A heritage that cannot be left behind.
Lately, I have been reading a bit about Lancia, its history and that of the cars they produced. Admittedly, I never had much interest before in this manufacturer, simply because since I was a kid in the mid-Nineties it has never been that relevant and of all the Lancia cars I had seen in my youth, they were usually negligible. Just lately, I am starting to understand what caused this and that this brand is instead far, far more prestigious than I could ever imagine. The astonishing cars it produced, many of which have left a distinctive mark, testify that.
Obviously, the most notorious are the rally cars: Fulvia, Stratos, 037, S4 and Delta 4WD. I could add in the marvellous F1 Lancia D50 or the Sport D24. The real surprise however, comes from other, lesser known to the average petrolhead, models.
The Lancia Lambda (1922) was the first production car to have a load-bearing bodywork coupled with a monocoque chassis, and it had an innovative V4 engine and sliding pillar front suspensions. The Artena (1931) had the engine mounted on leaf springs to reduce noisiness; the Aprilia (1936) had independent wheels all around, inboard rear drum brakes and a hemi engine. Brake discs all around? Fuel injection? Front-engine front-wheel drive? Lancia. They used technology for their production cars that took years, if not decades sometimes, to become a standard among the competitors.
The Lancia Lambda chassis
Not to forget the fact that the Lancia D50 was the first Formula 1 car to have the engine built and installed as a stressed member (we got more into the subject in this article) and the Rally S4 made use of both a Supercharger (Roots) and a Turbocharger, which was also a first (known as 'Twincharging'). Do you remember our article about the “Apfelback head”? Well, Lancia took the idea even further and built the ground-breaking “Triflux head”, combining the radial valves with two separate turbochargers so to have a more uniform power delivery (one working at low and medium rpms, the other being deployed at high rpms) and solve the problem with engine head cooling on turbocharged engines (due to the valves disposition).
These are just a few examples of how innovative Lancia cars were, and it would be an endless object of discussion to go into all of the cases were cutting-edge technology had been developed or used by this manufacturer, both in its production cars and high performing vehicles. Because, believe me, there are many more. However, Fiat, since it acquired Alfa Romeo back in 1986, started favouring the latter over the former, first in racing and then for production too, to the point where Lancia has now been completely abandoned and has no new models currently in development. This choice has been justified from Fiat’s management by saying that “Lancia is a brand without a history”. Does it, even only considering what we just said?
I will not discuss marketing strategies or industrial politics; this is not my area of expertise, not the aim of the article and frankly, not even my business. I would just like for as many people as possible to know what Lancia really means, in the hope that it would help bringing it back onto its feet, and not be obliterated from memory. After all, I am not alone in this effort, which shows the affection this manufacturer has amidst the motoring fans. Its importance in the history of the automobile and of the motorsport cannot be forgotten or discarded as “not relevant”. It would be poignant for the brand not only to be actually making cars again, but also to go back into the competitions. We now have Alfa Romeo doing a full (more or less) comeback into Formula 1. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a Lancia comeback into Rallying or Sportscars racing too?
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