To Lancia, or not to Lancia?

So the GTV6 is sold and we’ve decided to shelve our plans for building a new home. That means it’s Game On for car shopping!

I had a couple of important criteria for my next car, key among which were that it had to be good for a long distance east-coast road trip that Mrs Swade and I want to do in a few months from now, and that it also had to be fun and engaging for me as a daily driver and club car. Those criteria were going to be difficult to resolve.

I think we’ve solved that particular dual-purpose problem, however.

Mrs Swade has agreed to an upgrade from her Saab 9000CS to a more potent and more functional Saab 9000 (our car has a number of electrical and functional niggles that would be uneconomical to repair). Yes, we love the 9000. I’ve currently got a bead on two suitable 9000s in good order, one an Aero and the other an Anniversary model. I’ve craved an Aero for years and the one I’ve found seems to be in good order after checking it out with a friend who knows the car. The price is right, too, and 9000 Aeros in good condition are only getting harder to find. It’s likely I’ll pull the trigger on that one very soon.

That takes care of the cruiser that’ll make for a wonderful utilitarian family car for us. So now to the fun car.

The usual suspects are on the list. Porsche 944 (either S2 or turbo), Alfa Romeo GTV V6 (the wedgy coupe from 1998 onwards), Alfa Romeo 33 16V. My mate Eggs has even got me looking at Maserati BiTurbos (the survivors have to be well sorted by now, right?).

As you can see, Italian is a factor here. I belong to an Italian car club and while a lot of members own an Italian but bring their reliable Japanese cars to the track, I’m an advocate for flying the flag at all times.

Something Italian that I’ve never considered before, but has recently become available is a very nicely sorted vintage Lancia coupe. We have all manner of brands available in Australia but even here, Lancias are relatively rare. Most of the Lancias for sale are Betas from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. For those who are unfamiliar, the Beta is the car that killed Lancia thanks to rust issues. That old joke “on a quiet day you could hear them rusting at the dealership” applies.

This isn’t a Beta, though.

This is a 1968 Lancia Fulvia coupe. Isn’t she pretty?

Here’s the text from the ad:

1968 Lancia Fulvia Coupe,1.3S excellent condition, great little car that’s lots of fun to drive. Car comes with koni adjustable shocks, stainless steel exhaust, sports seats & 4 point harnesses (comes with original seats & new standard seat belts), factory sports air filtration kit (comes with original filter set up), HF wheels & flairs, Sandro Munari signed steering wheel, re-conditioned brake calipers & master cylinder, some spares included (electrical & mechanical).

It seems to be set up nicely, yes?

If you’re unfamiliar with the Lancia Fulvia, I encourage you to spend the next 2 minutes watching this excerpt from the Top Gear Lancia special (it goes for 8 minutes, but two is all you need). It spends a couple of minutes on the Fulvia that will inform your thinking.

Yes, it IS amazing to look at.

But did you hear that engine????

Lancia used a narrow-angle, high revving V4 in the Fulvia. It’s a 1.3 and it only pushes out around 90hp but then the car only weighs 895kg. It’s not fast, but it’s extremely nimble and even said to be quite reliable, too. If Clarkson’s only knock on it was its historical price, then there’s got to be something to explore with this car. There’s a lot to like about it, that’s for sure. It’s rare. It’s Italian and it’s genuine in both styling and performance.

But then, there’s the practical side to consider.

It’s 45 years old and the question has to be asked – could you use a car such as this 3-4 times a week without fearing too much for its future? One of the main reasons I sold the GTV6 was that it ended up as a garage queen that was driven only once a week because I had the Brumby for regular duty. The Brumby will go. I want something that I both want and HAVE to drive when Mrs Swade has use of the Aero.

Is it fanciful or irresponsible to think that a Lancia Fulvia can be used on a regular basis?

This Fulvia is for sale for $21,000 and it’s located in Queensland (around 2000kms and a boat ride away) so it’s no small decision. I’ve found a club member here in Tassie who owns one so I’m hoping to check out his local example to see if/how I’ll fit in it with a helmet on, as well as taking the chance to simply appreciate one in person.

Despite the challenges it might present, I have to admit I find myself far more smitten with the idea of getting this car than I do with any of the others on my list. Am I a complete idiot?

Here are a few more Fulvia videos to watch and listen to. Enjoy.

Petrolicious, as always, do it right…..

Overview of second hand Fulvias in Britain (old video)….

Good quality driving film from an owner….

