  The air cleaner housing and intake manifold here both bear Nardi markings.


Next we have a Lancia Appia, looking for all the world like a shrunken Aurelia.  Despite being a later car than the Aurelia, introduced in 1953, the Appia was more conventional.


Conventional for Lancia at least; it still had a V4 engine!  1.1 litres in this case, feeding power through a conventional gearbox and live rear axle.  The pillarless body featured aluminium panels for the doors, bonnet and boot lid as well as the rear quarter panels, and had the same impressive rigidity as the Aurelia.


The interior is perhaps more typical 1950’s sedan fare, with a large sweeping speedometer.  Like many of the cars here, some additional gauges have been added to keep an eye on vital signs.  The column gear change may allow 3 slender people to squeeze into the front seat, but this is a narrow car (56″/1420 mm).


Details again – the radiator badge and name script.


There were many coachbuilt variations on the Appia, and unlike the Aurelia they were well-represented at Castlemaine.  The Vignale convertible was the first, and shared front end styling themes with the Series 2 sedan.


Comparing the height of the door sills to the coupe below, it can be seen where the additional strength necessary to remove the roof was gained.  The (lower) chrome strip is just above the bottom of the door.


Even the interior shares the same look as larger Italian sports cars of the period, and if performance was not quite the same it was still very creditable for the engine size.  Top speed was 90 mph.


The Farina-bodied coupe here has a similar appearance to the convertible but more fuller curves to contrast with the tauter line of the Vignale convertible.


The roofline shape is very striking, and there are so many details that have been handled differently by the different coachbuilders.


If anything, the interior is even more different.


The Appia Sport by Zagato was a lightweight short-wheelbase variant, and is quite a rare car.  I would say it is a less controversial design than some of their later cars.


It is also tiny, being towered over by the Aurelia sedan beyond it.  Length is 157″ (3990 mm) on a 92.5″ (2350 mm) wheelbase, with height a mere 48.4″ (1230 mm).  There are quite a few variations of these Zagato Appias, and from what I can tell this is one of the later type.


There was another Zagato, this one a GTZ with the signature double-hump roofline.  Comparing it to the other Zagato car there are quite a few detail difference, not least the wheelbase!


Here is a shot of the underside of the famous double-humped roof.  Not a lot of rollover protection, but the car would only weigh approximately 1,800 lb (820 kg).


Compared to the other car, this one has timber panels on the dashboard, but lacks the small armrests.  With a 1090 cc engine you can understand why the wide-angle mirror has been fitted!


Here is another interesting detail of the car – the flush door handle.  The little button makes the handle pop out to be used to open the door latch.  Very neat.


So that covers the 1950’s cars, and what a fascinating bunch they were.  Tune in next week for some pre-war cars!


Further Reading:

Lancia Rally at Castlemaine Part 1 – 1970’s & 80’s

Lancia Rally at Castlemaine Part 2 – 1960’s

Vintage Capsule Overview: Lancia Aurelia B20 Coupe

QOTD: Why Weren’t All Four Door Sedans Built Like This?