GOING WEST WITHOUT ANXIETY
Fast Motoring to Devon in Winter with a Lan cia Aurelia B20 Gran Turisrno 2,500
JUST before Christmas an unexpected hut welcome telephone call to our offices informed us that is new Lancia Aurelia demonstrator was available for test if we would insure it for a sum of rather more than 1:3,000. To this suggestion we responded with alacrity, deciding there and then to take a rapid journey to Devon in this beautiful Italian example of high-performance closed motor car.
The day of the test dawned wet, but slippery surfaces merely serve to underline the extreme safety and controllability of the Aurelia, which covers the miles very easily indeed.
The 1120 Lancia Aurelia Gran Turismo is interesting technically and also very fully equipped, so that wherever enthusiasts gather some considerable time has to be allotted to ” going over ” the car before tasting the pleasure. of handling it.
The engine is a 60-deg. V6 of 78 by 85.5 mm., giving a swept volume of 2.151 e.c. It has its overhead valves inelined not across the cylinder head hut in line with the Crankshal t. a method possible with push-rod actuation through special raker gear. The camshaft is driven by a chain having an automatic hydraulie tensioner, and the valves use inserts in the alloy ovlinder head. The c.linder block is of light alloy with ti. detachable liners, and the crankshaft runs in four bearings. This advanced yet compact power toot Wcighs 353 lb. dry and develops about 99 b.h.p. at bet wee!! 3,11110 and 4,000 r.p.m. (maximum torque 1311 lb./ft.), on a compression-ratio of approximately 8.0 to I, using a d.d. Welter 401A7.3 dual carburetter: II II blip. is produced at 5,000 r.p.m. and the safe maxiMUM is 5,3011 r.p.m. Cooling is looked after by a pump and sixbladed I-1-in. fan. t wo thermostats being employed, of whiell one controls radiator shutters and the other water flow. Marelli electrical equipment is fitted.
This power unit is mounted on four double rubber pads and drives through a single dry-plate clutch to a de Dion rear-end incoritorating a four-speed-and-reverse gearbox with synehromesh on all save bottom gear. The rear wheels are sprung on i-elliptic leaf-springs. the drive going through swinging half.shafts. The normal final-drive ratio is 1.3 to I. but nine different ratios are available. ranging from 3.68 to 1 to 5.2 to I.
Integral loolyiehassis i•onstrueti011 is 11Sed !Mt] independent. front suspension i• Ity Lancia vertical ,liding pillars and voibsprings, which date, back to the earliest Lambda days. Lubrication of these sospension units is accomplished by depressing a plunger on au tinder-bonnet oil reservoir. after turning a tap to feed the 1tppropi-jai.. unit. Steering is worm and wheel. with a ratio of 12.1 to 1 and a 161-in. steering wheel. Sala hydraulic brakes iirrest the Amelia, the front I I -in. drums being on the wheels, with the rear 1 I-in. ribbed drums moo/tied inboard. ii is significant that the running-in
61,1 ions for a new Aurelia 2,500 merely specify OW exceeding a speed of 91 m.p.h.. or 62 m.p.h. in third gear, for the first 1.250 miles ! Outwardly this 1120 Aurelia is an exceedingly handsome and
nicely-balanced car in two-door, 8 ft. 8 wheelbase Gran Aurelia form. The seating arrangement is that the driver has his own spacious seat and beside it is a wider seat to acconmoulate two persons if required, an armrest separating driver front passengers. The rear compartment, although roomy, is really intended for luggage, although two, even three, persons could sit on the leather cushion on the low shelf Itrovided they were not too fastidietts.
Before we were allowed to drive in iv from the Lancia depot at Wembley we were •• briefed ” in respect. of t he controls of the Aurelia, and as not C% try reader will have the opportunity of sitting behind the wheel of a Gran Turisino Lancia, it is more than usually worthwhile to describe the controls in detail.
