It was the first front-wheel drive production car to come out of Italy. It featured an all-aluminium flat-four engine to keep the weight (and centre of gravity) as low as possible. With disc brakes front and rear (another Italian-car first) plus double-wishbone front suspension the Lancia Flavia was a superbly engineered luxurious car that was truly groundbreaking. Yet it’s now largely forgotten.
A high standard of engineering makes these cars relatively easy to work on while reliability and durability tend to be good. Throw in classic Pininfarina styling on the coupé, restrained Michelotti lines on the Vignale-built convertible and the rather extravagant Zagato design on the Sport and there’s something for everyone. And to cap it all the coupé and Sport had successful motorsport histories, which like the cars, is now largely forgotten.
Which Lancia Flavia to buy?
These cars aren’t plentiful, so you’ll probably end up buying the first good car you come across. Having said this, you’re likely to be drawn towards a particular bodystyle, which will only prolong the time it’ll take to track down the Flavia of your dreams.
The most common models in the UK are the 2000 berlina and coupé along with the earlier 1800 coupé. It’s the same story in Europe, but there are more cars there, so it might be worth crossing the Channel to find what you want.
The convertibles are especially sought after but Vignale built just 1644 examples and there aren’t many left, especially in the UK. The Zagato-bodied Sport is even rarer with just 640 cars produced; these are also now prized, despite their quirky styling.
The Flavia’s low profile doesn’t make the ownership experience any easier, as some parts are hard to come by. When they are available those parts can be expensive, but join the Lancia Flavia and 2000 Consortium and you could save a bundle. This enthusiastic UK-based owners’ club can help with any potential purchase – the chances are that any Flavia you’re considering buying either belongs to a member or someone in the club will know all about it.
Performance and specs
Lancia Flavia 1.8 coupé
Engine 1800cc, four-cylider
Power 92bhp @ 5200rpm
Torque 108lb ft @ 3000rpm
Top speed 106mph
Fuel consumption 29mpg
Gearbox Four-speed manual
Dimensions and weight
Kerb weight 1120kg
• Some Flavia parts are shared with the Fulvia, such as some brake, steering, suspension and gearbox bits. Many service items are shared with contemporary classics, and while motor factors don’t tend to list Flavia parts, they will list identical bits catalogued for other marques.
• Start by scrutinising the bodywork for corrosion. There are no hidden areas, so any rust should be obvious on the berlinas, coupés and convertibles. This includes the sills, wheelarches, door bottoms, boot lid, rear valances and spring mounts along with the double-skinned base of the front bulkhead and (on the convertible) the box section under the rear seat. The Sport is harder to assess as the aluminium body panels can hide major structural corrosion.
• There are few new panels available and they’re costly when they do crop up. In Italy some repro panels are available but they’re hugely expensive. A wide variety of repair sections is available through the Consortium, which has broken cars over the years and can offer some used panels, which might need fettling to make really good.
• Engines are tough but the timing chains wear and stretch, so listen for rattling from the front. New chains are available but need expert fitment. Parts are available to effect engine rebuilds but used Flavia powerplants aren’t plentiful; 2000 units are easier to find though.
• Some early engines featured Kugelfischer mechanical fuel injection which needs expertise to set up properly. Repairs for this system are costly.
• The engine is mounted on a subframe which is located via rubber mountings. The rubber perishes eventually but the parts are available to effect repairs.
• The gearchange is light but not quick; synchro on second gear will be the first sign of wear, but it’s easy to drive around this.
• Front springs on early cars can be soft while the rubber buffer perishes, between the spring and upper wishbone. Rear springs also sag, especially if the boot has been loaded up. The rubber suspension bushes perish but replacements are available via the Consortium.
• Brakes can be troublesome, especially on cars laid up for ages. This applies particularly to the early Dunlop braking system, especially the servo unit, on the Flavia. The 2000’s Girling system is more reliable. Handbrakes on the Dunlop system can go out of adjustment easily.
• The vinyl and leather interiors are robust but the cloth trim isn’t. The foam padding in the seats also disintegrates, given away by dust on the carpets. The dash top, door cappings and screen pillar trims disintegrate on the early berlinas and coupes (pre-1967) when the foam inside falls apart; the vinyl covering also splits. The later cars and convertibles are much better in these areas.
1960: The Lancia Flavia saloon is unveiled at the Turin motor show, with a 1.5-litre engine.
1961: A Pininfarina-designed coupé debuts at the Turin motor show; it goes on sale in 1962.
1962: A Vignale-built convertible goes on sale alongside a Zagato-designed Flavia Sport coupé.
1963: The engine’s capacity is reduced from 1500cc to 1488cc, the compression ratio is raised from 8.3:1 to 8.5:1 and power leaps from 78bhp to 80bhp as a result. The gearing is also revised, UK sales begin and there’s now a 1.8-litre engine option. A £2000 price tag for the berlina and £2400 for the coupé means few takers in the UK.
1964: The convertible and Sport go out of production, but remain on sale for a few more years.
1967: A facelift of the berlina brings more conservative styling and a new interior, the coupe gets a minor update, mainly to the dashboard.
1969: A 116bhp 2.0-litre engine replaces the 1.5 and 1.8-litre units. Soon after launch it’s offered in 124bhp fuel-injected form. The coupe gets a full facelift inside and out. Power steering is also added.
1971: The Flavia is facelifted and renamed 2000. There are now Girling disc brakes instead of Dunlop, stainless steel bumpers, Bosch D-jetronic fuel injection (where fitted) and a five-speed gearbox. Externally the berlina changes much more than the coupé but all cars get lots of changes under the skin.
1974: The 2000 goes out of production.
Owners clubs, forums and websites
Summary and prices
Picking up a Flavia, while time consuming in your search, might not actually end up being quite as expensive as you think. The Berlinas are difficult to find, but might only cost between £3500 and £10,000 for something is solid condition.
The Zagato looks strange, but being coachbuilt and rare means it carries a significant premium. When they do turn up, projects cost from around £5000. Generally prices start from around £25,000, rising to £35,000 for a very good example. Compared to the (unquestionably more beautiful and special) Flaminia Sport Zagato at more than £400k, it’s still a bit of a bargain!
Prices for the regular Flavia Coupe, which is perhaps the most sensible option, are slightly more sensible. Rust has claimed many, so be prepared to pay between £12,000-£15,000 for a good car, with the best pushing £20k.
Words: Richard Dredge