Lancia Beta

Lancia Beta

Online Classic World

Now that cars from the 1970s are considered classics in their own right, this also spills over to mid-range cars that previously escaped attention a little. An interesting example is the Lancia Beta, which existed in no less than five different body styles between 1972 and 1986, not even counting the anomalous Montecarlo.

The hub of the Lancia range

In the 1970s, the Beta was the lynchpin of the Lancia range, which otherwise did not amount to much. In fact, for a while, the brand leaned almost exclusively on this mid-size car, so it was a good thing that the range was huge.

Lancia Beta - achterzijde

Lanica Beta Coupe, HPE and Spider

The cars that have been in the fortunate position of falling into enthusiasts' hands and being preserved in their old age mostly turn out to be of the Coupe or HPE type, and every now and then a Spider turns up. The Lancia Beta is typically a car that deserves a closer look to be appreciated.

Takeover by Fiat

The Beta was the first Lancia developed under Fiat, and for that, enthusiasts turned their noses up, ignoring the fact that the marque would never have made it without the 1969 takeover. At that time, not even an idea had been formed about what would later turn out to be a mid-range car, but Fiat realised that the ageing Lancia range was in need of refreshment and especially in the volume segment.

Within a record time of three years, they had the Beta ready, a front-wheel-drive car that basically only used engines from Fiat. A Lancia was supposed to be progressive and the fact that this car had independent suspension with stabilisers all round, disc brakes and a five-speed gearbox in all its versions could hardly appease the flared tempers.

That changed instantly when press and public got the opportunity to experience the concept in person. It rained compliments and Lancia could look forward to serious sales numbers internationally, not least because of the low exchange rate of the Italian lira.

Lancia Beta groen

Major production error

Soon, however, dark clouds gathered over the Beta. It turned out that Lancia had underestimated its vulnerability to corrosion, and to make matters worse, the rust devil even managed to detach the front subframe from the rest of the chassis. This resulted in dangerous situations and a major recall was launched, with the most distressing cases being sent straight to the shredder and their owners being allowed to pick another car within the Fiat group as compensation.

Shortened Coupé, Spider and three-door HPE

Lancia did not back down and made improvements, while meanwhile the range expanded with the shortened Coupé and ditto Spider with its roll bar and fixed uprights above the doors, as well as the three-door HPE which, following the Reliant Scimitar and Volvo P1800 ES, was a hybrid between a coupé and an estate car.

All that happened in 1975, the same year the engine range was completely overhauled. The 1400 became a 1300 and the 1800 a 2000, while they replaced the 1600 with an almost equally sized block.

Lancia Beta - zijaanzicht

Volumex engine

A facelift marked the year 1976 and this was repeated three years later, with the Beta receiving a very distinctive dashboard, which we would also see in the Trevi, which debuted in 1980. This model with its classic boot exuded a bit more class than the Berlina, which incidentally went through life as a Sedan in certain markets (including the Netherlands) until 1979 and always lacked a fifth door.

The Trevi acted as a showcase of technical features, namely petrol injection on the two-litre and a compressor version of this engine, referred to as Volumex. Later, some other Beta models followed these developments.

Lancia Beta HPE

Lancia Delta and Prisma

The appearance of the Delta and Prisma in 1979 and 1983 respectively resulted in the phasing out of the Beta line. The Berlina and Spider waved goodbye in the latter year, while Lancia kept the Coupé, HPE and Trevi in certain versions until 1986. Afterwards, the brand would not know a model range with so many flavours.

Buying tips

Rust, that is written in capital letters in the list of Beta ailments. If you can find a pristine car somewhere, do not hesitate to have it treated for corrosion as soon as possible. Technical defects in a Lancia Beta are certainly not above average and do not occur very often, and if something does happen, it is certainly not a burden on the wallet.

Do know that there is a huge scarcity regarding sheet metal and interiors, so buy a vital car anyway, unless you are fond of exhaustive searches.

Lancia Beta interieur

Comfort, driving pleasure, appealing performance and a beautiful finish

Every Beta represents comfort, driving pleasure, appealing performance (even with the 1300 engine) and a beautiful finish, where on all these points you will find the non plus ultra in the VX models with the Volumex compressor. A tip for when that tech appeals to you: grab the incredibly underpowered Trevi, which comes out cheaper than a Coupé or HPE. The fact is that within the Beta range almost anyone should be able to succeed, similar to the situation when the car still shone in Lancia showrooms.