Italy's Presidential Lancias
Human nature is fascinated by things one can't have, including presidential cars, exclusive objects by definition.
In this day and age, protection is much more important than style, except for Italy, where the president's limo is an old Lancia providing the same ballistic protection of ravioli. Still, the Flaminia "335" must undoubtedly be the most elegant government vehicle in active service worldwide.
The story of the presidential Flaminias started in 1960. Italy was in the midst of an economic boom that rapidly transformed the country into one of the world's top economies and was preparing to celebrate its first century as a unified nation-state. The future looked bright, and the 20-year-old Fiat 2800 parade cars then in use, a holdover from the bleak pre-war years, looked increasingly out of step with the times.
Moreover, Queen Elizabeth II was expected to visit Italy during the country's centenary celebration in 1961, so then-president Giovanni Gronchi commissioned Lancia to build a new limo to reflect Italy's status in the modern world.
Lancia was the obvious choice, as its reputation as the purveyor of Italy's finest cars was unquestionable, and the Flaminia saloon provided a natural base for the project.
However, surprisingly little from the base Flaminia was carried over for the limousine project. Lancia ditched the Flaminia's monocoque construction for a traditional ladder-frame chassis with the body mounted on silent blocks. Front and rear tracks were considerably wider, and the wheelbase passed from the 287cm of the standard car to the 335cm of the new limousine, and that's why the car is known as the Flaminia 335.
The four-door landaulet body painted in the classic "blu Lancia" was, just like the standard Flaminia, designed by Pininfarina, and carries many subtle design cues from the Flaminia Coupé presented in 1959.
The Flaminia 335 weighs almost half a ton more than the standard Flaminia saloon but, as the performance wasn't a concern, no modifications were made to Lancia's 2.5 liters V6 engine, rated at 102 HP at 4600 Rpm and mated to a four-speed manual gearbox. However, a shorter final drive is installed to allow driving at parade speed without abusing the clutch, so top speed is limited to about 140 Km/h.
Inside there's ample space for five people plus two retractable jumpseats, all finished in Connolly Vaumol VM 8500 black leather. Electric windows and two radios Voxson 801, one at the front and one at the rear, are among the most notable amenities.
Four Flaminia 335s were built, and, following a long tradition, each example got its own name: Belmonte, Belvedere, Belfiore, and Belsito.