|The Series One 1.6HF is known as the Fanalone on account of its ample inner headlights, thought by salacious Italians to resemble something excitingly female|
The relatively gentle-looking Lancia Fulvia 1600HF you see here was, until recently, my own road car. I’m glad it’s red because that’s the base colour of the rally cars that won rallies and championships across Europe, concluding the run of FWD prowess that began with the Saab 96 and continued with the Mini. I bought it because I wanted to bask in some of that rallying glory, to hear the rasp of that narrow-angle V4 and discover how such a nose-heavy car could flick through corners with such zeal.
Fine. I did all that, having a particularly fantastic time on one Goodwood trackday to which the HF proved rather more suited than I thought it would, given that it’s really a creature of the forest. The measured, forgiving way it came back from a major lift-off oversteer moment as I braked too late into a wet Woodcote corner will stay with me forever. But what would a proper Fulvia rally car really be like? Would it resemble mine in its feel, just tweaked-up a bit, or would it be another automotive universe, as a modern WRC car is compared with its notional starting point?
So we arrive at the Bruntingthorpe test track one cloudy day: me, my Fulvia and a fine rally car built by Vere Lancia in Holland as a replica of Simo Lampinen’s 1972 RAC Rally car (the original one finished fifth). If you know your Lancias you’ll spot that the rally car is a Series One Fulvia with the deep front grille, whereas mine is a shallow-grilled Series Two, albeit with the prettier European-spec low headlights. But the Series Two was launched at the end of 1970. What’s going on, then?
In Fulvia-lore the Holy Grail is the Series One 1.6HF, the car known as the Fanalone on account of its ample inner headlights thought by some salacious Italians to resemble something excitingly female. It was a homologation special, like all the Series One HFs, and was the first Fulvia with the 1584cc version of the V4. It was quite a re-engineering feat, with a new block, a new head, a new crankshaft and special 42mm sidedraught Solexes. It also had the first Fulvia five-speed gearbox, with fifth added on at the back in its own casing and a new remote lever.
This was the base for the most successful Fulvia rally cars. Given the work that went into preparing the team machines, it’s no surprise that Lancia continued to use them right up to 1974 and the arrival of the Stratos. And look at the roll call of Fulvia drivers: Ove Andersson, Sandro Munari, Vic Elford, Pauli Toivonen, Pat Moss, Réné Trautmann, Harry Källström, Leo Cella, Rauno Aaltonen and Simo Lampinen are the highlights of one of the most illustrious lists in rallying history.
Today, Fanalones are rare and very valuable. But creating a replica, itself eligible for historic rallies, is not too hard. The Series Two 1600 engine is virtually the same, especially if it’s an early one built before Fiat started to cheapen it, so you just need a good Series One shell. Our replica here started out as a standard 1967 Fulvia coupé, and reveals its origins by the little chrome-edged, triangular air intakes between the front grille and the inner headlamps. A real Fanalone has no holes here.
Apart from that, and the fact that the carburettors aren’t quite exotic enough, it looks extremely pukka. The first Fanalones – the number is unclear – were known as variante 1016, which meant the engines had hotter camshafts and the Solexes’ bodies were bored out to 45mm. Thus modified, the Solexes weren’t very good and the factory soon moved to Weber 45DCOEs on a manifold broadened such that every inlet tract ended up being a different length. Not that it seemed to matter much.
This car retains the 42DDHF Solexes found also in our Series Two road HF, but otherwise the engine is a fair representation of the Group Four specification of a Lancia works car. That means a compression ratio increased beyond the already high 10.5:1 of the standard car, competition valves opened by a Kent Cams improvement of the original Group Four camshafts, a flywheel of half the original weight, gasflowed ports and a reproduction of the original four-into-one Bosato exhaust manifold. This leads into a straight exhaust pipe with but one silencer, missing out the standard car’s transverse-silencer diversion.
In their final form, running on 48DCOEs, the works rally cars made 158bhp and revved to 7800rpm. A variante 1016 Fanalone was rated at 132bhp, a regular 1.6-litre HF at 115. Our replica’s output has not been measured but is likely to be restricted by its carburettors to 135bhp or so. Given the stripped-out interior and gearing shortened by smaller-diameter tyres, it should still be a whole lot friskier than our road car.
In fact I can’t wait to try it. Just looking at it is enough to bring on the lust; I love the way a demure little Fulvia coupé, all delicacy and artful concavity, has mutated into its evil twin. Look at the tough wheelarch extensions over the four-spoke BWA wheels, in gold of course. Look at the giant rear mudflaps, the equally giant fuel filler, the potential for candlepower up front. Yet it’s still broadly a standard car’s body, with the four opening panels in aluminium, as was the way with the better versions of the Series One.