The. gear-lever On the test-car Was of stccring-eolumn type. operated by the left hand. It is light and smooth in action, spring-loaded to the upper, or top and t bird gear, level of the gate. but its movements are long and can he indefinite, while reverse is beyond top-gear position bat unprotected hy any safety spring or catch. The pistolgrip hand-brake lives under the dash, but quite reasonably located, while being to till intents out of the way. The wide. deep dash with screen sill is nicely arranged and very imposing. The instruments are contained in very slightly hooded, sunken dials before the driver, consisting of the speedometer on the left, reading to 110 m.p.h., and having milometer total and trip recorders, and the rev.-counter on the right of the steering column. Both possess neat transparent neeilles and clear figures. Mit the needles move in opposition. Indicator lights are relied 011 for oil pressure, dynamo charge, to indicate that the sidelamps (or ” town lamps ”) are alight., the choke in and that the hand-brake is applied. Little illuminated arrows t he speedometer lime serve as reminders that the sell-cancelling direction-flashers are in operation, and there. is a rather vaguely -calif mit ed petrol gauge ineior porated at the tip if this dial. 1 ignition-key—a superior affair labelled . urelia has I Wo hiisii ions, the dynamo circuit not Noel ionin:t in I lie first position. Below the dash are a series of rather confusing pull-down knobs which control. from left to right, the screen-wipers, fog-lamps, the heater (turning knob increases fan speed), and interior lamps. Two ,oiall Icy ers, under the dash but nearer to the driver, control choke and hand-thrid Ile; on the test-car
the choke was labelled starter and the throttle ” aceeleratore.” The latter will speed the engine up to about 2,000 r.p.m. but is rather indefinite. On the dash itself is a further sk? iteh for sidelamps and headlamps by pulling ililt ii nut,’ kla0b, and totaling it for rheostat control of the dash lighting. the latter action too sodden and ” rubbery ” for accurate 1,1111 il,and a eigar-lighter. NearVr to the centre is the push-button for the screen-washers. At each end of the dash are
two small ash-trays of the self-cleaning variety which spring out at a touch, and before the passenger is a too-small glove locker with lockable lid, this lid being hinged along the bottom. There is.provision for a radio panel and twin visors, anti-dazzle central mirror and a half-horn-ring to supplement the steering-wheel horn button are amongst the equipment.
The doors trail, but the inside handles push forward and are on the hinged edges, which we do not like, especially as the window’Winding handles tended to obstruct their action. The window winders, with pivoted handles, must surely hold the record for lowgeared action —10 turns being needed to fully lower xi closed window! The doors have neat metal fold-flat ” pulls” and good pockets.
There is a knob by the front passenger’s feet controlling an ” aereatore ” and the back windows hinge open slightly for ventilation purposes (their catches could have come from an Italian ” Woolworth’s “), but the front windows have no f,panels or rainshields, which is inconvenient in wet weather.
The pedals are well spaced, the treadle accelerator nice to use and the driving position excellent. On the right of the steering column is one of those excellent Continental-style levers for changing from dipped to full headlamps, which incorporates a” flashing ” movement so that the lamps Shall be a substitute for the horn, the same lever operating the direction indicators.
Although this Lancia is normally supplied with a steering-column gear-lever, a small propeller-shaft tunnel protrudes into the driving compartment.
There is very generous provision for luggage, for that not placed within the back of the body can be stowed in the roomy boot, in which the spare wheel is accommodated, the only shortcoming being that the fuel filler is below a trap-door in the floor of the boot. There is, also, a deep shelf in front of the back window.
When the bonnet ia raised a lamp automatically lights to illuminate an impressive array of high-class machinery. There are the two neat valve-covers of this V6 engine, with an oil filler in each, the aforesaid lubricator tank and plunger for the front suspension units, and the brake fluid reservoir with a visual level indicator. The feel tank holds 17 gallons and there is a useful reserve-tap under the front passenger’s seat, trapping 1 k gallons. The car we tried had Morelli plugs and a preference was expressed for Shell or Mobilgas petrol and Mobiloil A lubricant should the 9-pint sump have needed replenishment, which it didn’t. No anti.frecte was in the engine.
ON THE ROAD This preliminary of the Lancia over, we drove it home
This preliminary inspection of the Lancia over, we drove it home and next day essayed a fast run to Devon and back. The day was exceptionally wet and to begin with the inevitable streams of “
heavies” kept speed down along A30. Later, still in rain, the car went up to nearly 100 m.p.h. on Salisbury Plain, but had to be checked for a van. However, although the maximum speed of the Aurelia Gran Turiamo is, we understand, anything from 112 to 115 m.p.h., depending on the axle ratio in use and the length of unobstructed road available, high speed is certainly not the main appeal. Rather are the excellent acceleration, the extreme controllability and the sense of well-being and comfort those qualities which impress the occupants from first to last.
The.gear ratios are well selected, so that third or second is resorted to as required, when the Lancia h urges forward, its engine willing to go towards 5,000 r.p.m. without an inatant’s hesitation, so that light work is made of traffic congestion. The suspension kills road. shock and in the wide, well-shaped seats the occupants ride in outstanding comfort, the thin seat cushions offering adequate softness, without giving the impression of lounging. Of the handling and control characteristics of the Aurelia Gran Turiamo it is difficult to muster adequate words. This is a car which feels safe on wet roads, whether accelerating hard or being braked heavily. It goes where the driver wills and if he feels like throwing it from side to side while negotiating a slippery bend the car will humour him to the utmost.
The steering, its wheel provided with excellent finger-grips, possesses a trace of return road-wheel movement. faintly Lanciafashion, only over had surfaces. At other times it is smooth and very light, no vibration travelling up the column. For parking, perhaps due partly to the Michelin ” X ” tyres, it becomes very heavy and calls for much winding, for it asks 31 turns, lock to lock. Happily, the lock is Lancia-like, converting the action to that of satisfactorily high-geared steering on the road. Castor-action is negligible and the cornering characteristic is that of understeer. The front wheels. lose adhesion first, aml the feeling was described by someone not used to a Lancia as like “the wheels doubling under the car.” The point is that the driver, do what he might, never losea control and gains a feeling of supreme confidence in his ability to throw the (‘Cr about. As he can see both front wings and sits efficiently at the controls, and because the brakes are very powerful and vice-free, the average speeds which can be set up in this Cron Turismo motor car are governed more by driver-ability than by road and traffic conditions. This has to be qualified by the statement that no driver is likely to
hang about in an Aurelia, and certainly any speed below 70 m.p.h. isn’t motoring at all, in this car.
Returning to the brakes, they transmit a mild tremor, probably due to the extreme rigidity of Lancia front suspension.
The safety of control and willing speed of the Lancia makes it difficult for its occupants to feel fatigue or to realise how rapidly they are motoring. On the other hand, there are reminders that this is essentially an Italian Gran Turismo machine, capable of sports-car averages from a 24-litre engine in a closed vehicle. For example, vibration is evident through the floor, the. exhaust boomsaway behind and the Michelin ” Xs” sing their song. Here is a fast car to ‘delight the enthusiast rather than the business tycoon obliged to travel long distances.
The clutch is either in or out and the transmission snatches, while t he engine cannot be called silent. To the keen driver, making ample use of the lower gear ratios (in which 65 to 78 m.p.h. in third gear. 40 to -50 m.p.h. in second gear, is possible according to axle ratio) and delighting in the response to the controls and the highspeed cornering of which this Aurelia is capable, the noise and roughness will be of small concern; may. indeed, enhance his enjoyment.
Less to our liking, there is considerable wind-noise round the screen pillars, part ienlarly with the windows shut, and although the noisy wipers work with impressive speed, they proved inefficient in heavy rain, while on the Par tested the screen-washer remained inoperative even after it had been topped-up, with the result that after coming up fast behind another vehicle on a dirt y night we were redueed to the speed of a bicycle for several miles. Moreover, the Wiper blades had lost their self-parking ability, nor did the demister seem to have much effect. The horn had a penetrating note and the lamps were powerful on full beam, almost useless when dimmed, although good fog-lamps
were fitted. The Carello (Smith’s patent) heater warmed the car’s interior very adequately, but we found it difficult to adjust the temperature to our liking, particularly as opening the windows, as remarked previously, meant letting in lashings of rain (ventilator panels, like those on the inexpensive saloon we had left at home, which even have rain gutters, would effect a cure).
The engine of this Lancia felt quite happy at speeds up to 5,000 r.p.m.; it was geared 25 m.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m. on the car tested. That the Italians are better at the chassis than the coachwork was apparent in the aforesaid poor back-window catches, crude interior trim, the un-upholstered ” occasional ” leather cushion on the. back sent, door sills which transfer water to the occupant’s clothes, and a heavy boot lid. The driver’s vision is somewhat obstructed by the screen pillars and his anti-dazzle visor threatened to fall off, a fixing screw having pulled out. Some draughts and a trace of petrol fumes were discernible, and the absence of a clock, oil gauge and water or oil thermometer was distressing considering the price-class of the car.
When all is said and done, however, the Lancia Aurelia Gran Turismo’s main purpose in life is to go rapidly from place to place in comfort and safety, suffering the least inconvenience from less able vehicles and imparting a sense of security and well-being to its driver. It does this better than any car the Writer has tested, and from that aspect alone is worth the money it costs.
Unfortunately, the brief space of time during which this muchsought-after demonstrator was available and the disgusting weather conditions which coincided with the test made it impossible to log performance figures, apart from a rather casual standing-start 4-mile in the wet in exactly 20 seconds. But the beautiful balance and control of the Lancia puts it in the category of perhaps the most pleasant motor car sampled to date And, withal, one of the fastest in respect of average speeds on pnblir roads.—W. B.