A new Project for Athanase & Byron
You can quote us: The Lancia Aurelia is one of the ten most significant automobiles of the twentieth century, and therefore of all time.
Pete Vack, Veloce Today
Lancia may be a little-known Italian automaker in the United States, but it is one of the oldest and most innovative in existence. This firm, founded in 1906 by F.I.A.T. race driver Vincenzo Lancia, quickly earned a reputation for brilliant and unorthodox engineering, jewel-like build quality and athletic handling. In addition to these virtues, the Turin, Italy-based automaker created the car considered the first modern GT, the 1951 Aurelia Gran Turismo.
That car, built for eight years in six generations (series), embodied all of the characteristics that GT enthusiasts have come to love, including a beautiful body, powerful engine, accommodating interior and sophisticated road manners. Indeed, the fastback Aurelia racked up numerous racing wins, including the Mille Miglia, Targa Florio, the Liège-Rome-Liège Rally, and a first in class at Le Mans. The final Series VI cars, built from 1956 through 1958, are the most refined, and carry values that have risen dramatically in recent years, highlighting their rarity and desirability.
The Aurelia GT–commonly called B20 after its factory code–was designed by Gianpaolo Boano at Carrozzeria Ghia, with styling refinement and body production by Pinin Farina. Following Lancia tradition, the monocoque Gran Turismo was more than simply a pretty face: it was powered by the first production V-6 engine, an aluminum OHV design with hemispherical combustion chambers, single or dual carburetors and a 1,991-2,451cc displacement. This engine was mated to a rear-mounted transaxle that combined the gearbox, clutch, differential and inboard-mounted drum brakes; a sliding pillar/coil spring suspension supported the front, while a coil-sprung semi-trailing arm independent–later a De Dion/semi-elliptic leaf spring setup–supported the back of the car.
As built, the Aurelia GT’s interior featured a split front and one-piece rear bench seat, and the four-speed manual gearbox was shifted on the column; a popular and valuable option was the Nardi floor-shift conversion. The Series V B20 of 1956, which made 110hp and 124-lbs.ft. of torque, gained a sturdier front axle, a stronger transaxle and a standard Nardi wood rim steering wheel, while 1957-’58 Series VI coupes, making 112hp and 127-lbs.ft. of torque, received vent windows and chrome hood trim; different final drive ratios were fitted each year to offset feature-driven weight gains. It’s believed that 300 Series V Aurelia GTs were built, with 620 Series VIs following in 1957 and 1958: 3,871 units encompassed the entire production run.
Lancias may be low-key, but the groundbreaking Aurelia Gran Turismo has experienced a steep rise in value in the last 40 years. Steve Peterson, president of the American Lancia Club, says, “Aurelias have particularly gone up in value, and their values vary with the Series.” He notes that earlier Series B20s are more highly valued than later examples like our Series V and VI, but even still, “I can’t imagine a good driver going for less than $80,000(*). They’re now attracting a different sort of customer than originally; I think there is a point in value, and Aurelias have reached that point, where cars become investment commodities, and they start to get churned.”
This article originally appeared in the February, 2012 issue of Hemmings Motor News.
(*)Prices of B20 & B24 Aurelias have risen significantly over the last two years. In fact the Sports Car Market SCM 2014 Price Guide on p. 36 lists B20’s at a low $97,500 & high $165,000 with a % Change Note of 30+!
Our newly acquired B20S #1548 project
During one of our recent private Garage Nights in mid Feb. 2014 at Alex V.’s place, Athanase and myself had just returned from our RETROMOBILE 2014 Paris, France visit, with the intent to show about 800+ photographs to the guys via a projector on a 2x2m. white screen. Over pizzas and vino rosso, the talk circled about a certain Italian project car which a mutual friend was considering of selling. It was a late Series VI Lancia Aurelia GT, carrying the factory code name B20S (S=sinistra, i.e. equipped with LHD), bearing a VIN 1548, denoting a car assembled on Friday 3rd May of 1957 and finished on Wednesday 5th June, coincidentally just one day before my birthday! See the ‘Registro Aurelia’ report: Dati Aurelia B20s 1548
Only 420 B20 examples were made during that year, before production ended next year with an additional 312 units. In total, from the introduction of the Coupé in 1951 up to 1958 only 2.640 units were made, hence a rare car indeed. This Aurelia was imported to Greece by our friend John K. few years ago from England, as it’s previous owner was an elderly British gent who walked out of the project, but quite luckily, had also acquired a second ‘basket case’ B20 as a parts donor platform. After clearing Greek customs and filling a room with her generous dowry of parts, John ventured into a slow paced restoration process entrusting the V6 engined car to an out of Athens body shop. The half started project by the Brit had progressed somewhat under John’s stewardship by rectifying usual rot areas for the model, such as door sills, treating wheel arches etc., etc. Needless to say, the original floorboards were in solid condition and required little attention!
