The Fulvia Coupé is one of the most beloved classic Lancia models of all, and it's easy to see why. It's got motorsport pedigree to spare, looks to die for, and enough examples have survived to keep prices on the affordable side...
...If you don't have to have an HF, at least.
Its story began in 1965 at the Turin Motor Show. Like the Fulvia Berlina it was based on, the Coupé had been designed by Piero Castagnero, yet the two couldn't look more different from one another. While the four-door saloon was modern but somewhat stodgy and unexciting, the Coupé's shape was so successful it outlived the saloon by several years and went on to become an all-time classic. Castagnero said he took inspiration from the contemporary Riva motorboats for the Coupé's shape, and it certainly possesses the same grace and timeless elegance.
By the decade's end, Lancia had sold 56.888 Coupés, but there was little the pretty little two-door Fulvia could do to rectify the sorry state of the company's finances.
The industrialist Carlo Pesenti, who had purchased Lancia from the founding family fourteen years earlier, ultimately sold the ailing Lancia and its considerable debt burden in late 1969 to Fiat. The price was a symbolic sum of one Italian Lira per share.
The extremely tight angle between the V4's cylinder banks allowed using a single cylinder head casting, albeit a spectacularly complex one
The revised Fulvia Coupé, commonly known as the "seconda serie" or "series two," was launched in September of 1970, and it's easily distinguishable from the earlier models by its revised front-end design.
Gone was the trapezoidal grille, replaced by a slimmer and wider element that visually connected the two pairs of headlights, those also changed to comply with new European legislation. Speaking of headlights and legislation, it's worth remembering the Fulvias headed for the UK market had their own specific front-end design to comply with local laws.
Lancia's rally weapon, the 1.6 HF, was now available in two flavors: a stripper version with no bumpers and the more user-friendly "Lusso." The new front and rear fender pressings made it possible to fit the HF's larger wheels without the additional plastic fairings used previously. However, items like doors and boot lid were no longer made from aluminum, making these "series two" HFs heavier than before. If you've ever wondered why Lancia's works rally team kept using the older HF cars well into the Seventies, that's your answer.
This video's protagonist isn't a racer, though.
In an effort to streamline production and reduce costs, the mainstream Fulvia Coupé range was reduced to a single model that incorporated many welcome improvements, and this is one such vehicle.
The dashboard's design proved so "right" that it was never changed over eleven years of production
This Fulvia Coupé 1.3 S is powered by a 1298cc V4 engine placed longitudinally ahead of the front axle and sends its 90HP to the front wheels via a five-speed gearbox, which was made standard on these "series two" models, replacing the older four-speeder.
Like on all Fulvias, the engine block is tilted 45° on its side to lower the car's bonnet line. The extremely tight angle between the V4's cylinder banks allowed using a single cylinder head casting, albeit a spectacularly complex one, which is a testament to the company's prowess in aluminum casting technology. Equipped with an alternator in place of the old generator and an electric fan rather than a belt-driven one, this latest incarnation of the 1.3 liters V4 would stay with the Fulvia Coupé for the remainder of its production life, with no further developments.
One of the most striking characteristics of the Fulvia Coupé's design is how its top seemingly sits on the body like a turret. This, together with the tall glass area and low beltline, gives the occupants of the Fulvia Coupé the best outward visibility this side of a full convertible. While we drove around in it, I just couldn't think of any car, old or new, with a better view out of the cabin.
Not that looking inside isn't worthwhile, though, as the Fulvia Coupé's cabin is a much nicer place to be than most comparable cars of the era.
Although this example's black vinyl upholstery doesn't look like much, and some penny-pinching compared to previous Fulvias does show up, the design, fit, and finish still puts period Alfas to shame.
the presentation of the new Beta coupé in 1973 at the Frankfurt Motor Show should have terminated the Fulvia's career for good
The dashboard's design proved so "right" that it was never changed over eleven years of production, during which it was also adopted for the Fulvia Sport made by Zagato near Milan.
However, the previous owner of this Fulvia swapped the beautiful wooden steering wheel that came as standard equipment for this rally-style one carrying the name of Sandro Munari, the legendary Lancia rally driver.
In my view, it detracts from this car's look rather than enhancing it. Still, I certainly can't argue with the Munari connection, as his surprise victory in the 1972 Montecarlo rally created such a demand for the Fulvia Coupé that Fiat just couldn't kill it off as planned.
In fact, a rather crass special edition based on the 1.3 S, the "Montecarlo," was created in March of '72 to capitalize on the renewed interest around the Fulvia Coupé. Painted to match the rally cars' livery, it lost its bumpers and gained a pair of square foglights in an attempt to look racy. However, it was all show and no go, as the technical specification remained the same as the usual 1.3 S models.
Later that year, the Fulvia Berlina was superseded by the all-new Beta saloon, and the Fulvia Sport Zagato was given the ax as well, with the Coupé 1.6 HF following suit, early in 1973.
According to the company's plans, the presentation of the new Beta coupé in 1973 at the Frankfurt Motor Show should have terminated the Fulvia's career for good. Yet, the Italian market kept absorbing enough Coupés to warrant one last new series, the so-called "Fulvia 3." But that's a story for another time...