The Formula One Lancia

The following description of the interesting new Lancia Grand Prix car is taken from the 1955 “Motor Sport Racing Car Review,”* a book in which all the current Grand Prix contenders are dealt with in a similar thorough fashion, as well as giving the story of each team’s 1954 motor racing and prospects for the future.

At last the long-awaited entry of the Lancia team seemed a certainty, for until now they had never entered officially. It was always a case of the organisers expecting them to enter, but for the Spanish race the entry was quite definite. This time there was no last-minute withdrawal and the team arrived with three of the new cars, one each for Ascari and Villoresi, and a spare car to use for practice. At first there was a slight reluctance to allow anyone to inspect the cars too closely but after the first practice it was possible to study them in great detail. The whole conception of the Lancia Grand Prix car was one of normal Grand Prix design but with great attention paid to detail, excellent finish on the mechanical parts, a keen eye to weight saving and numerous ways of doing things in a different manner to most firms, but achieving the same results and adhering to the same principles.

“The chassis frame was built of very-small-diameter tubing and a box-like tubular structure formed the centre section of the car in which was the driving seat. The sides of the cockpit were at the driver’s shoulder height and the body panelling was fitted round the tubular framework to give added strength. From this centre section two small-diameter tubes ran forward at the lowest level of the chassis to the front suspension structure, also made of small-diameter tubing and forming another but smaller box structure at the front of the car. Between the cockpit bulkhead and the top of the front suspension cross-members the engine was situated, and on the four corners of the unit were cast-in lugs and the engine was bolted to the two main frame structures, thus using the strength of the engine castings as the top frame tubes for a full space-frame. The whole principle of this structure was very similar to that employed on numerous motor-cycles, where the engine is used as part of the frame. The front suspension of the Lancia used double wishbones of equal length, these being made from welded tubes and forged lugs, while the suspension medium was an extremely narrow and thin transverse leaf-spring and ball-joints replaced the normal king-pin. This spring was clamped to the chassis at its centre, but above it and spaced about eight inches apart were two adjustable screws that could be made to press onto the spring, thus altering effectively the base of the centre clamp and thereby permitting a modification of the roll-stiffness of the spring. At the apex of the bottom wishbones a free-running roller was mounted and the weight of the car was taken on the flat underside of the spring-end bearing on the rollers, there being no mechanical connection between the ends of the spring and the wishbones. Extending from each top wishbone, in towards the centre of the car, was an arm, thus forming a rocker pivoting about the top wishbone pivot, and the ends of these rockers were connected to telescopic shock-absorbers. Very thin steering-arms were coupled to a split track-rod that was operated by a bell-crank just behind the normally-mounted radiator, and a long tubular drag-link ran from this bell-crank along the top of the engine to the steering-box drop-arm, the box itself being mounted on the back of the instrument panel, so that the steering-column was only a few inches in length. This unusual steering linkage layout meant that there was no possibility of any lack of control due to torsion in the steering-column, as might be experienced with a normal column that would be anything up to three feet in length, and it also removed any need for universal joints in the steering layout, heavy and bad things at the best of times. From the centre section of the chassis-frame the tubular structure was extended to carry the rear-axle assembly. The suspension was fairly orthodox de Dion layout, but as with the front end great detail attention to weight had been made. The de Dion tube was of welded construction, using tube and sheet steel, so that it was strong enough in the right places without being unduly heavy, while the location was by a normal arrangement of ball and guide, except that the ball was not mounted on the tube directly. A welded steel bracket hung below the tube and the locating ball was fixed to this, thus giving a lower roll-centre, the guide being on the lower part of the final drive casing. At frame width two tubular radius-arms were fixed on each side, one above the de Dion tube and the other below, their forward ends being pivoted on the chassis-frame structure on each side of the cockpit. At the hub-ends a steel plate was fixed to the back plates and at the lower ends a transverse leaf-spring bore on hardened steel blocks, having the same effect as the free-running roller on the front spring. Similar telescopic shock-absorbers were used as at the front, these also being operated by a rocker arm coupled by a link to the outer ends of the de Dion tube and pivoted on the rear of the frame tubes. Also the adjustable stops to control the spring were similar to those used at the front, though the spring was of much greater width and thickness.

“The engine was set at an angle in the frame so that the propeller-shaft ran across the cockpit floor towards the near side at the rear where it entered a housing containing bevel gears that turned the drive across the car and into the clutch. In this bevel casing the propeller-shaft extended beyond the bevels and protruded from the rear in the form of an internally-splined sleeve and into this the portable electric starter shaft was inserted from the rear of the car. The clutch was hydraulically operated from the pedal and the drive passed across the car to the gearbox, mounted on the off side of the differential assembly, spur gears then taking the drive up to wheel-centre height. The drive shafts to the rear wheels were of similar design to those used on Lancia touring cars for many years, having bolt-up universals at the outer ends and sliding joints on the inner ends, these being splined with steel balls between the male and female splines to ensure movement while a torque was being applied to the shaft. The gearbox was operated by a right-hand lever pivoted on the side of the cockpit, with no gate to show positions but with the selector-operating rod held in the third and top positions by a tension-spring. The brakes were large-diameter hydraulically-operated two-leading shoe type of Lancia design, having ribbed and turbo-finned drums, all four being mounted outboard, the general layout of the car forbidding any possibility of inboard brakes being used, due to lack of space. A minute hand-brake on the left of the driving seat operated the rear brakes by cables.

