Lancia Beta Monte-Carlo


Your March issue contained two interesting statements: on page 309 in Lancias’ advertisement for the Monte-Carlo (and it’s nice to sec a national campaign for this type of car) they say: “The handling, with all-round independent suspension and disc brakes on all four wheels is exhilarating.” Nine pages later, C.R. comments on the car “Excellent roadholding and handling … (but) the front brakes are prone to violent locking in wet conditions”, which, of course, nicely sums-up what Lancia means by “exhilarating”!

Having fallen in love with the Monte-Carlo when I first read about it, I was somewhat put-off by C.R.’s original test, but since I wanted to replace my 1974 X1/9 by another mid-engined sports car (the X1/9 in right-hand drive form at over £3,700 being hopelessly expensive for what it is once one knows the car), I realised that my finances would only run to a Matra Bagheera or the Monte.

I tried the Matra but decided that despite its super road holding and three seats, the lack of a removable top, small engine (1,442 c.c.) and the fact, to quote the salesman, “one has to stand in the boot to get at the engine” (the boot space is also to small anyway) the Monte-Carlo, brakes and all, was my best buy.

I certainly haven’t been disappointed in the brakes, for, just like my X1/9, they lock-up all too easily in the wet. And that point, really, is the crux of this letter: far too many cars (most modern Fords for instance) have this horrifying tendency to lock up under heavy braking in the wet.

The safetyists’ answer that one shouldn’t need to brake heavily is pure rubbish, for no matter what style of driving is employed, the emergency situation happens to all drivers and it’s at that time that heavy braking is called for, just when broad holding of a car has to be at its best. If one’s brakes lock up and one hits it, well hard luck.

The answer to the problem is simple, and I’m surprised that the Americans in particular haven’t done something about it: all government must legislate that all road vehicles have anti-lock braking systems, because it’s obvious that the manufacturers can’t be bothered and are quite happy for their customers to go around sliding their way into trouble.

Maybe Motor Sport can do something to help.

Incidentally, C.R. says that the Monte-Carlo’s front boot holds 7 cu. ft., whilst the X1/9’s boot holds 10 Cu. ft. Something’s wrong somewhere for the Monte-Carlo’s front boot is much wider (and I think deeper) than the X1/9 (Those were official figures, I believe. Perhaps Fiat’s metric conversion was more generous C.R.)

Financially for anyone contemplating buying a Monte-Carlo: do, it’s a comfortable, fast, enjoyable car, but do watch the brakes.