THE LANCIA APRILIA TYPE 238 SALOON
Wli only regret that we did not arrange to test the Lancia Aprilia Type 238 sooner, not only because it is a car of very considerable interest to readers of MOTOR SPORT, but because we enjoyed so thoroughly the 760 miles which we completed behind the wheel of one of these cars. The Lancia Aprilia belongs to that exclusive class of highgrade Continental productions which is essentially a touring type, yet which rides and handles as safely and securely as a good sports-car, and which is, in consequence, extremely pleasing to handle
under all conditions of travel. Couple this with a maximum of over 80 m.p.h., really brisk acceleration, and a truly economic fuel consumption, and it is impossible not to enthuse over the latest production of the great Italian firm. The Aprilia has a very good seating position, steering column nicely raked, separate bucket seat adjustable close to the wheel. Drop your hand below the facia and the starter lever is found in exactly the correct position to the right of the column, with the choke control and an extremely delicate hand-throttle similarly located to the left. The long, central gear-lever is immensely rigid and most satisfying to use, coming easily from any position, so that the gears go in like a knife through butter. The synchromesh is one of the best and fastest we have tried, save that very occasionally casual treatment results in a slight grating as the gears go in. This can also happen with double declutch changes, but normally these go through well,
and really quickly. The short travel between third and top may result in this slight inconvenience being accentuated before a driver is fully acquainted with the car. The other changes are normal, and rapid both up and down, and it is always possible to locate first and reverse without clutch juggling. All the pedals are in the same plane and clutch and brake require normal pressure, while the accelerator, of roller type and right-handed, is exceptionally light, yet very pleasant to .operate, so that engine revs, mount instantly for double declutch gear changes. Sonic people might prefer to have an arm half an inch longer, to allow the ball of the foot to remain well planted on the roller while
the heel remains on the floor, but one cannot offer this suggestion in any way as a criticism. The hand brake is set fairly far to the left of the driver and is well forward, eo that it is necessary to stoop to reach it, but it functions well and has an efficient push-button ratchet release, light to operate. It will, therefore, be appreciated that the driver feels at home behind the Aprilia’s wheel from the commencement, an impression strengthened by the very adequate view over the short sloping bonnet, although the near-side wing is
just invisible. No shortcomings are evident, either by night or day, in the use of a sloping screen. just after taking over we turned along the North Circular Road and, in spite of the presence of heavy traffic, the Aprilia instantly and naturally went with no effort at all up to 70 m.p.h. Moreover, the firm manner in which it rode, coupled with the extreme accuracy of the steering and its stability when flung round traffic roundabouts, gave us occasion for great rejoicing, for a very decent average speed was suggested and we had long journeys on hand. Now, after very considerable experience of the car, we can qualify these impressions with no mis givings. The lightness of the controls and the generally easy manner in which the Aprilia gets along, notably through ” difficult ” traffic, is particularly evident in returning to it after driving most other makes, The suspension, independent front and back, is an outstanding feature of the Lancia. At normal speeds it smooths out all irregularities, yet is absolutely rigid, even to giving rise to slight up and down movement after the manner of a sports-car. -Unmade surfaces can be taken twice as fast as with an ordinary car, without any discomfort to the passengers and with no loss of controllability. At faster gaits the suspension smooths out even more efficiently and provides truly exceptional riding comfort for a small and lightweight car. The only indication of the movements undergone by the road wheels is a tendency to lively corner-to-corner dipping over ripply roads and an occasional ” clonk ” of a. wheel hitting a more than usually disturbing obstruction. Otherwise, the little Lancia just ignores bad roads, no matter what its speed no matter what is the condition of the surface. As to road-holding, it comes so very definitely into the sportscar category that it is difficult to regard the Lancia as a touring car—which essentially it is—on this Score. The Aprilia is stable always. It can be pulled down into the gutter and held close into the kerb round long, acute bends at speed. On corners, although the tyres howl early in the proceedings, it can be taken round fast without distress. Indeed, the car hardly rolls and the tail slides first, giving rise to a feeling of com
