Delta Integrale. Stratos. 037. You’ve most definitely heard about them once or twice in your life, regardless of being a car person or not. Lancia was a prominent figure in the rally world, claiming world titles in 1974-1976 (with the Stratos), 1983 (with the 037), and 1987-1992 (with the Delta). Unfortunately, having yourself made in the motorsport arena does not grant you any pass in the commercial department, where Lancia started, in the 1990s, its neverending decline due to its street cars’ reliability issues. It’s one of those bitter stories where the passion doesn’t conquer the reality surrounding us.
Vincenzo Lancia teamed up with Claudio Fogolin and founded Lancia & C., in 1906. Their first car (romantically called Alfa, the first Greek alphabet letter, and also a word that means “beginning”) was sold in over 100 copies and was also used for racing. Even from the beginning, Lancia knew what he wanted: amazing, innovative cars. For example, the Alfa’s front axle replaced the solid steel, using a lighter tubular structure. That made the car more responsive.
“Innovation” is a word that best describes this Italian car manufacturer. The 1913 Theta was the first European production car to have a complete electrical system. The 1922 Lambda was the first car to feature a monocoque structure. The first five-speed gearbox? Lancia Ardea, in 1948.
The engines department was also full of surprises for the car manufacturing world. The 1950 Aurelia had the first full-production V6. The V4 engine was also Lancia’s idea. The engineering team was even borrowed by Ferrari in the 1950s, aiding the Scuderia to win the F1 championship.
Unfortunately, the manufacturing process for the amazing Lancias became more and more expensive (the cars were handmade), and the sales could not cover them. The financial status put Lancia in the hands of FIAT, in 1969, opening the doors to another era.
Despite the fulminating success in rallying and some exquisite pieces of machinery for the road use, in the 1990s Lancia started being avoided due to reliability issues, a decline from which it could not recover ever since. Although FIAT did not want to bury the Lancia name, rebadging Chryslers as Lancia wasn’t much of a help either.
The only living Lancia can be found in Italy exclusively. It’s the Ypsilon supermini.