“Long panniers were fitted on each side of the car, between the front and rear wheels and separate from the body. These were attached to the chassis tubes by aerofoil sectioned struts and the right-hand one carried fuel, the left-hand one fuel in its rear portion and an oil-cooler in the front part. The tubes for connecting these tanks to the main supply passed through the aerofoil section struts and on the outside of the left-hand pannier a scoop deflected air through the oil-cooler. In the tail of the car a third fuel tank of small proportions was mounted above the rear-axle assembly, and the tank for the dry-sump oil system was mounted behind this.

“The engine of this interesting newcomer to Grand Prix racing was not unduly out of the ordinary for a racing car, being a 2 ½-litre unsupercharged 90 deg. V8 of 73.6 by 73.1 mm. bore and stroke giving a capacity of 2,487 c.c. Each bank of cylinders had two overhead camshafts operating the valves, these shafts being driven by a train of gears from the front of the crankshaft. From the rear of each inlet camshaft a horizontal magneto protruded through the bulkhead and into the cockpit, each magneto supplying sparks for the eight sparking plugs in each cylinder bank, there being two plugs per cylinder. In the centre of the vee were mounted four downdraught double-choke Solex carburetters, each choke tube being surmounted by a bell-mouthed inlet covered with a wire mesh dome. A neat air entry sunk in the nose of the car fed air to the carburetters and from each bank of cylinders four exhaust pipes fed into long tail-pipes running underneath the body sides. At 8,200 r.p.m. some 260 b.h.p. was estimated. There being very little overhang at each end of the car, and the whole build being exceptionally low, the appearance was one of a very short length, much shorter than the 7 ft. 6 in. wheelbase would give one to believe. Added to this short and squat appearance was the fact that the driving seat was literally at floor level, the small-diameter propeller-shaft giving no necessity for any clearance under the seat, so that only the driver’s head and the tops of his shoulders were visible when seated in the car.

“The long-awaited entry of these cars from Turin was not disappointing, for the whole atmosphere of the Scuderia Lancia, from their enormous Lancia diesel transport van down to the little Lancia Aprilia van that was in attendance as a sort of outrider, was one of very thorough organisation. Before running the cars the oil in the oil tank was preheated by a portable paraffin-operated heat-exchanger, and once started the engines were kept at a constant 2,000 r.p.m. while the oil circulated round the system and the engine itself was warmed. The mechanics were obviously disciplined to run engines at constant throttle openings as distinct from the more popular and pointless short stabs on the throttle pedal that so many mechanics and drivers indulge in. At this first official outing Ascari and Villoresi set the pace from the word go, and in spite of all the opposition being present they recorded the two fastest practice times with comparative ease. The cars looked and sounded very impressive and were obviously fast along the straights, though they seemed to require a fair amount of wheel-winding on the corners and the driving position did not look as comfortable as in some racing cars. On the second day of practice Ascari was still fastest, though Villoresi was beaten by one each of Mercédès-Benz, Ferrari and Maserati, and when the cars lined up for the race Ascari was in the No. 1 position on the grid, which was an excellent showing for the first time out with a new design. Villoresi’s car was giving bother just before the start and it was late in being driven to the grid, and after only two laps he had to retire with mechanical trouble. Although Ascari did not lead away, he was in front by the third time round the Barcelona circuit, and he then drew away from all the opposition at the rate of 2 sec. a lap. As he completed lap nine there was no one else in sight and, even making allowances for his superior driving skill, it was obvious that the long-awaited Lancia Grand Prix car was a force to be considered most seriously. Before starting his 10th lap he drew into the pits for a leisurely consultation with his pit-staff, set off again at the end of the field and then came in again on the next lap and withdrew from the race. The car was driven back to the paddock, just as Villoresi’s had been, and the official reason for retirement was given as clutch trouble. In only 10 laps the two Lancias were withdrawn and while many people might be tempted to consider the first appearance of these new cars as rather a poor effort, it must be agreed that while the car was running it was a long way in advance of all its rivals.”

Photo Caption:
Grand Prix Contender.
—One of the new Formula 1 Lancia cars seen at Barcelona where this new model made its first public appearance. The sunken air-entry on the radiator cowl feeds to the four Solex carburetters, while in the centre of this duct is a hinged flap covering the radiator filler. The normal type of brakes are of enormous dimensions and more than fill the wheels, while die pannier-type fuel tanks can be seen between the wheels with the filler at the rear.

* “Motor Sport Racing Car Review,” 1955, price 9s. 0d., post free, from 15-17. City Road, London. E.C.1 or any newsagent.