The Story Of The Lancia Fulvia

Updated: Apr 1

Lancia has been a somewhat pathetic shadow of itself for so long now, that it's hard to fathom it once used to build some of the finest cars in the world. The much-loved Fulvia, introduced in 1963, was one of them.



The Fulvia was an expression of the deep-rooted engineering beliefs of Lancias's brilliant chief engineer, Antonio Fessia. He was a stern advocate of front-wheel-drive and, in general, a man of science, with a taste for elegant, avant-garde engineering.

Lancia invented unibody construction back in the 1920s with the Lambda. Hence, the Fulvia was a unibody, albeit the whole drivetrain and front suspension sat on an elaborate subframe to reduce the noise and vibration into the cabin.

Lancias back then were cars built up to a standard rather than down to a price: even their individual components were often things of beauty themselves.

The Fulvia's 1100cc engine, mounted longitudinally aft of the front wheels, was a little engineering tour-de-force. It was a narrow-angle (12°53'28") V4, with two overhead camshafts. So narrow was the angle between the banks, that a single cylinder head could be used. But that head was a spectacularly complicated aluminum casting, in the best Lancia tradition for exceptional engineering.

Lancias back then were cars built up to a standard rather than down to a price: even their individual components were often things of beauty themselves.

But Lancia's uncompromising engineering and finishing standards came at a price

Antonio Fessia wasn't interested in racing, as he believed it was no longer necessary for the technical advancement of automobiles... So the Fulvia was born a little underpowered and overweight... And kinda looked like it too! Designed by Fessia's trusted designer, Piero Castagnero, the Fulvia Berlina was an elegant automobile, yet a decidedly unsexy one as well.

After one year and around 32.000 cars, Lancia silenced the Fulvia's critics with the introduction of what would be the most successful Fulvia Berlina version, the "2C", which meant two carburetors. Two double-barrel Solex C32, together with a new intake manifold and higher compression, resulted in 70HP and a fatter torque curve.

the little, elegant, almost dainty Fulvia Coupé had the chops to become a successful rally car and, by January of '66 the Fulvia HF was born!

By the late 1960s, the Fulvia had reached maturity and was selling well; also thanks to the GT and GTE versions, equipped with more powerful V4s from the successful Fulvia Coupé.



Presented in 1965 at the Geneva Motor Show, the Fulvia Coupé had a 170mm shorter wheelbase than the saloon and weighed 110 Kg less, two factors that undoubtedly attracted the attention of the HF racing team. HF stood for High Fidelity, outlining the team member's loyalty to Lancia, which shouldn't come as a surprise given that HF's founder, Cesare Fiorio, was the son of Sandro Fiorio, the head of Lancia's PR department.

An excellent 8th place overall at the 1965 Tour De Corse obtained by a basically stock Coupé confirmed to Fiorio and Lancia that the little, elegant, almost dainty Fulvia Coupé had the chops to become a successful rally car and, by January of '66 the Fulvia HF was born!

The 1.6 HF built from 1968 until 1970 is arguably the most iconic of all Fulvias, thanks to its large halogen lamps that led the Italians to call it "Fanalona"

The HF's 1.2 liters V4 had 87HP thanks to new intake and exhaust manifolds, larger Weber carburetors, and reprofiled cams... But that wasn't the most significant bit: the Fulvia HF tipped the scales at only 825 Kg thanks to thinner gauge steel used for most panels, aluminum doors, bonnet and boot lid, removal of the bumpers and other small luxuries of the standard car.

For the 1967 season, the Fulvia HF received a slightly larger 1,3 engine good for 100HP thanks to a new cylinder head design. Still, the Lancia team had to wait until November for their first big break: The Fulvias took first and second places at the Tour De Corse, beating the likes of the Porsche 911 and Alpine A110.

What the Fulvia HF needed was more power... Despite Antonio Fessia's opposition! As I've mentioned in the previous video about the Fulvia Berlina, Lancia's chief engineer could not care less about racing and opposed Cesare Fiorio's request for a new engine.

So the engineer Ettore Zaccone designed the new, 1.6 liters V4 engine and the new five-speed gearbox on his own time, at home!

it seduces the eye of the onlooker rather than challenging it.

The 1.6 HF built from 1968 until 1970 is arguably the most iconic of all Fulvias, thanks to its large halogen lamps that led the Italians to call it "Fanalona".

But the Coupé wasn't the only sporting variant of the Fulvia. 1965 also saw the debut of the Fulvia Sport, the single most successful automobile designed and built by the hallowed Zagato coachworks near Milan.



While many Zagato creations before or after the Fulvia have been uncompromising, polarizing designs that privileged aerodynamics and weight reduction over aesthetics, the Fulvia Sport is more conventionally pretty, it seduces the eye of the onlooker rather than challenging it.

the most distinctive stylistic feature of Fulvia Sport is how the dihedral section of the bodyside goes around the car

Developed in tandem with the Coupé, the Fulvia Sport was also presented in 1965, but at the Turin motor show rather than Geneva. The Fulvia Sport inherited the Coupé's platform, its 1.2 liters V4 engine, and even its elegant dashboard, but its exterior body panels were hand-beaten in aluminum, in the Zagato tradition.

The Fulvia Sport's lines were penned, like those of the Alfa Romeo Junior Z I covered a few weeks ago, by Ercole Spada. Yet you would never tell, as the two cars couldn't look more different from one another.

In 1969 Fiat took over the company for the symbolic sum of one Lira.

While the Alfa Romeo was a wedge shape, for the Fulvia Sport, Mr. Spada chose classic teardrop shape, an apt choice given the Lancia's engineering layout, as the mass of the V4 placed ahead of the front wheels would have never allowed a pointy front end.

Perhaps the most distinctive stylistic feature of Fulvia Sport is how the dihedral section of the bodyside goes around the car, and it's used to reduce the visual mass of the Fulvia's tall, stubby front end.

But Lancia's uncompromising engineering and finishing standards came at a price, and while the Fulvia sold well, the larger Flavia and the by-now outdated Flaminia weren't finding nearly enough buyers. Zagato built two Sport roadster models in 1968, hoping to entice Lancia to offer this new variant, to no avail, as the company was heading for bankruptcy.

In 1969 Fiat took over the company for the symbolic sum of one Lira.

Fiat's Gianni Agnelli famously said that they found "empty closets" at Lancia, but that wasn't entirely true: the restyled "series two" or "seconda serie" of the Fulvia was ready to go, and debuted a mere month after the takeover.

Under the slightly softened lines of the new Fulvia laid the former GTE's 1.3 engine good for 86HP, which will be paired to a five-speed gearbox a year later. Fiat had no time for specialty cars like the Sport Zagato, so its production was terminated in 1972, the same year the Fulvia Berlina left its place to the all-new Beta developed with Fiat's resources. The Coupé was due to follow suit... Then Montecarlo happened.

Sandro Munari won the '72 Montecarlo Rallye, the first Italian ever to do so. An unexpected victory, against formidable competition, that caused a sensation and boosted Fulvia sales for years!

So much so that in 1974 the Fulvia Coupé received a small facelift that it wasn't originally intended to get: this last iteration is known as the "Fulvia 3," and it's easily recognizable by its black grille, polyurethane steering wheel and headrests from the Beta Coupé.

The last ever Fulvia, a 1.3S in Azzurro Portofino Metallizzato, left the Chivasso production line early in '76, closing the era of pure-bred Lancia cars forever.


0 views

2018 - 2020 All Rights Reserved

contact: info@roadster-life.com