It was the company that was once the greatest rallying team in history that has been reduced to nothing. It went from making some of the quickest rally cars to date to only selling a small economy car in Italy. This is the history of Lancia. If you have a related fact that you would like to have mentioned, make sure to leave a comment below or visit my contact page.
You would have never thought that a company that sells one pretty terrible car in one country has one of the richest histories out of many car companies. Lancia & C. Fabbrica Automobili was founded on 29 November 1906 in Turin by Fiat racing drivers, Vincenzo Lancia (1881-1937) and his friend, Claudio Fogolin (1872-1945). Vincenzo Lancia had dreamt of designing a car where money didn’t matter. With this mindset, Lancia became one of the most innovative companies of the time and started doing crazy things with their cars.
Lancia was the first to use a monocoque chassis, first to fit a car with a full electrical system as standard, the first to use a wind tunnel, first to use a V6 engine, first to have standard radial tires, first to use inboard brakes to reduce weight and more. They were even the first to build a narrow V4 engine with one cylinder head (kind of like the VR6 engine from Volkswagen). I could go on and on about the number of things that Lancia were the first to do however if I did that, we would be stuck here all day.
It was after Vincenzo Lancia sadly passed away that Lancia first started to enter the world of racing. At the 1951 Mille Miglia, a Lancia Aurelia B20 finished second overall and won its class. It had a 2 litre V6 and the only car that beat it was a 4 litre Ferrari that was packing a V12 under the bonnet. Throughout the 50s, Lancia was dominant in all sorts racing and won the Carrera Panamericana, then the Mille Miglia, and the Targa Florio which they one with the sleek Lancia D24. Later in 1954, Lancia decided to try their hand at Formula 1 and did decently well however Lancia was starting to go broke.
The company soon had to sell the core part of the company and soon its F1 team ended up in the hands of Ferrari. They tweaked Lancia’s F1 car and legendary racer Juan Manuel Fangio ended up winning the 1956 world championship. Throughout the 50s and 60s, Lancia continued to do very well and produced many great cars. Fun fact: though many people don’t know this, Lancia also made trucks, buses, trolleys, and even military vehicles. Because Lancia paid so much attention to every single car, they were starting to lose money again. Most models didn’t share any parts and each car was painstakingly built by hand. The models were expensive to build and their sales couldn’t keep up.
In 1969 Fiat bought Lancia and kept it alive. Lancia had already been doing well in rallying with the Fulvia winning the championship for the past four years. The Italian design company Bertone knew that Lancia was going to need a new car to replace the Fulvia soon so they came out with a concept car that they named the Stratos. Lancia saw how low the car is and told Bertone to build them a car to help them win rally championships. Their new car was designed by a man named Marcello Gandini. He had a pretty impressive resume as he had already designed the Lamborghini Miura and the Countach. Lancia debuted the new Lancia Stratos HF at the Turin Motorshow in 1971.
The Stratos was incredibly tiny, mid-engined, and rear-wheel drive. It was extremely light and was equipped with a peppy Ferrari V6 making 190 horsepower. In 1974, Lancia entered the Stratos into Group 4 in the WRC championship. The cars made around 300 horsepower and had an extremely short wheelbase. The Stratos powered Lancia to victory over the next three years and continued to blow fans away. Though Fiat continued to favor their own rally team over Lancia’s, the Stratos continued to win with private teams until 1981. That is an extremely long time and shows just how insane the Stratos was. After this, Lancia came out with the 037 which competed in the famously lawless Group B class (check out the article on Group B The History of Group B). This period of Rallying produced the most insane race cars in History and Lancia was no different.
The 037 was a mid-engined supercar for the dirt that was based on the Lancia Monte-Carlo. They had supercharged inline-four engines making 280 hp, double wishbone suspension, with two shocks in each corner in the rear and it was extremely lightweight. The 1983 WRC season was underway and Lancia had become fierce rivals with Audi. Audi had also been racking up wins because they were the first to use all-wheel drive in the Audi Quattro. It is often argued that the feud between Lancia and Audi was one of the most legendary and exciting motorsport rivalries of all time. It is a hugely exciting story for another time. Long story short, Lancia became the first and last company to ever beat an all-wheel-drive car with a rear-wheel-drive car in rallying.
After the 037, Lancia knew that they would need an all-wheel-drive car to keep up with the Audi Quattro so they came up with the Lancia Delta S4 (aka the worlds most successful rally car). The Delta S4 made over 500 horsepower and was the first rally car to be twin-charged. What this means is that it had both a supercharger and a turbocharger. The supercharger provided torque at low RPM’s and the turbo helped at higher RPM’s which meant that the car had a ton of torque throughout its entire rev range. Some even made 750 hp and did 0-62 mph (0-100 kph) in 2.4 seconds!
Later on, Group B was shut down as it was becoming too dangerous however this didn’t stop Lancia from racing the Delta. They modified it so that it could be raced in Group A. Lancia had a large advantage over the competition and won the 1987 constructors and drivers championships. After more improvements, it continued to win until 1982. Over every single car, Lancia has won a total of 11 WRC championships which is more than any other team in history.
Ever since then, Lancia has only sold rebadged Chrysler’s and Fiat’s in Italy. It’s nowhere near as well known as it was before however that just makes it even cooler. It is amazing how such a small company can have such a rich history. Lancia is no doubt the greatest rally team in history and I highly doubt that any other company will be able to surpass it.
Thank you for reading this post about the history of Lancia. I hope you learnt something and please continue to scroll through my website.