Let’s follow up our look at that Fiat X1/9 with its big brother (or sister, depending), the Lancia Scorpion (Monte Carlo in Europe). It was originally designed to be the X1/9’s bigger brother, to be called the X1/20. But pehaps because the 124 Spider was such an evergreen hit, or because Lancia needed a boost, it arrived as such, and was even referred to as a Beta at the beginning.
It promised much: a bold (and successful, in my eye) rolling sculpture by Pininfarina, and much of the same basic technical approach that made the X1/9 such a delight on a windy road. There was just one thing missing: power. Yes, it was 1975, but surely a bit more could have been done to give the Scorpio a bit of bite.
81 horsepower. 0-60 in 13.4 seconds. 19.1 seconds for the 1/4 mile. For such a dynamic-looking car. What a shame.
Handling was very good, and with no sacrifice in ride quality. A little Ferrari, in other words. Brakes were another weak spot.
I used to love seeing these on the road in LA; what a breath of fresh air compared to the typical dull American car of the times. But they mostly didn’t stick around too long, although a few were survivors. And it was undoubtedly easy to make them come alive with the right engine mods, although getting around California’s smog tests made that challenging. If there’s a car I’d like to spot on the street today, it would be one of these. The odds are not exactly good.
In appearance and mechanical layout, the Scorpion had the potential to be a scaled-down “poor man’s” Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer. Because of the lack of power, compounded by the poor marketing FIAT deployed on behalf of Lancia products in the U.S., that never happened. It strikes me that, like the De Tomaso Pantera, the Scorpion is a car that could have been brought up to proper specs by an enthusiastic owner base. Since so few were sold, any potential the car had was forever wasted. They are now a curiosity that could be a hit at the orphan car show in Ypsilanti (sp.?), Michigan each summer. A beautiful car that, sadly, was introduced at a low point for automobiles in America, by a company lacking the will and resources to complete development of a promising concept.
It was a larger, more expensive, and arguably far worse X1/9.
If there were any left they would make an ideal candidate for an engine swap. A modern DOHC four cylinder of 150-200hp would make these a riot.
Or, a Busso v-6: https://bringatrailer.com/2015/06/13/busso-swapped-alfa-v6-powered-1976-lancia-scorpion/
I remember reading this road test back in the day. Scorpions were pretty cars, but man, they rusted like nobody’s business. I remember seeing two and three year old examples that looked like they were stored in a damp salt mine. Montecarlo/Scorpion production was stopped for two years while Lancia fixed the brake locking and fade Road & Track mentioned in this road test.Just for fun here’s a picture of the original Fiat X 1/20 prototype.
I definitely get a sense the ‘C’ pillar and quarter panel design, including the rear wheel arch shape and flaring, may have influenced the shape Chrysler later used somewhat awkwardly for the Plymouth Turismo and Dodge Charger in the early 80s. I’m speculating of course, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mopar designers didn’t review the Scorpion’s design details.
Completely irreverent and irrelevant data point. Does anyone remember “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo”. Herbies “love interest” was a Beta Scorpion.(technically a Beta Monte Carlo as it was the European version).
The weak acceleration is a sign of those times. The weak breaking is inexcusable.
I once had a chance to take a nice long drive in a restored X1/9. It was the closest thing to a go cart I’ve ever driven on a public road. I imagine one of these would have been right up there.
I sure do. “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo” is one of my all-time favorite movies.
The ’76 Scorpion used in the film was named Giselle, and she was owned by Diane Darcy, played by Julie Sommars. It was always fun watching the Herbie/Giselle scenes.
Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo is the very first thing I think of when I see these cars. Glad to know I’m not the only one.
These were quite the handsome car. However, at an as tested price of $11K, I can’t help but wonder how the Scorpion’s performance numbers compared to the economy cars R&T tested in June 1975.
In ’76 you could buy a Corvette and have enough left over to buy a Camaro ( if you desired ) for $11k!
I had a UK 2.0ltr mid 80’s with 120hp or so. It was fun, looked great, but even with roughly 50% more power it wasn’t really quick enough to keep me entertained back then for very long, maybe 2 months, so I fully understand the frustration of the authors.
Let’s all remember that the Lampredi twin cam four was the Integrale and 037 engine, so
power was not an issue, US emissions stuffed you guys yet again.
As fresh and clean as the Scorpion/Monte Carlo was for 1976, it was the same year Lotus Esprit that really caught my eye at the time. Seeming an even more iconic Italian shape. I loved the crisp design direction marked by the Esprit and the Aston Martin Lagonda that year.
There are a few excellent examples of Scorpions in the SF Bay Area and in the Sierra foothills. They’ve had some mods made to engines and suspensions and they are pretty cherry.
Back in 2000, I checked a blue ’76 out owned by a guy in San Ramon, Ca.. The car drove nice but it needed paint and the seats redone and the guy was asking a little too much. I ended up buying an ’86 X1/9 and I’ll be damned if I didn’t end up putting new paint on it and a new interior in, as well. That car got me back into X1/9s. A ’74 X was my first new car purchase back in the day.
Having driven both cars, I prefer the X and would opine that the only comparative plus with the Scorpion is there’s a little more room in the cabin.
Kind of reminds me of a fiero gt with the “flying buttress” roof. Seen a couple of these over the years.
Honestly, I’m a little surprised at the love for the styling of these cars. At the time, the shape seemed awkward and the detailing not so good either. It still doesn’t do anything for me 40 years later. Kind of an Aztek of sports cars, in my opinion. I’d take a Fulvia HF any day over the Scorpion or Monte Carlo, or even a Stratos, though I realize I’m probably in the minority on the latter.
“Honestly, I’m a little surprised at the love for the styling of these cars”
Thank you! I have just never warmed to the modernist/cubist/brutalist turn that Italian design took in the early 1970s. Give me those sensuous shapes of the previous decades.
“Aztec of sports cars” -funny. When I first saw these in the day, I thought they were kit cars.
Looked to be slapped together and designed by folks who lost their French curve,
+1, to all 3 above.
This and the X1/9 were perfect examples of how NOT to do it: both needed engines one or even two sizes up. What on earth were they thinking at Fiat on that occasion is beyond me.
Fiat pretty much stopped thinking after around 1972 when its cars turned to shit (as well as turning to rust)
The 132 came out all the game was up….
About the price of a 911
Same with weight
Same with weight distribution
And with around 100 less horsepower? Where is a can of nope?
One of my dad’s friends had an early Montecarlo. I think it was a pastel blue – sounds hideous but it was beautiful. He had it Ziebarted from new so rust wasn’t his main issue – that was the premature brake locking. He tried everything and ended up lining the front boot with lead. I believe after Lancia withdrew them from sale for a couple of years the eventual fix was to delete the brake servo.
A Pininfarina mock-up, approved by the Fiat committee who sat on it.
Apologies, a grammatical slip there. I meant to add a comma:
“…approved by the Fiat committee, who sat on it.”
A very careless committee they, though it does account for the Beta-with-collapsed-bits-on-top styling.
Company legend has it that the rubber nose was added by the clown hired for the approval party. Ofcourse, because all people there were clearly drunk, this cannot be confirmed.
81hp and he added more weight?
This car would be a real hoot here at altitude where it would be making 65hp.