For years, Lancia was one of the most revered and exciting car companies in the world. What started out as quite a humble outfit quickly became a king of rallying. Lancia to this day remains the manufacturer with the most World Rally Championship constructors titles, with 10 overall titles. An astonishing six of those came with the Delta Integrale from 1987 to 1992. And the Delta Integrale is not the only great car that the iconic Italian brand has produced.
Icons such as the Stratos, 037 and the Fulvia are also truly epic Lancia’s. Even models such as the Montecarlo command our attention. But suddenly, one year, Lancia just sort of, disappeared. The once iconic and hugely prolific brand withdrew from the World Rally Championship as a factory outfit in 1992, and withdrew from the series for good at the end of 1993. And today, Lancia makes just one model, a pathetic car available only in Italy. What happened? Why did Lancia go from this mad, all conquering rallying car manufacturer, to a brand that most people forget even exists at all? Well, it’s certainly an interesting tale.
Charting The History Of Lancia
Lancia, like many other car companies, was founded from humble beginnings. It was formerly founded in 1906 in Turin. This was done by Fiat racing drivers Vincenzo Lancia, and his friend, Claudio Fogolin. The first car to be produced by Lancia would be the Tipo 15, later called Alfa, and this was in production from 1907 to 1908. Of course, at the time, the two founding friends would have had no idea as to what the future would be for the company. Lancia would soon start pioneering various features on its cars, such as the sliding pillar front suspension on the Lambda, a trait that the company would be famous for.
It was during the 1970s and 1980s that the brand would really take off. The brand would be brought under the control of Fiat in the late 1960s, and would soon enter the world rally stage. It had dabbled in Formula 1 in the 1950s with minimal success, but rallying was where things really took off. The brand started out racing the iconic Fulvia, and soon many of its road cars would go on to achieve fame in the championship. The most iconic have to be the Stratos, 037, the Fulvia of course and the Delta Integrale. The 037 of course being the only two-wheel drive rally car to ever beat Audi’s mighty four-wheel drive Quattro.
Lancia On The Road Car Front
While the brand had a mixed history with its road cars, the aforementioned bunch, plus other models such as the Montecarlo demand our attention. There are other icons such as the Flaminia, the Gamma, and the Aurelia GT. All of these names evoke great feelings and memories of a truly iconic brand. And you could forgive Lancia for its failings and any of the issues its cars had for one good reason. Every single one of them was a thing of beauty.
A Top Gear segment filmed a few years ago highlighted just how gorgeous Lancia’s are. And how many of them had so many faults. The Fulvia was very highly priced. The Montecarlo had poor brakes, fixed by removing… the brake servo, and would rust easily. And the Stratos was horribly cramped. But by god, all of these cars just look incredible. And there were a few mechanical firsts, such as the first road car with a V6 engine. But then, in the 1980s, came the reason that Lancia in 2022 are a complete shadow of their former self.
Lancia’s Reputation Is Ruined Overnight
In the United Kingdom, Lancia’s reputation was utterly tarnished in 1980. Defective and rusting Beta Coupes were purchased back by the company, under pressure from the media, and new ones were given to their owners. The defective Beta’s were all subsequently crushed. This destroyed Lancia’s reputation not just in Britain, but globally. The brand was never able to fully recover, and in February 1994, it withdrew from the right-hand drive market entirely, and as of now, Lancia’s can only be bought in their home of Italy. They make just one model, the horrible looking Ypsilon. It was a sad turn of events for one of the world’s greatest car companies.
Is There Any Hope Of A Revival?
The truth is, it is unlikely that Lancia will ever return to its pre Beta scandal glory days. The Ypsilon, while the second best-selling car in Italy in 2019, isn’t anything that would appeal to the rest of those in Europe, or across the Atlantic. However, all is not entirely lost, as current owners Stellantis wants the brand to be a bigger part of its future. What does this mean? Who knows. But despite the embarrassment of 1980, Lancia remains a car company close to the hearts of nearly all gearheads around the world. And that is something that no one can ever take from us.
Sources: Stellantis, Autoweek, Racing Cars Wiki, Historics, Classic Driver, Car and Classic
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