plete confidence on acute turns. Tail slides almost correct themselves, by reason of vigorous castor action in the steering. The Brooklands Aerodrome road can be happily negotiated with one hand On the wheel at over 60 m.p.h., and deep dips and gulleys do not lift the car from the road. Such road-clinging ability makes a vast difference both to one’s average speed and to the pleasure and comfort of all the occupants. The steering teams up extremely well with these excellent suspension characteristics. It is literally finger-light and noticeably so after changing over from another Continental car with only medium-light steering. The wheel requires about 2fturns, lock to lock, and consequently winding the car through dense traffic or taking difficult corners at racing speeds alike call for very little arm movement. There is a very good castor action, automatically varying from a vigorous action from full lock with a little encouragement to steady return action after normal cornering. Essentially is the Lancia steering accurate, and the small diameter wheel is well suited to fast driving. There is no trace of column vibration, but definitely wheel movements are returned to the driver. They take the form of steering wheel kick-back which varies with the quality of the road surface, but which is never more than a light movement and is never of a disconcerting order. It had, however, the rather curious effect of making the car swerve slightly in running over tramlines, until the wheels had negotiated the eamber, an action in no way amounting to uncontrollability, but the only time when the Lancia needed any attention
as to steering. The lock could hardly be more generous.
Much of the praise which can be rightfully accorded to the Aprilia for its thoroughbred handling characteristics must be credited to the rigid construction of the car. The radiator grille, lamps and wings never show any sign of movement, the bonnet does not ” crinkle,” and the whole car remains as solid as a rock no matter how grim is the going. Turning to the Lancia’s manner of running, the little 1.3-litre overhead camshaft engine, besides being extremely neat externally, is a most willing producer of horses that can justly be described not only as hairy but as very very agile. The acceleration from rest in second gear, and from about 20 in.p.h, in third or 30 nap.h. in top, enables the Aprilia to -cope adequately with any touring class cat and most semi-sports cars, not to mention certain really fast motors or big Americans. The engine idles with a pleasantly sporting mite from the small fall tail and makes very little sound when under way, right up to maximum revs., when a not excessive valve bounce indicates that there is nothing further to come. The speedometer is marked with maximum indications of 25 m.p.h. on first, 37 m.p.h. on second, awl 56 m.p.h. on third, but we reached 30 m.p.h., 46 m.p.h. and 64 m.p.h. respectively without the noises under the bonnet becoming at all alarming, on a speedometer which, if anything, was reading slow. In normal driving one would change up very much earlier and still command exceptional acceleration, while, in extreme cases, there is acceleration worth using to within a mile and hour or two of the speeds we attained. The engine starts well from cold, but re
quires a good deal of humouring before it will attain running temperature. On the car tested there was an occasional tendency to fire back at low speeds, corrected by carburetter adjustment. There was also a clicking sound from the engine, probably from a tappet, but this did not increase throughout the mileage
covered. The former trouble slightly spoilt the acceleration figures, which, as the graph shows, are really astonishingly good. to 50 nap h., two up, with not unduly crash gear changes, occupied 11 secs., and to 00 m.p.h., 19f, secs. At Brook lands, the really outstanding all round performance of the Aprilia was convincingly confirmed. The standing quarter-mile was covered in 22* secs., two up, and the flying half-mile along the Railway Straight at 81 m.p.h., the speedometer, which at these speeds was periodically taken sick, making hack-saw noises and flickering its needle, normally registering about 83 to 84 m.p.h. The first flying lap was done at 744 m.p.h., and this was subsequently improved to 75.4t; m.p.h., the speed