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17 Comments

  1. This will be your weekend car, nothing more. Get a cheap daily driver to take the pressure off the 45yo or we’ll have to update that old Monty Python sketch “spot the looney”. You *know* that two cars aren’t enough, right? Oh, and I’ve never found anything to match the 9000 for long distance travel, just keep your spare DI cassette in the back, but you knew that…

  2. Given that you’ve got the Brumby for the daily drives, the Fulvia would be great fun. It IS 45 years old, however, and that would be the performance and thrashability deterrent.

  3. I’m beginning to think that my suggestion of a Maserati BiTurbo was a bit of naive folly. See this Motor Week review from 1988 for a virtual definition of ‘damning with faint praise’.

    They ARE within the budget and they DO exude Italian heritage. Plus, you can always look back and say you’ve owned a Maserati.

  4. When I first hear the incredible sound of a Fulvia’s engine it was like music to my ears , because the sound was so offensive that I could understand immediately the character of the car. When the engine has high rpms the sound is so strong and powerful that gives you the feeling that you are driving a much bigger car and even when the engine is at the lowest rpms the sound is so unique that you can understand clearly the condition of the engine. After that introduction it’s sounds strange that I am going to write what I did to make my Fulvia soundproof so it is important to mention that when I took for the first time my wife for a drive with my Fulvia and when sometime she tried to avoid me of passing another car but she didn’t succeed it because the engine sound was so strong that I couldn’t hear her (What a pleasure!) , she declare to me that if I didn’t do something for that “terrible noise” she will never been in the car again. So I have two possibilities ,first to leave the car the way was it and making lonely walks and second to someway decrease the sound of the engine in the driver’s cabin . I decide to make the second so I did the following actions.

  5. Swade, you gotta do it!

    I’ve been a fan of these since I worked for Lancia (my first job!) in the 70s and engineering wise I can tell you Fulvias are superb! When I was a member of LOC quite a few Fulvia owners used them as “semi” daily cars and few had problems other than the usual old car servicing requirements.

    Absolute gem of a car and if you get one I will be seriously jealous of you! LOL

    By the way, what a perfect garage you would have! Saab Aero, Brumby and a Fulvia… sigh.. 🙂

  6. The Lancia thing might come to a head this week – the owner has listed it on Ebay and to get the ball rolling, he’s started it at half the asking price!!

    For the right price, he’ll include all the spare parts. A low-ball sale will get the car only.

    As it’s 2000kms away, a mate is hopefully going to be able to check the car out this week. We’ll see what happens.

  7. For years I walked past a sky blue beta hatch. Every day. Thirty times a day. It was parked in the school car park. It was 1980. I Lusted after that car. It had 4 bucket seats. Cloth seats. NOT vinyl. Wow. And a little curvy exhaust tip. With a chromed tip that was roll up at the end. OMG.
    Let’s not get started on Italian curves, or indeed those of its owner/driver. Imagine a female staff member in an all boys school that drove an Italian sports car. …..imagine.

  8. Guess what was shown on TV last night in Oz?, the airship/lancia episode…..how timely?
    Maybe this is ‘one of those messages’??

  9. Swade,

    The Lancia is a beautiful car, but it may not be the best track car.

    One useful piece of track car advice is to get the cheapest one you can afford (so to speak). Here in Canada, that usually means a 1990s Civic two door: cheap parts, widely available, and light enough that power isn’t an issue. Is there an Italian equivalent to this in Australia? We had a thirty year run where the only Italian cars you could buy were Ferraris, so finding a cheap reliable Italian car is difficult. I guess that an ugly but trackable 124 Spider would be our primary option.

    Obviously, the equation changes if the car will experience minimal track time.

    1. Hi Bernard,

      The club duties would include a couple of regularity events a year and maybe up to three hillclimbs. Not onerous duty. I could theoretically just get another Alfa 33 16V for those events, but I’m limited for space and I’d like the Italian to be capable of doing all things – events, shows, Sunday drives and the occasional commute with the Mrs. She’ll appreciate something like this a LOT more than the 33.

  10. The Lancia is a great little car. That little v4 was the engine Saab engineers wanted to replace the 2 -stroke in the 96. But because they could get 4 ford v4’s for the price of one Lancia v4……. These cars have been regarded as a front wheel drive car that handles better than a lot of rear wheel drive sports cars. I drove a rusted out beater 20 years ago and was very impressed. Great car company responsible for some fantastic engineering, run into the ground by a huge automaker parent — sound familiar?

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