Although Lancia cars haven’t been sold in this country for quite some time, this is one of those marques that, for petrolheads at least, is impossible to forget. It has a rich history that stretches back all the way to 1906, and since then Lancia has done groundbreaking and memorable things in almost all facets of the automotive world, including technology, styling and motorsport. The first car with a monocoque body was a Lancia (Lambda). When it has teamed up with Italian styling house Zagato, in particular, it has created some of the most beautiful cars of all time (see the Flaminia Zagato Super Sport, for example). And its successes in rallies with the Stratos, S4 and Delta Integrale models are the stuff of legend. As a result, one of life’s great mysteries to me is parent company Fiat’s non-stop fumbling with it. Lancia today is but a shadow of its former self, and looking at what is available within the wider Fiat group, I can’t quite figure out why…
Right now the Lancia line-up consists mostly of a number of Chrysler based products. There are the Thema (300C), Voyager and Flavia (Chrysler 200 – facelifted Sebring) in addition to Fiat-based products such as the Ypsilon (500) and Delta. In future, expect an even closer relationship with Chrysler. Now, no offence to Chrysler (its new 300C is lovely)… but if you’ve got even a little bit of appreciation for Lancia’s history, this is unacceptable.
That said, I do understand the pressures of the modern automotive world and the need for platform sharing. The problem in my eyes is that there are obvious other opportunities for platform sharing that could result in Lancia again being something worthy of discussion in the present tense, and not simply a great brand of the past.
The three cars that I’d like to see “reinvented” are the Stratos, Delta Integrale and Fulvia, and I can’t see why this is impossible.
Last year the Stratos was “reborn” when a group of enthusiasts built a modern version using the platform of a Ferrari 360. It caused plenty of waves but a modern-day Stratos could never be like this – it would be too expensive. I can’t see why the upcoming Alfa Romeo 4C could not spawn a modern-day Stratos. The Alfa, which has been confirmed for production in 2013, will use a lot of carbon fibre in its body and reportedly weigh less than 1 000 kg, and use a 1,75-litre turbocharged, mid-mounted engine that delivers more than 200 kW. Developing a car with so much carbon fibre in its body must be expensive, and this is a relatively low-volume vehicle, so why not up volume by producing a Stratos spin-off?
Next-up, the Delta. While the current Delta is at least an improvement on its dour predecessor, it remains a bloated, almost MPV-like “execu-hatch”. An all-new Delta is about two years away and will be twinned with a new Chrysler product likely to be dubbed the “100″. Essentially, you are looking at mildly modified Alfa Giulietta underpinnings. If I understand correctly, this platform could potentially also offer all-wheel drive… and if that is the case, Lancia could potentially reclaim its hot-hatch honours by building a modern-day successor to the immortal Integrale, powered by the new 1750 TB engine that delivers more than 200 kW.
Finally, Alfa Romeo recently announced its intention to co-develop the next-generation Spider with Mazda. It will be built on the same platform as the new MX-5, due in 2015, and will be manufactured in Japan. The intention is to make the new Mazda (and the Alfa), more compact, agile and lighter than their predecessors. To me this sounds like the kind of car a modern-day Fulvia could be. Back in 2003 Lancia showcased a Fulvia concept – it still looks good today. A relatively affordable coupe/roadster to battle the likes of the Toyota 86/Peugeot RCZ could work well off the MX-5/Spider platform, in my opinion. Alternatively, an even smaller/cheaper roadster/coupe could be spun off the Fiat 500 platform (see Fiat 500 Zagato).
Will any of this happen? Unlikely. Alfa Romeo is the “sporty premium” brand within the bigger Fiat group and currently the focus of a massive product overhaul as the marque is prepared for its American re-entry. Looking at Lancia’s future product line-up (including 7-seaters and crossover/SUVs), I’m afraid to say that it is time to give up on any hope that this brand will return to its former strenghts. How sad. There goes my hopes of seeing a modern-day Thema powered by the Ferrari 458′s V8 engine…
Finally, if you’re not sure why I miss the Lancia of old so much, have a look at these: