Lifestyle

Lancia Time


Vincenzo Lancia loved automobiles, driving and motoring competition. The delectable machines that flowed from the factory were the expression of his passion. There were many great designs pre-War: the Lambda V4 of the vintage years; the Augusta, Lancia's first small family car; the nimble little Aprilia of the late 1930's, a roomy economy saloon with racing standards of handling and cornering power.

The Flaminia was the first Lancia designed by Antonio Fessia and was the flagship of the range when launched in 1957. Fessia had finally broken with tradition and had discarded the vertical-coil independent front suspension in favor of wishbones. The engine was a 2.5-liter V6 driving through an aft-mounted gearbox and DeDion rear axle. In 1964, the 3C version was introduced with a 2.8-liter engine producing 152 bhp. The Flaminia remained in production until 1970.

Without doubt the most attractive coachwork on these chassis was the "Double Bubble" coupe by Zagato, of which 187 were built. They are a stunning combination of Italian machinery and cosmetic design.

This triple-carburetor Super Sport model was acquired by the present owner in 1996. Over the years work has been carried out as and when required, and copies of bills totaling over $12,000 during this ownership are now on file. Work included a complete brake overhaul, a front suspension rebuild with new ball joints and re-alignment, a new exhaust system, some rewiring, and the fitting of four new tires at a cost of $600. The fuel system was also rebuilt at this time, the front engine mounts were replaced, and air horns were fitted. The paintwork is good, despite having some age, and the interior, finished in black leather, is in good order.

We have not had the opportunity to road test the car, but we are informed that it drives well.

The SCM Analysis

This car sold for $64,625 at the Christie's Greenwich, Connecticut, auction, June 4, 2006.

The Aurelia B20GT was a hard act for Lancia to follow. Considered by most to be the seminal post-war grand touring car, it had great looks and performance, imaginative engineering, and an enviable racing pedigree.

Surpassing it would be a challenge, and Lancia eventually offered no fewer than three coupes in its place. This would have been an accomplishment for a focused company with a full bank account, but unfortunately, by the mid-'50s Lancia was neither. The company was about to embark on model proliferation, which would lead to a second crisis and see the company fall into the clutches of Fiat in 1969.

The disastrous decision to go racing made by company head Gianni Lancia had created a terrific financial burden, and in 1955, Carlo Pesenti, a cement industrialist, had taken over the company. Pesenti quickly halted the racing program, and chief engineer Antonio Fessia was charged with the task of creating new models to earn money for Lancia.

Pininfarina had designed and built a series of show cars on the Aurelia chassis called the "Florida." They had clean, somewhat transatlantic styling, which gave a more modern look to the big Lancia, and were the basis for the new Flaminia sedan and a four-seater coupe built by Pininfarina. The other two models were a two-seater from Carrozzeria Touring, which also spawned a convertible, and the subject of our profile, the Sport coupe from Zagato. The idea was that the businessman would choose the Pininfarina coupe, the playboy the Touring coupe, and the sportsman the Zagato model.

While Zagato was primarily known for creating lightweight cars suitable for racing, the race record of the Flaminia Sport was not extensive and certainly never matched that of the Aurelia GT. Its best result was a 2nd overall in the now-neutered Mille Miglia in 1961.

There were three distinct series of Zagato coupes made. The first 150 or so had covered headlights and a rounded tail, the second had exposed vertically mounted headlights and the final version reverted to a sleeker front end, some with covered headlights and the most dramatic change, a "kammback" rear end.

A handful of early cars were built as lightweight racing specials by Zagato, with Plexiglas side windows, alloy wheels, a longer, streamlined nose, and a hotter engine. All have the signature Zagato "double bubble" roof, which is a distinct design feature.

Initially powered by a 119-hp 2.5-liter single carburetor engine, the later models gained the 3B 140-hp engine with either single or triple carbs and ultimately, the 3C 2.8-liter, 152-hp three-carb powerplant. These last cars were renamed Super Sport. All the series have rear-mounted transaxles and 4-speed transmissions. It's hard to know exactly how many of these cars were made, as they shared the platform of the Touring-bodied cars, and some numbers assigned to Touring were actually made as Zagato cars. Whatever the number, they are rare and desirable.

The car sold here came from a large and noted collection of an SCMer on the East Coast. He had three of this particular model and clearly chose to shed the least of them. It had previously been offered for sale at Christie's May 2002 auction at Rockefeller Center in New York City, where it failed to sell at a high bid of $48,000 (SCM# 28423).

At that auction, I observed that the car seemed tired and un-used. It had older, very high quality paintwork, which was beginning to show some issues with cracking, and it needed some interior tidying. Four years later, the interior had been addressed, but there were now problems with the fit of both doors, especially on the left side, which wouldn't close properly.

In spite of Editor Martin's experience with his "two-piece" Flaminia Super Sport, which tried to break in half when he put it onto a lift, I don't think this one had a case of terminal rot. Rather, it was an example of the hand-made nature of these cars and their sensitivity to adjustment and use. If not closely looked after and regularly driven, small things, like door adjustment, go wrong and start to add up.

The triple Webers of the ultimate spec 3C engine can sometimes be difficult to synchronize, but once properly set up, deliver smooth, ample power. It's also important to make sure on Flaminias that the rear-mounted flywheel is correctly balanced to avoid annoying vibrations. When they are right, there are few cars more rewarding to drive, and they make superb vintage rally and tour mounts.

This car needs someone to sort it out and make sure it actually gets used. It will not take much to make this a much better car than it currently is. The Flaminia Super Sport is one of the most desirable post-war Lancias, and has steadily been rising in value for the past five years.

The sale of this example at over $64,000 indicates that the market continues to improve for these cars, as this would have bought a high #3 or low #2 car not long ago. It was purchased by another noted collector who spares little expense to get his vehicles into top condition, and he has chosen a good starting point. I would say both sides made out well here.

Years Produced: 1959-64

Number Produced: 593 (approx.)

Original List Price: $7,088

SCM Valuation: $55,000-$90,000 (at time of print)

Tune-up Cost: $65

Distributor Caps: $120

Chassis #: 826232002132

Chassis # Location: Plate on right side of firewall

Engine # Location: Right side of cylinder head

Club Info: American Lancia Club, 27744 Via Ventana, Los Altos Hills, CA 94022

Web Site: http://www.americanlanciaclub.org

Alternatives: 1960–63 Aston Martin DB4, 1965–67 Alfa Romeo 2600Z, 1963–64 Jaguar E-type

Investment Grade: B


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