A feast for the eyes! In the great buffet that is the Italian 6-cyl. GT landscape of the early ‘60s, the antipasto would be the Fiat 2300S. For the meat course, a Maserati 3500GT would be ideal, and the fish would have to be the Alfa Romeo 2600. This leaves the dessert. Could anything be sweeter than a dark Touring-bodied Flaminia with a creamy interior?
We find ourselves back to southwestern France for this sweet slice of ‘60s Italian cake – a very rich and flavourful piece of pastry, at that. There were hundreds of cars about the town. All the British roadsters and American muscle cars one could wish for. Porsches galore, mountains of Alpines, a flotilla of Corvettes. But there was only one Flaminia. Any more would have been sheer gluttony.
In many ways, the Flaminia was the last traditional Lancia, if such an epithet could be used for that most unconventional carmaker. It succeeded the Aurelia at the top of the range in 1957, though it was previewed by Pininfarina’s groundbreaking Florida cars a couple of years earlier. The four-door saloon that finally emerged was the first Lancia to forego the classic grille in favour of something a bit more contemporary.
The Flaminia can be considered an evolution of the Aurelia in many ways, though Lancia’s new engineering team, led by Antonio Fessia, simplified and modernized things a bit: gone were the right-hand drive and the sliding pillar front suspension, the latter replaced by a more up-to-date wishbones and coils setup. But the all-alloy V6, though redesigned to be much less undersquare, remained – as did the leaf-sprung De Dion rear end with its transaxle. With a displacement of 2458cc, Lancia didn’t bother trying to limbo under the Italian taxman’s 2-litre limit. The Flaminia would be more of a luxury car than its predecessor, even for the domestic market.
The range was soon expanded to include a handful of models, designed and built with the help of the finest Italian carrozzerie. Pininfarina’s stately saloon was coupled with an elegant four-seater coupé (bottom left). Zagato went for their usual ultra-light and slippery approach for the Super Sport (bottom right), leaving Touring to produce a distinguished quad-eyed two-seater coupé (top right) that also doubled as the basis for the convertible.
This being ‘60s Italy, there were also a number of specials made by various coachbuilders. Pininfarina worked with Lancia to produce a literal handful of parade cars (middle right) for the Italian presidential service, which were used for decades. PF also designed a lovely one-off coupé (bottom left) that still exists today in near mint condition. Sadly, Vignale’s 1959 drop-top (top left) was scapped. Unfortunately, the Loewy-penned and Motto-made atrocity named Loraymo (top right) survived. The 1961 Boneschi cabriolet (middle left) was one of that coachbuilder’s last prestige car designs before switching to buses and trucks. Finally, the 1969 Marica coupé, designed by Tom Tjaarda for Ghia, represents the very tail end of the Flaminia’s production run, when the model was still on price lists, but no longer being made.
So let’s focus on the model that interests us today, the Touring convertibile. It was, as stated earlier, simply the soft-top version of the 1959 two-seater coupé, debuting in March 1960. First series cars (1960-61) had a 117hp single-carb V6, improving to 140hp thanks to a triple-Weber setup in 1962 for the second series, henceforth known as the Flaminia GT “3C” (three carburettors).
Ah, but then in 1963, to keep up with the Italian equivalent of the Joneses, the Flaminia got a bit more bang for its (pretty considerable) bucks in the form of a tiny “28” badge at the rear and a new, enlarged and improved 2775cc V6 in the front. This only pushed the hp count up to 150, but the smoothness and torque were markedly improved.
Touring set to work crafting the third series cars for Lancia, but despite very low volumes, Flaminias were slow sellers. To wit, production of the convertible actually ended in 1964, but stocks lasted (both for the 2.5 and 2.8 litre cars) up to 1968-69. It wasn’t just the convertible, either: Flaminia production as a whole slowed to a crawl in the mid-‘60s, with only a few dozen berlinas being produced per year from 1966 to 1969.
In the end, Lancia made only 12,400 Flaminias over a 13-year run. About a third were the standard four-door saloon, but Pininfarina’s four-seater coupé was the most successful of all variants, with over 5000 units made. For its part, the Touring convertible accounted for just over 800 units, including 180 with the 2.8 litre engine. This is a very rare car indeed. Definitely one of the prettiest Italian drop-tops of the decade, too.
The only thing that rivals the beauty of the body and the sophistication of the chassis is the impeccable good taste of the interior. The Italians sure knew how to make a car feel special in all directions – inside, outside and underneath.
None of that saved either Lancia or Touring, though. The coachbuilder went belly up in 1966 and Lancia had to succumb to Fiat’s inescapable embrace, as all carmakers eventually do in Italy, by the end of 1969. In theory, the Gamma replaced the Flaminia as the top Lancia half a decade later. In practice, that poor Gamma was definitely not in the same league as the Flaminia. There’s nothing that could follow such a glorious dessert.
Curbside Classic: 1966 Lancia Flaminia Super Sport – Gotta Catch ’em All, by Geraldo Solis