More power for Lancia

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Serious competition work with the Fulvia coupés, producing second place in the Monte Carlo Rally and third in the Flowers already this season, plus the team prizes, has encouraged Lancia to exploit their small-car range to the full and for the Geneva Show four new versions were announced—a GT FuIvia saloon of 1,216 c.c. (in addition to the 1,091 c.c. version), and three new cars with a 1,298 c.c. power unit which is bored and stroked to the limit of the F.I.A. Group 2 class category. Both the coupé RaIlye and the coupé Sport (Zagato) have engines developing 87 b.h.p, net, while the significant Rallye HF develops no less than 101 b.h.p. in standard trim. It also has alloy doors, bonnet and boot to improve the power-to-weight ratio.

Introducing the cars at Cervinia, high in the Italian Alps, Lancia stressed the importance of the Rallye HF. Ove Andersson, their newest and most successful rally driver from Sweden, was on hand to entertain any journalist who cared to ride with him over a closed snow-bound route in a rally car used on the Flowers, and he remarked that even in standard form the new HF was faster than his 95 b.h.p. mount; tuned to around 110 b.h.p. we may well see Lancia scoring some outright wins this year as well as embarking on a limited racing programme scheduled to include the Targa Florio, Tourist Trophy, Sebring, and the Tour de Corse.

One does not have to be a connoisseur to appreciate that the Fulvia coupés are exceptionally well designed and built, and will surely be collectors’ items in years to come. The combination of a narrow vee-4-cylinder engine, which is beautifully smooth, powerful and quiet, a good gearbox, front-wheel drive coupled synonymously with wonderfully good handling, big disc brakes all round, and a high standard of workmanship surely make a good recipe for a successful model.

In the 87 b.h.p, 1.3 -litre Zagato coupe we were able to cruise effortlessly at 100 m.p.h. on the Aosta Valley autostrada, recording a maximum of 111 m.p.h. and a standing-start kilometre in 32.8 seconds. The Rallye HF is lower geared to give a maximum speed of 109 m.p.h. and a better acceleration graph—it is, in any case, noticeably more punchy lower down in the speed range and has more suitable performance for hill-climbing, where the works rally cars have been at a disadvantage recently. For competition work a close-ratio gearbox is a recommended option, and higher geared steering is also on the way, but for the average enthusiast customer there is little to fault, save perhaps for a rather soft clutch which seems to characterise the Lancias.

To ride with Andersson along the closed route was a breathtaking experience even to one reasonably experienced as a navigator. Short spikes in the tyres coped with the icy surface and on either side of the narrow track 6 ft. snowbanks formed a tunnel which looked very much like the Cresta run. At one point 120 k.p.h. showed on the speedometer as the Swede approached corners in seemingly suicidal fashion, at least 40 k.p.h. faster than any normal safety-loving driver would care to go in these conditions. Stabbing at the brakes with his left foot, keeping the throttle down with his right, Andersson broadsided the car into the bends seemingly on the absolute limit of control and even in retrospect it is hard to understand how the Lancia got round some of the corners. The driver’s right hand was permanently occupied with the gear lever, the left hand a blur as the steering wheel was spun from lock to lock as many as three times in perhaps five seconds while a corner was approached and tackled. The road was not sufficiently wide to spin the car and dark earthy patches on the banks showed where it had been going even faster at times during the routine performance.

The price of the Lancia 1.2 Fulvia coupé remains at £1,490, and the 1.3 coupé Rallye is priced at £1,548. The HF version, deriving extra power from a reworked cylinder head and larger valves, retails at £1,812 and the Zagato Sport at £1,940. — M.L.C.