Entries in Lancia (17)
I take a small amount of melancholy comfort to hear that Lancia will be discontinued, according to a teleconference given by Sergio Marchionne today. The indignities it was forced to suffer over the past 10 years or more were greater and greater with each passing year of mismanagement. When the final lineup of rebadged Chryslers was unveiled, it was a bridge too far. Lancia will now join the all time great nameplates in the pantheon of disappeared grands marques. It will be where it belongs, in the company of Duesenberg, Packard, Cord, Auburn, Delahaye, and yes even Pontiac. Let's hope maybe someday the name will be revived and stand once again for technological innovation and beautiful Italian design. Until then, let's try to forget its sad decline and remember the halcyon days of Lancia's remarkable racing history and their achingly beautiful road cars of the midcentury years.
After bringing the A110 back to the garage, we fired up the Stratos next. Turned out in its factory shade of very electric blue, the Stratos is really a time warp to when Italy was the epicenter of badass homologation racecars for the road and when the name Lancia really stood for something. The Gandini-penned body is short and stubby. The car isn't exactly beautiful, and drew less approval on the road than the Alpine did--people were more puzzled than amazed as its compact, wedgy silhouette slipped past them in a cloud of noise. But what it lacks in elegance, the Stratos makes up for with boldness, charisma and character. The whole machine is so unique, so utterly special that it's really like no other car in the world, even among other Italian exotics of the period. The exterior is spacelike and full of fascinating, ingenious design details. The interior, in contrast, is delightfully low rent, with all the dashboard gauges from the FIAT parts bin. The door panel inserts are flimsy plastic, and instead of map pockets, each door has a fiberglass shelf designed to place a helmet on it between stages. This helmet shelf is a magnificently idiosyncratic detail, though it does feel like it will snap off in your hand. The Plexiglas windows don't roll up and down. They slide in a groove, and adjusting them is something that is better left alone. I think the Ferrari F40 is the only other car I have sat in that even approaches this level of spartan simplicity. The famous curved windshield gives decent forward visibility, but there is next to no rear visibility, and the blind spots are massive. Clearly this car is meant to go forwards very fast, and who gives a shit about what else is on the road.Due to the lousy and confined roads of the neighborhood, we had little opportunity to see what the Stratos can do. But I was surprised at how the Ferrari Dino engine mounted transversely behind our heads sounded so ordinary in lower revs. On the cam, the car really came alive and made all sorts of wonderful sounds. Sadly, thanks to stoplights and construction, these moments were fleeting. Going over speedbumps, Phil pointed out that the car, being a race-bred machine, has no rubber bushings. All the suspension linkages are metal on metal, and you can feel that in the jarring report every time you cross a bump. I can only imagine the sounds and feelings you'd get blasting through a gravel rally stage in this car!Unlike the stylish Alpine, the interior of the Stratos isn't exactly a place you want to linger. The heat began to stifle after just a few minutes in the sun, and the offset footwells should have the number of a good orthopedist stitched into the carpeting. It's a totally incomparable experience riding in a Stratos, but it's not the kind of car you can imagine falling in love with on a long road trip. And better bring a guy friend, because no wife or girlfriend is going to sit shotgun in this beast for more than 10 minutes.
And in the end it's that no-nonsense race-bred feel that makes the Stratos so compelling, yet ultimately so unliveable. It's a car with no compromises, no pretense, and no apologies. Pity that no one will ever make anything like it ever again, and that today Lancia has fallen so far from this singular, shining achievement. Check out the full glorious Stratos gallery HERE, and stay tuned for the BMW M1...
Lancia just unveiled their new website full of thinly disguised Chryslers. The tagline for the new Lancia Voyager minivan (nee Plymouth) is "Emotions to Share." Well, I've got some fucking emotions to share, Lancia! Like Disgust. Outrage. Betrayal. The Lancia brand has been in decline for many years under inept Italian leadership. But this infusion of oversized, underwhelming American product to prop up the nameplate is just beyond pathetic. Lancia fittingly chose a woman perched on a roof gazing mournfully downwards as she contemplates whether to jump to her death or go downstairs and drive that trashwagon parked outside. I found that imagery quite resonant to my own emotions as I looked through the site.
Seeing the legendary name Flavia applied to a Chrysler 200 (nee Sebring) convertible makes me want to puke almost as badly as I wanted to puke when I was forced to drive one of those pieces of junk as a rental last year. Going through this new website, it astonishes me how much care and thought was put into the marketing of such utterly shit cars. The vast amounts of money that was spent on photoshoots, branding consultants, web development, etc. All of this trouble to sell cars that should never have existed. The workings of the modern corporation never cease to confound me.After roughly a century of innovation, style, motorsports success, and the rest, this is what Lancia is reduced to: a noble badge on a worthless car. To again quote the Lancia marketing:
"There are certain emotions which go straight to the heart. Even if they have to cross an ocean."
How true. Lancia, you are dead to me now.
Eugenio Castellotti at the wheel of the Lancia-Ferrari D50 with a look of intense focus. One of the fastest drivers of his day, he was tragically killed at the age of 27 testing a Ferrari 801 at Modena less than a year later.