Monday, August 24, 2015

Happy Birthday, Vincenzo Lancia

Vincenzo Lancia's company builds a car in the 1950s

Vincenzo Lancia was born on August 24, 1881. He was one of the early Italian automobile pioneers and founder of a company that bore his name and produced beautiful cars.

I’ve never owned a Lancia, nor have I known anybody who ever has. However, I recently went to the "Tutti Italiani” show at the Larz Anderson Museum in Brookline, a celebration of the genius of the Italians and their automobile heritage. Filled with gems of many shapes and colors — Ferraris, Alfas, Fiats to name a few — it was just another hot summer’s day out on the lawn.

A lovely Alfa

1974 Ferrari Dino

Fiat 600

A 1966 Ferrari

Ferraris from the 1980s and '90s, all in Ferrari Red

But of all these cars, the car that really caught my eye was a Lancia. It stood out. There was a grand elegance to it, married to a practical simplicity. Lovely curves never hurt either. Here it is:

Car enthusiast Jay Leno also likes Lancias and has restored a 1958 Aurelia, which you can see here.

Lancia still exists as a brand, now under the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group, but things don’t look good for it. Sales now seem restricted to Italy only and there is some speculation that by 2018, FCA will phase out the car altogether.

Post scriptum: When Vincenzo Lancia died in 1937, his son Gianni took over the company. During the Second World War, Gianni joined an Italian resistance group that included political partners across the anti-fascist spectrum. Unfortunately for Lancia, since this group included Communists, the United States didn’t look on it with favor at the end of the war.  While the Americans were doling out cash to help get companies back up on their feet, Fiat received money, Alfa received money, but Lancia received no money.