My first blog post was about why rear wheel drive still has a place in the World Rally Championship. The cover photo was of a Lancia 037 entering a hairpin sideways on full opposite lock. Re-reading the post recently, it got me thinking. How could Lancia come back?
When I say come back I am aware that technically Lancia never left. It still exists selling a city car called the Ypsilon, which is re-badged as a Chrysler in the United States. Lancia then is like someone looking on social media in the middle of a lecture, they’re present, but not engaging.
So what do you do with Lancia? A great name with a heritage in rallying and in sportscar racing, that at one point produced some of the best sports cars in the world. You revive it, but how do you bring it back cost-effectively?
Whatever is produced it would be a premium two door coupe but, how premium? With the rise in niche remakes such as the David Brown GT and Ferrari Monzas, it would be tempting to go down that route.
This doesn’t always work however; this has been attempted before. At the moment there is a company converting Ferrari F430 chassis to create what they call, The New Stratos, a successor to the Lancia Stratos. On paper this sounded encouraging, until it was revealed the cost of the conversion was £499,143.84. Sound encouraging but who wants to drive a new car based on the platform of one that is nearly twenty years old?
The New Stratos looked good but was a false dawn with a long gestation period and unattainable price
What then, do you do? The answer comes from France.
In February 2016 Alpine unveiled the Alpine Vision concept car in Monte Carlo. The announcement related to he re-birth of the Alpine marque. A year later the Alpine A110 was released and has become one of the most popular new sports cars of recent times, becoming Top Gear’s Sports Car of the Year 2018 and scored 5/5 starts in Autocar.
What does Alpine have to do with Lancia? Alpine was revived by parent company Renault who wanted to add a rear wheel drive sportscar to their line up. As a result the Alpine A110, named after its Monte Carlo rally winning ancestor, was born. Armed with a 4 cylinder engine from Renault, a 6 speed semi-automatic gearbox and bespoke chassis, the A110 has become, to put it mildly, rather popular.
My suggestion is that Fiat, who own Lancia, should do the same and revive the brand with the 037 as their flagship.
Yet re-purposing a chassis would save money. Fortunately the Fiat Group also owns Alfa Romeo 4C. On sale since 2013, this car also has a 4 cylinder engine, two seats and rear wheel drive.
What I’m suggesting then is that a 4C platform and engine could be used as the base for the 037 rather than developing a new one from scratch.
It is at this point that I suspect someone may correctly note that one of the things that made the 037 special mechanically, and what separated it from other sportscars, was that it was supercharged as opposed to turbocharged.
How do you replicate that low rev boost that the supercharger provides? The answer comes from 1993 when Toyota released the Supra. This came with sequential turbochargers, one that works at low revs and the other to come on boost at higher revs. If this worked for Toyota in 1993 it could work for Alfa over 25 years on.
This isn’t a concrete fix I’m aware, there will still be differences. Despite this I don’t think borrowing the 4C’s tub and turbocharged engine will harm the car’s desirability. Just look at the Alpine, having a turbo four cylinder rather than the inline four cylinder it had in the 1970s, hasn’t hurt its appeal. It would also save on costs allowing the price to be lower as well, starting at around £50,000.
These are all assumptions however, I recognise that the mechanics of designing and producing a new sports car such as the 037 are incredibly high. I am no mathmagician but there’s nothing wrong with blue-sky sideways thinking.
The time is ripe for Lancia to return, not just for the good of Fiat but for the good of the automotive world. The world’s roads are a poorer place without Lancia.