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  • Writer's pictureMatteo Licata

The History Of The Lancia Fulvia V4 Engines

Lancia's history with narrow-vee engines stretched for decades, dating back to the days of company founder Vincenzo Lancia and the seminal Lambda, all the way up to the last Fulvia Coupé rolling out the Chivasso production line in January of 1976.

This is the story of those last V4 engines, including those that powered the Fulvia from Turin's roads up to the peak of international rallying in 1972.

Any discourse about the Lancia Fulvia must begin from engineer Antonio Fessia, Lancia's technical director from 1955 up to his untimely death in 1968. Fessia was an early proponent of front-wheel-drive, spearheading its adoption at Lancia with the mid-size saloon Flavia, launched in 1960.

The 1963 Fulvia was Lancia's replacement for the Appia, whose three series had done pretty well commercially for the Turinese company.

Given the Appia was powered by a V4 engine, many enthusiasts think the Fulvia's engine is a direct evolution of the Appia one, but that's not actually the case. In fact, the choice of a narrow-vee four cylinders format for the Fulvia has as much to do with the vehicle's packaging as it has with Lancia's tradition.

As the engine on the Fulvia sat forward of the car's front axle, the V4's compactness was crucial for keeping the front overhang within a desirable length. On top of that, on all Fulvia models, the engine block was tilted 45° to the driver's side to keep the bonnet line low.

The beginning

The Lancia Fulvia Berlina was presented at the 1963 Geneva Motor Show. Under its bonnet sat an under square 1100cc engine fed by a single downdraft carburetor rated at a mild 58 HP.

The crankshaft sat in an aluminum crankcase, although the engine block itself was made of cast iron, and the two-cylinder banks had an angle of just under 13° between them.

A duplex timing chain operated the water pump and the twin overhead camshafts, one for the intake valves and one for the exhaust valves, actuated via rockers and angled at 60° between them.

It looks complicated but works beautifully, and the aluminum cylinder head casting is a work of art in itself.

However, these first Fulvias were relatively overweight and underpowered. Antonio Fessia wasn't interested in speed, and much less in racing, which he considered pointless. Remember this factoid for later.

Regardless of Fessia's beliefs, Lancia's customers expected a bit more grunt, and the Fulvia "2C" of 1964 delivered just that.

"2C" stood for the two double-choke carburetors that, together with a higher compression ratio, brought the V4's power output up to a much more competitive 71HP.

The 1.2 liters V4s

1965 saw the introduction of the oh-so-pretty Fulvia Coupé and its coachbuilt derivative from Zagato, the Fulvia Sport.

These two models received a bored-out version of the V4 with a capacity of 1.2 liters, rated at 80 HP at 6000 Rpm.

The same engine was then used for the saloon variant, which took the name Fulvia GT, while a more highly strung variant engine was developed for the Fulvia Coupé HF, Lancia's new rally weapon. Equipped with an oil cooler, new camshaft profiles, and larger carburetors, it was just 10% more powerful, but that gain was compounded by the various weight savings made on the HF.

That first 1.2 liters engine was superseded in 1967 by another 1.2 liters variant: a 1231cc rated at the same 80 HP, but with a redesigned, stronger engine block and a slightly different V angle, which remained available on both Coupé and GT saloon until 1969.

Greece was, at the time, an export market important enough for Lancia that a specific version of the Fulvia was made for it. The V4 engines for the Greek Fulvias lost one millimeter from their cylinder bores to stay below 1.2 liters of displacement.

The 1.3 liters V4s

With the arrival of the Fulvia Coupé 1.3 Rallye in 1967 came arguably the most important engine of the Fulvia range, as the model reached its maturity from both a technical and commercial standpoint.

The 1298cc power unit first gave 87HP on the Coupé Rallye, the Sport Zagato, and the GTE saloon. Those became 90 HP in the engine's definitive form, the one that, equipped with an electric fan and with an alternator in place of the generator, stayed with the Fulvia right up until the end of production in '76.

The Fulvia Coupè 1.3 HF was equipped with a further developed V4 rated at 100 HP thanks to new camshafts and higher compression. Still, Cesare Fiorio, the leader of Lancia's works rally team, knew that it wouldn't be enough to stay competitive long-term on the international rally scene and lobbied Lancia's directors tirelessly for a new, high-performance rally weapon.

International Rally Champion

During the second half of the 1960s, rallying as a discipline grew rapidly in popularity, and the cars were rapidly becoming faster and more specialized. Therefore, the Fulvia HF needed to evolve into a more powerful and focused rally machine to put up a credible fight to the Porsche 911 and Alpine A110 that, by 1970, had become the cars to beat in the newly-instituted International Rally Championship.

None of this mattered to Lancia's technical director Antonio Fessia, who couldn't care less about Cesare Fiorio's rallying program and opposed designing a new, more powerful engine for the Fulvia HF.

So much so, in fact, that engineer Ercole Zaccone Mina had to design the now-famous 1.6 liters HF engine mostly at home, in his spare time.

However, this didn't affect the final result, a completely new V4 engine that only shared some secondary components, like the cam cover and radiator fan, with its smaller brethren.

To obtain the significantly longer stroke and wider cylinder bores needed to reach its 1584cc of displacement, the 1.6 liters HF engine was designed with the narrowest "vee" of all Fulvia engines, measuring at just 11°.

The compression ratio was 10.5 to one, and two sidedraft Solex 42mm carburetors took care of feeding the beast, rated at 114HP at 6000Rpm.

Lancia wasted no time putting the car into production, and the 1.6 HF was presented at the 1968 Turin Motor Show, with the 1.3 HF still in production.

Those who purchased the Fulvia Coupé 1.6 HF for racing could order the so-called "Variant 1016," which included higher compression pistons, a yet more aggressive camshaft profile, and larger Solex 45mm carburetors. A Fulvia HF so equipped could produce up to 132HP at 6600cc.

The model went on to win for Lancia the legendary 1972 Monte Carlo Rally and that year's International Manufacturers' Championship, the first of Lancia's long series of rally titles.



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