The Lancia badge may have become rather neglected over the past couple of decades, but take a look at some of the magnificent cars the it once graced, and you’ll remember why enthusiasts hark on about this Italian legend. Lancia’s Aurelia, launched in 1950, was such a car. Not only was it beautifully designed, but it also featured a number of production world firsts, in the form of its V6 engine and semi-trailing arm rear suspension.
Radial tyres and a unitary body construction both contributed to the cars well balanced handling and a number of well-known motor racers of the time owned Aurelias. Running gear improvements and updates kept the Aurelia up-to-date with contemporaries, and the introduction of coupe and convertible body styles raised the Aurelia’s desirability to new heights.
There used to be a time when you could pick up an Aurelia for a song, it will now take a full album to get your hands on a good one, and values are showing no signs of dipping. With a number of variants and body styles to choose from, the Aurelia’s design integrity makes it a desirable classic car today.
Which one to buy?
Sedans, coupes, convertibles, spiders and a handful of special coachbuilt variants were created during the eight-year production run. Each year saw some changes being made to the running gear of the Aurelia, with the original 1.8 and 2.0 engine sizes increased to 2.5 litres by 1953. Suspension systems were extremely advanced for the time, however post-1954 models reverted to a more conventional De-Dion rear suspension setup, making for more predictable handling.
The very rare B24 Spider with only 150 made is a beautiful car however both pricing and availability mean that you may need to look to the slightly more numerous convertible versions to increase your chances of ownership if you are set on an open top Aurelia.
All versions are great GT cars with the later models offering some added refinement and power. The sedan and coupe body styles are by far the most numerous, and can generally be found for sale through specialists. Spiders and convertibles are far rarer and can command some eye watering prices. Most cars would have undergone at least one full restoration by now, and it’s important to get comprehensive service and maintenance documentation to ensure the cars condition and history can be verified.
Performance and specs
Lancia Aurelia B20 GT
Engine 1991cc 12-valve SOHC V6
Power 87bhp @ 4500rpm
Torque 118lb ft @ 2500rpm
Top speed 105 mph
Fuel consumption 24.6mpg
Gearbox Four-speed manual
Dimensions and weight
Curb weight 1133kg
• Service items and mechanical parts are available while trim for both the interior and exterior is much harder to come by.
• Rust is a real concern, especially on cars that have not been subject to a rebuild. The most common areas for the tin worm to manifest itself are the, footwells, inner and outer wheel arches, bulkhead, door sills, rear suspension turrets, rear wings and the bootlid edge.
• The V6 engines were cutting edge for their time however they can be prone to overheating and head gasket damage. The wet-liner design cylinder bores can sink over time requiring a rebuild, check that any such work has been done by a specialist, as using the incorrect parts for the model year can cause problems.
• The front suspension has a reservoir for its sliding pillar system, which must be kept topped-up regularly. Most cars that have not been refurbished will need a suspension rebuild, and this is a specialist job.
• Some cars will have had modifications carried out to improve everyday usability, including the fitment of electric fuel pumps to cure vapour lock and improve cold starting. For hot starting issues, fuel return lines similar to the Fulvia’s much-improved setup have been installed.
• Gearboxes were subtly revised throughout the first four series, with the final iterations being the most robust. Some of the later cars have had their hydraulic clutches reverted back to a manual setup to improve reliability.
1950: Lancia Aurelia B10 First Series launched, initially available with 56bhp 1.8-litre V6 in sedan form
1951: Aurelia B21 launched with 70bhp 2.0-litre V6. Aurelia B20 Coupe introduced with uprated 75bhp 2.0-litre engine
1952: Second Series Aurelia launched. Coupe uprated to 80bhp, while B22 Sedan received dual Webers and 90bhp. Changes included improved brakes and minor styling changes
1953: Third Series Aurelia introduced, with engine capacity increased to 2.5-litres and modified rear styling
1954: Fourth Series Aurelia introduced: De Dion tube rear suspension replaces semi-trailing setup, and engine bearing design upgraded. B24 Spider body style introduced
1955: B24 Spider production ends with 240 cars built
1956: Fifth Series Aurelia launched. Transaxle and driveshaft received upgrades. B24 convertible introduced with similar running gear to Coupes
1957: Sixth Series of the Aurelia introduced. Engine tweaking resulted in lower power but increased torque outputs. Minor external changes with vent windows and chrome detailing. Fuel tank was relocated to boot from its original position behind seats. Seats updated
1958: Aurelia production ends with approximately 18,200 cars built
Owners clubs, forums and websites
Summary and prices
Values vary wildly between the early B10 Aurelia sedans, which in good condition can be found for around £20,000, to the very rare B24 spiders, which have seen close to £1m at auction.
In between these extremes, the desirable B20 GT coupes can be had for £100,000 and up, while the slightly more numerous convertibles can command up to £350,000.
With similar running gear to the spiders and priced high enough to ensure that they have been well maintained, the later model coupes seem like conspicuously good value. Whichever version you go for, there are a fair number of Aurelias to choose from, and as long as you avoid the suspiciously cheap and badly rusted examples, they can transport you back to a time when the Lancia name was synonymous with style and grace.
Words: John Tallodi