7 Greatest Lancias To Hit The Road

Car Culture / 3 Comments

The Italian automaker is set to make a comeback, so we take a look at its past.

Lancia is so embedded in automotive history that it gave us the unibody chassis and five-speed transmission. In Motorsport, despite not competing in the World Rally Championship since 1992, Lancia still holds the record for Manufacturers' Championships won and the cars it raced are all legends. It has been a sad decline for one of the most advanced automakers in the world, though. Now, Lancia's website's tag is for "fashion city cars," and its single model is only sold in Italy.

It may not be a slow death for Lancia, though. The still freshly minted Franco-Italian-American company Stellantis is looking to revive the brand. The new Lancia CEO, Luca Napolitano, even spoke about the idea of bringing the legendary Delta name back. That gives us hope for a real revival and a great excuse to look back at Lancia's most important cars. It's entirely possible that alongside Jeep, Dodge, Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, Alfa Romeo, and Maserati, we might see Lancia back on these American shores.


1. Lancia Lambda

Lancia was founded in Turin, Italy, in 1906 by race car driver Vincenzo Lancia and his friend Claudio Fogolin. Their first car was the 28-horsepower Tipo 51. The company quickly started its reputation for innovation with cars like the Theta in 1913, the first European car with a complete electrical system. The Lambda was launched in 1923 and helped pioneer the monocoque chassis and independent front suspension. The combination of the suspension design putting the spring and hydraulic damper into a single unit and the monocoque-style chassis lowering the car's center of gravity made the Lambda hard to beat in terms of ride and handling. Most other cars at the time used live axle suspension and body-on-frame designs. The Lambda was powered by Lancia's first V4 engine, a narrow-angle aluminum 2.1-liter unit that made 48 hp and, by the end of the car's run in 1931, it grew to 2.5 liters and made 68 hp.

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2. Lancia Aprilia

Vincenzo Lancia died in 1937, and the Aprilia was the last car he was involved in. It was one of the first cars designed using a wind tunnel to reduce the coefficient drag. A 1.4-liter V4 engine powered it, and the large family sedan could hit 80 mph. The svelte bodywork came from the pen of Battista 'Pinin' Farina and included pillar-less doors with the rear doors mirroring the fronts on each side. Lancia produced left and right-hand drive versions and built them at a new factory near Paris, France, and in Italy. Lancia badged the French-made models as the Lancia Ardennes.

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3. Lancia Aurelia

In 1950 Lancia started selling the Aurelia as a sedan before expanding the range to include a coupe, a convertible, and its most beautiful version, a Pinin Farina penned spyder (pictured below). The Aurelia was the beginning of Lancia's tradition of naming cars after a Roman road. In this case, the Via Aurelia link from Rome to Pisa. It was also one of the first production cars to come with a V6 and a front engine, rear transmission configuration. That configuration quickly became popular with Ferrari, Porsche, and Volvo, to name a few manufacturers. The Aurelia was built through six "series' until 1958. Lancia built just over 18,000 models, with the rarest being the gorgeous Aurelia Spider.

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4. Lancia Fulvia Coupe

The Lancia Fulvia was produced from 1963 to 1976 and set the scene for the coming decades, but it was only in 1965 that the coupe debuted. It was a beautifully engineered and precision-built road car with bodies by legendary designers, including Zagato, Pininfarina, and Ghia. However, unlike previous models, it was front-wheel drive with a V4 engine rather than an inline-four. It was a quick, great handling road car, but it also made a name in rallying. Lancia had pulled out of Formula 1 in 1955, and the Fulvia was the brand's way back into racing. In 1965, Lancia integrated the skunkworks rally team, HF Squadra Corse. Cesare Fiorio, a manager at Lancia, started the project with a couple of Fulvia models and ran it until 1984. The HF stands for High Fidelity.

A Fulvia won the Italian Rally Championship every year from 1965 to 1973 except for 1970 and won the International Championship for Manufacturers in 1972 with two rounds to spare. Then the Fulvia won the championship in 1973 without any podium finishes. The car pictured below is a 1972 Lancia Fulvia 1600 HF with the bumpers removed for rallying.

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5. Lancia Stratos HF Stradale

Another Iconic rally car, the Lancia Stratos HF, arrived in 1973. It was introduced to replace the aging Fulvia for motorsport, but road-going versions were sold for homologation purposes. Lancia used Bertone for the Stratos models' bodywork, but most importantly, it was the first car purposely and singularly designed and built for rallying. It was homologated with 500 models using Ferrari's Dino V6 engine and called the Lancia Stratos HF Stradale. The Stratos HF won the 1974, 1975, and 1976 World Rally Championships and cemented itself as a rallying legend. Unfortunately, Lancia was at that point part of the Fiat group, and Fiat wanted to concentrate on its rally car. Despite a lack of support from Fiat and tighter regulations in its class, the Stratos remained competitive right up until 1981. Despite its long run, the Stratos is a rare and expensive car.

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6. Lancia Rally 037

Fiat forced Lancia to back out of rallying to give the Fiat 131 Abarth a chance of winning championships. Fiat took the 1977, 1978, and 1980 constructor's championships, but Lancia wasn't done. Group B opened the door back in with its low number of vehicles required for homologation. The Lancia Rally 037 was loosely based on the Lancia Montecarlo (known as Scorpion in the US) and developed by Pininfarina, Abarth, and the Italian race car manufacturer Dallara. As a nod to Abarth, the Rally 037 took styling cues from 1950s Fiat race cars, including its double bubble roof line. Lancia only produced 200 road-going models, and they're a rare bird to see, let alone go up for sale. Lancia took the 1983 World Rally Championship Constructor title despite the advent of the four-wheel-drive Audi Quattro. Lancia produced an Evolution 2 version of the 037 for the 1984 season, but four-wheel-drive became king, and the 037 was the last car to win a Group B championship with rear-wheel drive.

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7. Lancia Delta HF Integrale

Unlike the Stratos and 037, the Delta was mass-production first and a rallying legend second. The small family car went into production in 1979, and the first performance version, the Delta HF didn't arrive until 1984. Its 1.6-liter engine was turbocharged, and the 1985 refresh of the model brought the name Delta HF Turbo. Lancia's first all-wheel-drive model was the Delta HF 4WD, and that went rallying. Group B was canceled in 1987, so the Delta HF 4WD entered Group A, now the premier rallying class, and took the 1987 World Rally Championship as a constructor while Juha Kankkunen took the driver's title in the car.

The Lancia Delta HF Integrale was the road-going version of the rally car and one of the greatest, most desirable hot hatches from the 1980s. It was a precursor to modern performance cars like the Ford Focus RS and the Volkswagen Golf R. The Delta HF Integrale had a permanent four-wheel-drive system, an epicyclic center differential with viscous coupling, a Torsen rear diff, and an eight-valve 2.0-liter turbocharged engine making just over 180 hp. A later 16-valve version upped the power, but the ultimate evolution of the sport model was the Delta HF Integrale Evoluzione II. It made 212 hp, almost the entire chassis was upgraded, and the car was finished off with Recaro seats and a Momo steering wheel.

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