The Cohort Sighting of a Lancia Aurelia B24 Spyder on Sunday displayed the beauty of this early ’50s Italian classic. Rare and remembered by few today, Aurelias were rare and almost unknown in the United States 30 years ago, only two decades after Lancia built them and raced them in Europe and North America with great success. A brief Road & Track article from October 1984, rediscovered after Sunday’s Cohort Sighting, tells part of the story of the Aurelia.
The Aurelia was far more than just a beauty; it was a world-class athlete as well. The first major product of the second generation of the Lancia family to run the company, the Aurelia series began as a four door sedan in 1950, then added the B20 coupe in 1951, followed by specialized D20 competition coupes and the D23, D24 and D25 spyders. The Aurelia soon built a formidable record of competition success: second overall in the April 1951 Mille Miglia (B20), first in class at the 24 Hours of LeMans in June 1951 (B20), 1-2-3 in the 1952 Targa Florio (B20), first in the 1953 Carrera Panamericana (Juan Manuel Fangio in a D24 Spyder) and Targa Florio (D20), first in the 1954 Mille Miglia (Alberto Ascari in a D24 Spyder) and Targa Florio (D20).
The author of this brief article was Road & Track’s Lawrence C. Crane, who had owned numerous Italian classics from Alfa, Lancia and Ferrari and bought a B20 because it was “the only car … of serious historical significance without a stratospheric price.” He was clearly right about the Aurelia’s historical significance, but his comment about being without a stratospheric price is clearly dated.
At one time the B20 could be had at a reasonable (relatively speaking) price. So too could an Alfa Romeo GTV. I guess many, like me, have, as they matured, come to appreciate the subtle beauty and performance of these two cars and some others which has caused them to command higher prices.
I always wanted a GTV6 ever since they were new, just never had the money or the time to sort one out.
Come to think of it at the time I was looking at a Mustang GT or that and considered the Alfa would have been the better buy in the long run. Still do.
Drool, drool, drool…
These are so beautiful. Way, way out of my price range, but beautiful. I like these even better than the roadsters.
I was a bit baffled by all the fuss made over the spyder the other day – everyone breathlessly praising its beauty but I just don’t see it. This on the other hand, I see it.
I’m clearly just not won over by topless beauties 😀 Give me well described lines on a solid top any day
The example from the other day was spoiled (apologies owner) by a few things; extra driving lights, relatively cumbersome bumper and, most of all, the ragtop which should never be used with the curved screen. The below example never went into production, but shows the true beauty of the B24. The B20 is perhaps better described as handsome, but of course beauty is in the eye…
A convertible: a stunning coupe that obviously must have been involved in a horrible accident.
Apparently Spider is an old American term for a ‘convertible’ coach. Name was derived from its spindly wheels.
It seems that both conventional wisdom and auction prices have always had the B24 Spyder made out to be the best looking and most desirable Aurelia, but I noticed that we’ve had quite a few comments stating a preference for the coupe in both Lancia articles – and I agree with them.
Both are incredible, but the coupe does way more for me. It’s so much more distinctive and unique. You can tell immediately that it’s from the first wave of new post-war design, but it’s also like nothing else that came out of that period. The shape is lithe from some angles, slightly bulky from others – which might’ve been why it never got the respect it deserves back in the day, but at this point it only adds to the charm. That top picture of the black one? Oh my god… aside from the steering wheel being on the wrong side, that is pretty damn close to perfection as far as I’m concerned.
I think some of the Spyder’s visual impact may be lost on us because it’s from an era where achingly gorgeous European roadsters were the norm. If you didn’t know about the mechanical stuff underneath, it’s just another (very) pretty face.
You’re absolutely right about the pic of the black one. That angle, colour and quality of photograph bring out the best in this.
I think the B20, even to conventional wisdom, has always been acknowledged as a true driver’s car. The people that value the spider above it are probably the same sort of people that will take a Ferrari 250 ‘California’ to a price multiple of a non-‘California’ 250 ragtop at auction.
As I’ve mentioned below, this car is THE Lancia to me, but I still feel the design has an awkwardness bettered by the PF Cisitalia 202 and some of the Zagato Maserati A6 coupes from the same period.
The issue with the Aurelia Coupe is that it’s really more of a two door sedan than a true sports coupe as more typically thought of. It used the same overly long (104.7″) wheelbase as the sedan, and it seems to sit equally as high. Most Italian sport coupes sat much lower, like the Cisitalia and pretty much all the resat. I can’t think of another Italian coupe that sits so high and tall.
Which actually makes it feel a bit like an American “coupe” or such. Of course it’s handsome for being so tall and riding on a long wheelbase (the Spyder had a shortened wb), bit it’s also in a class of its own, which makes comparisons a bit difficult.
The Aurelia sedan is almost awkward with that very long wheelbase. The coupe sits on the same one, and does a better job, FWIW, but the rear wheels are too far back. You’d think the Aurelia was FWD! Odd.
Yes, and its unfair of me to compare it with short production run examples such as the Cisitalia and A6. The PF catalogue features some earlier examples such as the 1948 Alfa 2500 Berlina Victoria and the 1949 Fiat 1100S Berlinetta Sport. Again, short run or one-offs, but to my eyes a better resolution using the same Pininfarina line. Very frustrating I can’t attach pics at the moment.
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head though. It’s the long wheelbase that throws things. But while it may lose slightly in the prettiness race, it more than makes up for it by giving the car its purposeful edge. It interesting to see how many Lancias were produced by PF using this general line before settling on the B20. Of note is the 1948 Aprilia Berlinetta Sport.
Of course the best looking Aurelia is the Florida II which, as you have so comprehensively presented, begat the Flaminia series and a whole host of other beautiful cars.
(sorry I can’t seem to attach pics at the moment)
were these a narrow angle V6, maybe even a single head like a VW VR6?
It’s a 60-degree V, and has overhead valves – just like a Cavalier Z24!
I never saw one in the flesh, but I remember them from my youth – another Tintin classic car:
Breathtakingly beautiful.Like a work of art I could look at for hours.
Gee, I listen to Django Reinhardt, but I don’t own a Lancia, which is not likely to be remedied any time soon. I am one fouled-up demographic, at least according to R&T. 🙂
One of my favorite cars of all time. I think Mike Hawthorn owned one for getting around the Continent quickly and comfortably.
Maybe not the first Gran Turismo, but the defining example. Not the prettiest Lancia, but the most purposeful design. Whenever I see or hear the word ‘Lancia’, this is the model that pops into my head. I saw one on the road in Melbourne a few years ago and it sticks in my memory like that beyond beautiful girl I saw at Brunetti’s nearly twenty years ago. Buona Pasqua Robert.
Sigh… I had to chance to buy both a B20 & B24 (coupe & conv) in the late 1970s, for… well… dirt cheap, and didn’t. I regret that decision constantly.