Although perhaps not endowed with the most dramatic range of cars available on the UK market, Lancia has been fighting back gamely over the past few years to surmount their unfortunate reputation for producing some particularly rust-prone models during the 1970s. By dramatically improving the paintwork, trim levels and finish on their cars the marque has gone a long way to re-establishing a niche in the market, providing some worthwhile workaday alternatives to Fiat and Alfa Romeo products at the lower end of their range. At the top of the Lancia range stands the Gamma, both in saloon and coupé form, and we recently took the opportunity of trying out one of the latter machines, now equipped with Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection to enhance the notably smooth-running appeal of its 2,484 c.c. (102 mm. x 76 mm.) four cylinder, horizontally opposed engine.
Visually this large, distinctive coupé’s exterior appeal has been improved with the incorporation of revised grille and stylish spoked alloy 6J x 15 road wheels. The somewhat square-cut lines of this Gamma derivative endows the car with timeless good looks and many enthusiasts feel that Pininfarina’s efforts on the Lancia chassis have produced a dramatically more attractive overall package than the four-door saloon.
Inside, although thick carpeting covers the floor and high quality velour is employed to trim the seats and door panels, the general impression imparted by the fascia is somewhat bland and the driving position is a touch on the low side. The flat-four engine bursts into life willingly and without any reluctance or spluttering, delivering its power smoothly and flexibly. The fuel-injection engine develops 140 b.h.p. (DIN) at 6,000 r.p.m., capable of propelling the 3,946 lb. (1,790 kg.) coupé from standstill to 60 m.p.h. in fractionally over ten seconds and endowing it with a top speed of 120 m.p.h. On initial acquaintance I formed the view that the Gamma had a somewhat choppy ride and too much roll for my taste, but the Pirelli P6 rubber gives the car high levels of adhesion, even on a wet surface. Even though this coupé is quite a large machine it proved pleasantly agile on twisting country roads, returning an average consumption of 24.8 m.p.g. during the course of our test. Despite the fact that the driving position is on the low side, the long-throw gearchange was pleasant to use and the positioning of the pedals posed no problem at all. There was some irritating reflection, particularly at night, into the steeply sloping windscreen, but otherwise all-round visibility is of a high order.
As befits a car with a price tag of £11,900 (inclusive of car tax and VAT), the Lancia Gamma coupé 2500IE is equipped as standard with a considerable number of accessories such as electric windows, tinted glass, electrically adjustable door mirror and power steering. Access to the rear seats of the car is imaginatively enhanced by the fact that as the front seat back-rests fold, the front seats automatically slide forward; release levers have been eliminated as the back-rests are freed and locked automatically when the doors are opened and closed.
Unquestionably the Gamma coupé is an attractive car which will appeal to those who crave a sense of individuality without the necessity to “break the bank”. Lancia has gone a long way to allay worries about durability, as not only do their products come complete with a six year anti-corrosion warranty, but also with Motoring Membership of the RAC for twelve months for the car’s owner plus wife or husband. — A.H.