Last time we experienced the later model Lancias that assembled in the historic town of Castlemaine, Victoria Australia, almost 12 months ago (time flies!) and now it is time to go back to the 1960’s when Lancia was still at its peak, as represented by this pair of Fulvia.
I’ll cheat slightly and start with one of the larger Lancias, which was actually released in 1959. The Flaminia coupe ran until 1967 so chances are this car was built in the 1960s. It is surprising that the coupe was not released until 2 years after the debut of the Flaminia sedan. The Flaminia is perhaps the closest production car to the Pininfarina Florida concept car, which was covered by Paul here and itself based on a Lancia Aurelia.
While the Pininfarina styling of the Flaminia was very much ‘of its time’, well of 1957 at least if not 1967, the mechanical layout was anything but. The car had a 2.5L V6 engine, transaxle gearbox and De Dion rear suspension. Currently this layout is used by the Corvette, front-engined Ferraris
The interior is quite simple, but very cleanly executed and here beautifully restored. I can only guess that the lever hanging under the dashboard is an unusual handbrake.
Looking at the rear view, there are more details that are either terribly elegant or perhaps a bit clumsy; I can’t decide! Look at the thick chrome moulding around the side windows and the “tacked-on” nature of the small-ish fins, and the car has a slightly bulky appearance, as if it was scaled-up from a smaller original design or over-inflated. It is also interesting to consider that the Flaminia pre-dated the BMC and Peugeot sedans that shared the styling theme by 2 and 3 years respectively.
There were a pair of these coupes side-by-side, and the silver car missing its hubcaps gives an insight into some of the unusual mechanical details typical of Lancia – the universal joint in the centre of the wheel hub, and indeed wheel, is visible! Perhaps there was an advantage gained by having the driveshaft as long as possible.
Another car in the signature Lancia dark blue colour was the next iteration of the Flaminia – the GT coupe. While the standard coupe is not far removed from the 4-door in height and overall form, the GT coupe is significantly lower and sleeker. This car was designed by Touring of Milan, and constructed on a 14” shorter wheelbase using their Superleggera technique.
This GT features the 2.8L version of the V6, upgraded with a trio of Weber carburettors more typically seen on the Zagato-bodied Sports coupe. This should lift power to around the 150 bhp mark, and top speed to something like 125 mph; not bad for 1963. Note the shutters in front of the radiator that can reduce airflow in cold conditions; not likely to be needed in Australia!
The next car is the Flavia sedan which is about the same size as a Ford Cortina. The Flavia was first released in 1960, and I wonder if there was a last-minute change to quad headlights because it certainly looks a bit unfortunate that way. Keeping the car as short as possible doesn’t really gel with the traditional styling cues shared with the Flaminia and some other Lancias. This one was done by Piero Castagnero at Lancia’s Centro Stile.
The rear end doesn’t have the same excuse for also having some fairly awkward elements. On the other hand, look at the brilliantly compact hinges and the gas strut to hold the boot lid up – that’s more like the typically well-resolved detail Lancia was known for.
The size is about the only similarity to a Cortina, as the Flavia has a flat-four engine driving the front wheels via double wishbone, transverse leaf-spring front suspension, four wheel disc brakes and was equipped with radial tyres. Given all this, you might be surprised to learn the rear suspension is a more conventional leaf-sprung solid axle. In a front-wheel drive car it is less important.
While there wasn’t anything wrong with the way the Flavia drove that couldn’t be solved by adding some more horsepower as the years progressed, such as the 1800 cc that must have been a welcome addition to the Flavia Coupe. The Pininfarina heritage of the coupe is clear, with a real mini-Ferrari vibe.
Inside is a traditional Grand Touring dashboard and steering wheel. The gear lever goes straight into the longitudinally-mounted front transaxle, with the absence of a tailshaft very evident. The angle of the gear lever is not so unusual as you might think; it is reminiscent of an Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV for example.
Here is the rear view, alongside the facelifted rear of the Berlina that arrived in 1967.
That restyle must have seemed a long time coming – you might think Lancia had other things on their minds, eg the launch of the Fulvia! Happily the new front end was a lot more successful in my opinion.
The coupe was restyled in 1969 for a smooth, modernised appearance even if it was less distinctive – I’ve always thought it looked somewhat similar to the Fiat 124 type BC coupe.
Again to cheat slightly against a 1960s focus, the Flavia was restyled and renamed the 2000 in 1971, becoming slightly more boxy if anything…
… as can be seen from the rear too.
To round out the 1960’s Lancias I’ll start with this sole sedan version of the 1963 Fulvia. While the car is undoubtedly boxy, as mentioned earlier it had to be to fit people inside what is a fairly tiny 162” long, 61” wide sedan.
The trunk is long for the size of the car, and has the spare tyre mounted vertically across the back panel for easy access without having to unload luggage. This prioritisation reflects how much more common punctures were over 50 years ago.
The interior is quite attractive, with a horizontal speedometer, large integrated tachometer and four auxiliary gauges, with a warm timber panel running across the car. The seats look very inviting.
While the Fulvia shared the longitudinal fwd layout with the larger Flavia, the engine reverted to a more typical V4 with a vee-angle of under 13°. Power for the Berlina GT was 80 hp from 1,231 cc – better than the Mini Cooper S. With twin Weber carburettors as seen here, it would be more like 100 hp, and I believe that is without the sort of “gross horsepower” shenanigans that Detroit was getting into during this era. This is in the sedan pictured above, too, not one of the many coupes on display. Boxy, but fast!
But as always the coupe of the range overshadowed the sedan, and the Fulvia was unusual in also being styled in-house by Piero Castagnero. The wheelbase was shortened by 6”; rear seats may have become almost unusable but I don’t think too many people were deterred when there was a significant weight saving to be had.
As with the Delta Integrale from the first instalment from the show, development of the Fulvia was strongly inspired by its rallying success, with Rallye S and HF models soon following. Weight was reduced by deleting the bumpers, substituting aluminium panels and plexiglass windows.
Capacity grew to 1300 and then 1600 cc, with power outputs from the factory as much as 132 hp. The cars were rallied until replaced by the purpose-built Stratos. The ultimate version were known as Fanalone, denoting the larger inner pair of headlights.
Alongside the factory coupe was the Lancia Sport which was designed and built by Zagato. Early Fulvia Sports had side-opening bonnet. The first had all-aluminium bodyshells before production demands saw a switch to steel.
Mechanically both coupes were matched, so the most significant differences were the 4” lower height and lack of rear seat for the Zagato version. The swoopier Sport body was also 4.5” longer – almost as long as the sedan.
Which one of these exceptional cars do you prefer? I think the Sport Zagato coupe is one of the best-looking small coupes that has ever been built, but it would not be hard to make a home for any of the Lancias from this era.