Immediately a rendezvous to inspect the car was arranged and one sunny morning in late Feb. my childhood friend Athanase and my self drove the 200km distance to Argos, all along discussing the pros and cons of a 50/50 restoration venture together. John met us at the town’s entry bridge and we immediately went to the body shop to see and photograph the B20. After that session we went to downtown Argos to see the room full of spare parts, featuring among the various double items, two engine blocks and countless of unopened packages. A trove yes, but what a challenging task it would be to open them all up, sort, photograph each item, identify their part numbers, catalogue them, and most importantly determine which parts are missing and would need to be sourced. A Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson affair.
Over lunch at the nearby historic town of Nafplion, the car’s dossier was reviewed, establishing that her factory color was the mellow Azzurro (light sky blue) Lechler code: NF 8012, Name: AZZURRO AGNANO-CELESTE AURELIA, while over Espresso coffees a win-win deal was outlined. Armed with over 80 photos in the can, we drove back to Athens and slept on the whole project idea. Upon downloading the photos and viewing them on my iMac’s big screen, a lot of details pertaining to the car’s condition, usually not so obvious to the naked eye, were revealed. Such will be quite useful to us during the restoration process and will also serve us in building up the car’s dossier with ‘before & after’ documentation. The steering column and box, front and rear suspension components including the drive shaft, transaxle cum inner drum brakes, all need to be removed, repaired and restored. Then the naked body would need to be rotisseried and treated accordingly. Considering all these factors, we made our detailed offer which through the good and friendly mediation services of Alex V., was finally accepted by John. Ipso facto, we are now taking possession of this handsome GT aiming to do an appropriate restoration.
6th March 2014: the B20S arrived in Athens!
On the evening of 6th March 2014, the B20 arrived in Athens on a transporter truck, while another closed van in escort carried all her dowery of parts. John K. who oversaw in person the transport, also handed us three thick dossiers which contain the car’s history as recorded by its meticoulous previous British owner. For example we now know that the B20 was imported to the UK from Italy on 1st August 1966 assigned the registration KUC91D, while her last Italian license plate No. was Roma 377510. Previous registrations include Roma 301413 and AP 23328. We also now know that the first owner of B20S-1548 was Silvano Bernabei from Rome (from November 25, 1957 to January 13, 1958). We are still checking if Silvano was related (son) to Inico Bernabei of Cisitalia 202 Cassone fame. Her Greek Historic Vehicle plates now are I.O. 5875. The plan was to position the car and parts into my Garage for inspection, parts sorting, cataloguing etc, before assigning her to the body shop of choice for continuing the restoration under our custody. Few pictures and a video clip from that milestone day follow:
Another dream may come true
For some time in the past I was dreaming about what a ‘once in life-time’ experience it would be for motor heads like us to be in a position to enter into the Historic Mille Miglia. This notion was reinforced in October of 2013 when we had the pleasure of meeting in Athens with Stefano Pasini, a well known and respected ophthalmologist, writer-journalist, a car and audio enthusiast and also involved in the Organizing Committee of the MM! It suddenly clicked that owning a true MM eligible GT, this dream is a lot closer to becoming real… It is befitting to mention of the B20’s racing achievements, even briefly: These cars proved to be highly successful in competition, with perhaps the Aurelia’s most shocking achievement occurring at the 1951 Mille Miglia. The factory entered four Aurelias, and the B20 GT Mark 1 of Giovanni Bracco and Umberto Maglioli soon left the 2-liter competitors behind and began closing on the overall leaders, who were piloting cars with 50% to 100% more displacement. In the torrential rain, the 2.0 liter 80hp Aurelia closed five minutes on the leading 4.1 liter Ferrari 340 in the second to last leg alone, and was still closing at the end of the event, placing second overall! The Aurelia lost by 20 minutes in a 13 hour race, amply demonstrating the capability of both drivers and car. The Aurelia met with countless other competition successes, including another class win on the Mille Miglia plus further class victories at the Le Mans 24-hours, Coppa d’Oro delle Dolomiti, Pescara 6-hours, Carrera Panamericana and Targa Florio, among others.
The future will reveal if this dream will one day become a reality…
Given that Athanase has recently restored few classics (among them a Fiat 500, a Jaguar Mk II etc.), plus has recommissioned a Viotti and an Alfa Romeo Junior ‘Scalino’, likewise I have completed two ground-up projects, involving a 1967 Mercedes-Benz 250SE Coupé (W111) and a 1962 VW Käfer 1200 (Beetle Typ 113), we have set up the following ‘works to be done’ outline pertaining to our restoration procedure:
- Engineering and Mechanicals (mainly completing the body works)
- Engine reassembly
- Suspension and Brakes
- Electrical (including a new wiring loom)
- Paintwork and Exterior
- Reassembly, testing and running in.
