Following yesterday’s tow truck, here’s the car that it was towing in the Solido two-car set. The Lancia Beta was the first new Lancia to be developed after the Fiat take-over of 1969. Ing. Sergio Camuffo was given the job of developing the new model in early 1970. And the new car had to be in production by 1972!
This was a very short timeframe, and development money was relatively limited. These were key factors that influenced the decision to utilize an existing power plant: the Fiat twin overhead cam straight four engine with its alloy head and cast iron block. Many Lancia purists were dismayed at the prospect of a Lancia with a Fiat engine - but Lancia had no other choice but to lower development and production costs.
The four-door saloon was introduced in 1972 and this short wheelbase coupe in 1973. Engines ranged from 1.3l to 2.0l - with this 1.6l sitting squarely in the middle of the line-up. It put out 100hp in with a single carburetor, a decent amount at the time.
However, this car became largely famous not because of its good looks or good handling. Unfortunately, the Beta established Lancia’s reputation for building rust buckets. The box section to which the rear of the subframe was mounted could corrode badly, causing the subframe to become loose. Although tales of subframes dropping out of vehicles were simply not true, a vehicle with a loose subframe would fail a technical inspection.
In the UK (Lancia’s largest export market at the time), the company started a campaign to buy back vehicles affected by the subframe problem. Customers were invited to present their cars to a Lancia dealer for an inspection. If their vehicle was affected by the subframe problem, the customer was offered a part exchange deal to buy another Lancia or Fiat car. The cars that failed the inspection were scrapped.
As I mentioned before, this model comes from a Solido “coffret” or set. I just recently bought this on the local ebay for a measly 20 bucks. And as I did my research on these sets, I noticed that there has been a switcheroo in the past. The “Sports D’Hiver” set here should have a Snow Plough - not a tow truck. The tow truck belongs to the “Depannage Autoroute” set. But even there, the vehicle being towed was a Lancia Beta. It seems Solido didn’t have confidence in them either.
There’s more to the Lancia Beta story- the Saloon, the Spyder, the HPE, the Montecarlo and a few more versions besides that. But we’ll leave them to another day.