Road test: The Lancia Flavia 2000 Pininfarina Coupe

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An Expensive Luxury from Turin

I have great respect for most Lancias, so welcomed the opportunity to drive the Falvia 2000 Pininfarina coupé. This is a development of the Flavia 1800, with enlarge light-alloy four-cylinder boxer engine giving 30£ more power, and an improved, vented body, These days obtaining reproductions in glorious technicolour of a car outweighs the importance of driving it, so I had a somewhat restricted spell in this £3,000, 115 m.p.h. 2 + 2. However, this was long enough to discover that this Flavia 2000 goes, sounds and smells like a typical Lancia. How they contrive that Continental scent I do not comprehend but the other factor stem from advanced design and the extreme individuality of the Turin product.

Before I set eyes on this slim, aggressively long-nosed car our Performance specialist had obtained figures for it (see table) and had added some handling notes, saying he had to slip the clutch for racing starts as the wheels won’t spin, that there is strong understeer at low speeds, and that when the throttle is eased the rear inside wheel lifts–which shows how our chaps press on.

On the road this Lancia corners mainly neutrally, rolls a bit, can be accurately controlled with the impeccable ZF power steering, geared just 3¼-turns, lock-to-lock, but is to my mind disappointingly soggy for this make. Surprisingly high-geared for an Italian car, 1st (11.7 to 1) is quite often resorted to, the only affinity the Flavia has with the BDA Ford Escort I had been enjoying previously. The four-speed gearbox has weak synchromesh, particularly on 2nd, but the changes go through lightly and very smoothly, controlled by a big-knobbed central floor lever with rather long fore-and-aft movements. The pendant pedals do not make for smooth clutch engagement, the pedal having a long travel and tending at times to engage the plate with a clunk, unrelieved by prop.–shaft damping, for the Flavia is a f.w.d. car, which factor is easily overlooked.

As a long-distance job the Flavia is in its element. There are comfortable (but vinyl-covered) front seats, a rather confined back compartment a comprehensive air-conditioning system with both facia and under-facia fresh-air vents and openable side windows, and all manner of luxury items, such as four loudspeakers for radio and stereo, a neat fusebox in the facia locker, twin roof lamps, coat-hooks, grab-handles, individual as-trays, heated back window, big door pulls, an electric socket, reversing lamps, warning lights on the two doors, electrically-controlled radio aerial, etc. The body trim is of very high quality and the floor thickly carpeted. The engine, which has transverse-inclined push-rod o.h.v., gives 131 (gross) b.h.p. at a modest 5.400 r.p.m. and runs quietly, as does the whole car, but acceleration is the only moderate and, as with the old 2-ltire Bristols, the gear-lever is there to be used.

The control arrangements are good, with three stalks for indicators (short, r.h.), two-speed wipers and washers (l.h.), and lamps (long, r.h.), the side-lights being selected with a slide control on the appropriate stalk, but the flasher button being illogically on the end of the indicators’ stalk. Such finger-control is most commendable but in other directions there is poor attention to detail. Thus the driver’s big quarter-window can foul the too-slippery steering-wheel rim and if the lid of the key-opened, rather shallow cubby-hole was dropped one-s knuckles were in jeopardy when changing into 1st or 3rd gear. The central oddments well is obstructed by the hand-grip of the otherwise well-laced handbrake lever, and there is too much light reflected in the facia dials and a horribly distorting, but anti-dazzle, rear-view mirror. There was also a vanity mirror in the driver’s visor, which I dislike, and the n/s door was difficult to shut, which marred the delight of having a Pininfarina body. The red segment of the tachometer was invisible.

The Velia 140-m.p.h. speedometer and tachometer reading to 7,000 r.p.m. are in front of the driver, with fuel gauge (0, ½, 4/4 and warning light), water thermometer (100, 160, 210) and oil gauge (0, 50, 100) as small dials between them. Below these dials runs a window for the various warning lights. The aforesaid talks leave the facia uncluttered by switches, the console carrying a lighter, and knobs for two-speed hater fan, a spare switch, and the back-window heater. Ahead of these are two small lidded ash-trays, a Jaeger clock, and the Motorola radio, behind them the gaitered gear-lever. Extra oddments’ stowages are provided by under-facia shelving, scuttle pickets, and back shelf. The large boot is uncluttered and illuminated. A push in the steering-wheel centre sounds off Fiamm horns. The front-seat squabs recline, with an easy, pre-set adjustment. The dual Carello halogen headlamps make light of night motoring. There is rheostat control of facia lighting and a steering lock and parking lamps operated by the ignition key. The key is pushed in to start the engine.

In normal driving cornering is of a high order, but if over-provoked the 165 x 15 Michelin XAS tyres howl loudly. The brakes were sadly out of keeping with a car of this class, having a long spongy pedal travel and, although servo discs, not giving convincing stopping power.

The forward-hinged bonnet reveals the unusual Type 820,000 engine, which has a bore and stroke of 89 x 88 mm. (1.991 c.c.), a 9-to-1 c.r., a Solex C34 EIES carburettor, and an oil-cooler. All the services and components are decently accessible (except the plugs), including the Varta battery. This three-bearing power pack hands ahead of the driven front wheels and drives through a gearbox and 3.54-to-1 final-drive unit located behind the wheels. This gives a weight distribution of 64.36 and the Flavia’s laden weight tops 1 ton 7 cwt. the engine suffers badly from lack of torque, needing to be running at 3,000 r.p.m. before much happens. As it is heard to do 20 m.p.h. in top hear at 1.000 r.p.m. this makes the driver work for results. But it is a smooth unobtrusive engine, the familiar Lancia whine coming in as the revs rise. It idles well and although I never found the choke control, starting from cold was not too difficult.

The front wheels are sprung on a transverse leaf-spring and tubular wishbones, and the dead back axle is supported on longitudinal leaf-springs, with a Panhard locating rod. This all sounds a bit old-fashioned and perhaps explains why my former enthusiasm for Lancia handling was not rekindled. The ride is a bit lurchy but comfortably pitch-free.

There is a lid-covered lockable filler for the 12-gallon fuel tank. We went 302 miles on a tankful. Checked over Welsh main and by-roads, the consumption was 24.0 m.p.g., part of this test being conducted on Pure 4-star, which was a brand of petrol new to me. In 700 miles the sump oil level (capacity 16 pints; oil pressure normally 70 lb./sq. in.) had scarcely fallen.

The Lancia Flavia coupé is an expensive acquired-taste (the price as tested is £3,110 16s. 5d.).–W.B.