Our primary goals for this project are:
- Finish with as an original B20S example as possible, but improve the cooling
- Complete the project by December of 2014 and have it FIVA registered as an A/3 class
- In time for filing an application to participate in the MM 2015
Lancia Aurelia B20 GT Specs
- Configuration: 60º V6
- Location: Front, longitudinally mounted
- Construction: alloy block and head
- Displacement: 2.451 liter / 149.6 cu in
- Bore / Stroke: 78.0 mm (3.1 in) / 85.5 mm (3.4 in)
- Compression: 8.0:1
- Valvetrain: 2 valves / cylinder, OHV
- Fuel feed: Weber 40 Carburettor
- Aspiration: Naturally Aspirated
- Power: 118 bhp / 88 KW @ 5000 rpm
- Torque: 172 Nm / 127 ft lbs @ 3500 rpm
- BHP/Liter: 48 bhp / liter
- Chassis: unitary steel
- Front suspension: Lancia sliding pillar, semi-elliptic leaf spring
- Rear suspension: DeDion axle, semi-elliptic leaf spring
- Steering: worm and sector
- Brakes: drums, all-round
- Gearbox: 4 speed Manual
- Drive: Rear wheel drive
- Weight: 1050 kilo / 2314.9 lbs
- Length / Width / Height: 4370 mm (172 in) / 1550 mm (61 in) / 1400 mm (55.1 in)
- Wheelbase / Track (fr/r): 2660 mm (104.7 in) / 1280 mm (50.4 in) / 1300 mm (51.2 in)
- Power to weight: 0.11 bhp / kg
- Top Speed: 180 km/h (112 mph)
- 0-60 mph: 12.3 s
- 2014 Gooding & Co. The Scottsdale Auctions ($187,000)
- 2014 Artcurial Motorcars at Retromobile (€104,400)
- 2013 Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed (£79,900)
- 2013 Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed (£107,900)
- 2013 Artcurial Motorcars a Retromobile (No Sale)
- 2011 Bonhams Motor Cars, Motorcycles, Automobilia, Melbourne, Aus. (€104,118)
- Official Lancia site
- Other cars by Lancia
- Lanciainfo.com (Geoff Goldberg’s site)
- Lancia Aurelia B20: An Appreciation Part I (by Pete Vack of Veloce Today)
- Lancia Aurelia B20: An Appreciation Part II (by Pete Vack of Veloce Today)
A list of Aurelia owners past and present:
- Mike Hawthorne
- Leslie Hawthorn
- The Earl of March [see his video below]
- Jay Leno
- Riccardo Patrese’s father.
- Anthony Pritchard (Writer and Historian)
- Mike Wilson
- Francois Chevalier (Owner of Paul Ricard Circuit)
- Boncompagni (Ferrari Racing Driver)
- Jean Behra
- John Savage (President of the Lancia Motor Club)
|Data covers years:||1951-1959|
|Number of events:||59 (including 1 race where did not start)|
|Total entries:||251 (contains 167 finishes and 70 retirements, finishing ratio: 70%)|
|Photos in Gallery:||2 (0% of all entries)|
|Wins:||4||Additional class wins||20|
|Second place finishes:||7||Top 3 finishes||1|
|Third place finishes:||10||Races finished on podium||15|
|Best result (count):||1st (4x)||Pole positions||0|
|Most frequent drivers:||Enrico Anselmi (12), “Ippocampo” (9), Gino Valenzano (9), Felice Bonetto (9), Salvatore Ammendola (9), Antonio Pozzato (8), Giovanni Bracco (6), Ugo Piperno (6), Roberto Piodi (5), Ferdinando Gatta (5), Mario Giobellina (5), Luigi Fagioli (4)|
|Most frequent chassis:||B20-1508 (9), B20-1010 (6), B20-1510 (4), B20-1506 (3), B20-1511 (2), B20S-1228 (2), B20-2254 (1), B20-1505 (1), B20-1005 (1)|
|Most frequent tracks:||Mille Miglia (99), Coppa delle Dolomiti (48), Giro di Sicilia (26), Targa Florio (15), Monza (10), Coppa della Toscana (6), Carrera Panamericana (6), Giro dell’Umbria (5), Giro delle Calabria (5), Monaco (4), Pescara (4), Trofeo Sardo (3)|
|Most frequent countries:||I (225), MEX (6), F (5), MC (4), A (4), P (2), CH (2), BS (2), YU (1)|