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anti-alpha

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An email the other day from a friend mentioned going to Monterey with an “alpha-male” as company. Made me start to think – why did he mention that? Are Lancista different than other normal alpha-male-car-guys?

I’ve been giving a few talks recently about Lancia to a broad set of audiences. Some of these are cultural groups, heck, even a local Porsche club. People are interested about Lancia but want to know what this company was about. Its not easy to explain why we cherish these cars after so many years. The question is not easy to answer. Its actually rather perplexing.

Lancia (say up until 1990) doesn’t fit the norm for car companies. Yes, they were engineering focused, fully vertically integrated, but so were other companies. They were innovative… that’s important, but not enough to explain our fascination. They focused on well-developed chassis, far ahead of other companies. OK….that sets the stage, but these observations don’t complete the story. They doesn’t answer why we remain so passionate about these cars, or the joy we get from driving them.

The racing careers of the Aurelias, the D cars, the Fulvia and the effervescent rise of the later Lancias (Stratos, Integrale, etc.) all give a sense of the “little one that could”, and that is the heritage of the “thinking underdog” that the company represents. Is that enough?

There is the subtle and lovely pleasure of driving a Lancia, be it a Lambda, Aprilia, Aurelia, Appia, as well as later Flaminia, Fulvia, and Flavias. Its a pleasure that is hard to define, but could be described as the joy of balanced controls, enjoyment of torque over power, a suspension that informs but leaves you riding in comfort. Its relaxed driving instead of boy-racer. Its the joy of everything being thought-through and well considered. Its delight in the care  taken in the design and making of the car. These pleasures seem central to the Lancia experience. One can understand how hard they must be for today’s marketing folks to appreciate.

Recently a non-Lancia friend and I took a Flavia 2000 coupe for a drive. He immediately remarked on the delicacy of its detailing. He saw softness, something he said was no longer in cars. That was an interesting observation, and I wondered if it synched with my sense perhaps Lancia was more sensitive to more feminine aspects of design than the masculine. Not sure what that means, but its a first thought. A brief look at the Fulvia adverts in the 1960s, so many of them featuring well-dressed women enjoying the car, suggests there may be something to this. Might Lancia have been an early company in their marketing cars for the emerging women drivers in the 1960s? Possibly so.

What about those alpha males? Lancias were for designers, engineers, professionals, lawyers, women…. doesn’t seem like an alpha group, does it?

Written by Geoff

August 8, 2015 at 3:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Your very interesting and very sensible thoughts reminds me of my friend who, on hearing that I had bought my second Lancia, said, “From now on you will only drive civilised cars”.

    Niels Jonassen

    August 14, 2015 at 1:52 pm

  2. well, the Lancia Montecarlo in “Herbie goes to Monte Carlo” was a girl (Giselle) and was driven by another girl. ok, the Montecarlo is not among the “civilised” Lancias of the pre-Fiat days, but you got the message.

    and, yes, Lancia was more sensitive to the details, something that can be applied to women. I could name Saab (up to GM ownership), Jaguar (especially in the 50s and 60s) and the non-underdog-at-all Mercedes-Benz (the last one standing) as the other brands that do it the same way, i.e., mixing softness, performance and the perfect feedback for the driver.

    do all these things make Lancia non-alpha? quite the opposite. Gary Cooper had an Aurelia, Marcello Mastroianni had a Flaminia GT. I can imagine Frank Sinatra driving a 4-door Flaminia or Steve McQueen racing a Fulvia.

    Eduardo

    November 1, 2015 at 1:19 pm


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