coming Out at the same whether grassclipping or using both bankings normally. Several all-out laps showed up no weaknesses in the Lancia and the speed°meter did not register below 75 m.p.h. Such a very high Maximum, allied to very good acceleration, is particularly interesting to those who enter their road motors for competitions. The rapid gear-change materially assists the acceleration and it is desirable to start in first gear, to 50 m.p.h., starting in second, taking about 3 to 4 secs. longer. The lower gears are not noisy and third is absolutely silent, while the whole transmission is taut and the axle makes no sound. The brakes are truly progressive, slowing the car effortlessly from high speeds with a light pressure, and becoming really effective with greater exertion on the pedal. They bring the car to rest in a straight line and are quite silent in action, while at the conclusion of our long test, which naturally was mostly fast driving, a casual test-stop in the Brooklands braking area gave a figure of 35 feet from 30 m.p.h. Somehow they do not feel like hydraulic brakes. The handbrake is entirely adequate on hills. The clutch takes up the drive smoothly in a very positive manner and has medium travel. Having dealt in some detail with what may be termed the ” running features” of the Apt-ilia, we can reflect on its manner of going in general, and that means unstinted respect for its all round abilities, which render it something quite out of the ordinary run of touring closed motor-cars. We did not check our times over any known routes, but, quite obviously, the Aprilia can put up very fine averages, and its cruising speed is anything up to 70 to 75 m.p.h. Coming to more detailed factors, the body is quite devoid of air-noise, but drums to a certain extent, while its construction amplifies the sound of the low gears, wheel patter, etc. Nevertheless, in driving or riding in the Aprilia one is not conscious that it is a noisy car. The upholstery on the car tested was cloth, and the interior is plainly finished and essentially practical. The separate bucket front seats are adjustable and most comfortable, save that the undished squabs allow one to roll on fast corners while one might be a trifle more upright. The facia contains a useful cubby hole on the left, with an excellent spring lid which snaps shut and matches the wood finish. In the centre is the lighting switch, with ignition key, shaped like a miniature pistol, in the centre. This key prevents anyone tampering with the lights when it is removed. Tiny switches on either side control the wipers and the interior and dash lighting. The headlamp dimmer is controlled from the main switch, and this is quite convenient to use. On the right, on a raised section, are, from left to right, the clock, speedometer, fuel gauge and oil gauge, all small-dial neat instruments very easy to read. The oil gauge has no pressure reading in figures, but the needle moves considerably with variations in engine speed. The fuel gauge is rather unique, .indicating the number of gallons in the tank by means of illuminated figures which light up as a small plunger beneath the wiper switch is depressed. These figures are barely visible in daylight but when the tank is almost empty a panel stating that there Is only fuel for sixteen miles lights up and remains lit until the supply is exhausted; this panel is fairly noticeable in daylight. The direction indicators are worked from a convenient switch placed centrally at the top of the facia. They are of non-cancelling pattern, and it is rather easy to overlook them as they are In the rear panel of the body. The horn, penetrating, but not objectionable, is in the centre of the wheel, and, as already mentioned, the starter, choke and. hand throttle take the form of conveniently located levers set beneath the panel. There are no door pockets, but pockets are
fitted in the scuttle sides. The rear seat is wide enough for five persons.
There are looped cloth ” pulls ” hanging from the roof, and the rear blind is worked by a cord control hanging above the driver ; it functioned well but we could find no means of holding it permanently closed. The central rear view mirror provides a fair view astern. The absence of central door pillars renders entry and exit extremely easy, and loose objects on the floor are guarded from loss as each compartment has deep foot-wells. The doors shut decisively and have means for locking them, and flat-set pull-out external handles are used. The windows wind effectively and have rain-proof glass shields above them. At the rear the shapely streamline tail accommodates the spare wheel, and special suit-cases of generous dimensions, and it also conceals the tank filler. The fuel tank holds ten gallons, sufficient for over 300 miles’ driving. The bonnet tops, held by one clip each side, open and shut easily, to reveal the remarkable V four-cylinder engine, the external appearance of which is a source of joy to anyone of engineering instincts. The radiator is mounted in unit with the engine, the fan set very close to the cooling element, and a remarkable compactness evident in the method of construction. The Zenith carburetter, with its air-cleaner, is prom inent on the off side, and on the near side the sump dip-stick is most conveniently located, The fuse-boxes occupy the centre of the facia platform, on which are large plates containing instructions relating to the car’s well-being. The ribbed sump is well exposed to cooling air. The dashboard is effectively lit and there are neat interior lights in each rear quarter. Bumpers, of unobtrusive outline, are fitted as standard front and back. The lamps are very brilliant indeed, enabling good use to be made of the Lancia’s abilities after dark. The radiator filler cap detaches easily ; it is located beneath the bonnet on the off side, where the reserve Lockheed brake fluid is also accommodated. The 6 volt battery lives in a big metal box on the near side, extending into, but not obstructing, the passenger’s compartment. Anti-dazzle
visors that match the cloth upholstery are fitted for both driver and passenger, likewise twin electric screen-wipers, though the wiper blades could have been more effective. The gear-change positions are normal, with reverse outside the top-gear location. We have remarked on the easy action of the lever, which is one of the heaviest and most rigid we have ever handled. The ventilation is good and the windows and screen do not steam up, but there was a noticeable smell about the interior that one now associates with the Aprilia and which was not unpleasant. When one comes to consider the economy of the Aprilia appreciation has again to be expressed, for checked over a very big mileage, which included every aspect of normal driving and certain competition work, we recorded 31 m.p.g. of fuel, As the tax is only 15s., these features, considered jointly, appreciably off-set the price of the Lancia, which, in the form tested, costs 955. Other bodies are available, including a drop-head cabriolet and a most intriguing sports two-four seater. The car we tried was dark blue with grey upholstery. Black, grey, beige, green and maroon finishes are available and the present price is with English leather upholstery. Jewelessence finish is available at extra cost and should
be very effective on this modern streamline bodywork. The metal construction in no way interferes with the fitting of radio, for which normal additional charges are made. The Lancia works at Alperton are naturally able to cope with all servicing matters and have done so since the days of the still famous and greatly respected Lambda model.
THE LANCIA THEORY
The amazing performance of the Aprilia car can be largely attributed to its light weight. The Lancia designer has provided a car which, fully laden, weighs less than other cars of its size and type carrying the driver only. The Aprilia actually turns the scales at 17 cwt., or at 111 cwt. in chassis form, a rather astounding accomplishment. Such rigidity of construction at this low weight could only be accomplished by using the well known and ingenious box-pattern chassis frame, which also permits of a flat undershield in keeping with the streamline body shell. As is also generally appreciated, the Aprilia has independent suspension front and back, by coil springs and hydraulic dampers for the front wheels and transverse leaf spring and torsion bars for the back wheels. The engine is a narrow V four-cylinder of 1,352 c.c., with o.h.v. in hemispherical combustion chambers, the valve operation being by o.h. camshaft and the plugs centrally located. The engine is flexibly mounted but the driver is not aware of it. Cooling is by pump and fan and the radiator has thermostatically controlled shutters. The drive passes to a four-speed silent third gearbox, via a single plate clutch, to a Gleason-Hypoid
final drive. The brakes are Lockheed hydraulic. The b.h.p. is stated to be 46 at 4,000 r.p.m.—we can well believe this. That is a moderate peaking-speed for an engine of this sort, and should materially contribute to long life, for which the marque is renowned. In summing up, we can only say that it is impossible not to enthuse over the Aprilia. Regarded as a utility car, as it is in Italy, its remarkable performance puts it unquestionably in a class of its Own. As a substitute for a sports-car, which is how one will regard it after experiencing its splendid handling qualities, it is still one of the most satisfying productions we know, for those who are unhappy behind the wheel of the usual utility automobiles, but who prefer, or require, travel for four or five persons
under cover. Consider the Lancia’s modest engine size and excellent fuel consumption, and it makes very many. other cars look stupid ; and not only those in the small car classes. The Lancia Is one of the grand marques and is accepted as a thoroughbred by racing folk the world over. Its ownership by drivers of the standing of the Hon. Brian Lewis, the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, Lord Waleran, and others, endorses anything we have left unsaid. The present catalogue is, we humbly suggest, hardly likely to appeal to the class of person who is a prospective Aprilia owner, but the cars may be inspected at the Alperton works or at the London agents, and any questions answered : Messrs. Lancia (England) Ltd., Lancia Works, Alperton, ‘Wembley, Middlesex, telephone Perivale 5056.