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Lancia - History

The pronunciation of the name 'Lancia' is without 'i'.

1881Vincenzo Lancia is born
1895Apprenticeship in bicycle factory Ceirano
1898Accountant at Ceirano
1899Ceirano small car prototype
1899Takeover of Ceirano by Fiat
1903Fiat racing driver
1906Lancia and Claudio Fogolin found their own firm, explicitly approved by Fiat boss Agnelli
1906Patent for rear axle made of pressed steel
190712/20 HP (Alfa)1
190818/24 HP (Dialfa)1
190915/20 HP (Beta)1
191020 HP (Gamma)1
1911New logo (with the help of Carlo di Biscaretti Ruffia)
191125/30 (Epsilon)1
191235/50 (Eta)1
1913Across Europe first introduction of lighting
191335 HP (Theta)1
1919Kappa1 (35 HP)
1922Introduction of the very innovative Lambda
1922Trikappa (42 HP)
1937Death of Vincenzo Lancia, the business is taken over by son Gianni, after a short intermezzo of his wife and brother.
1954Successful at the rallye Monte Carlo
1955The company is sold to cement factory owner Pesenti
1962Flavia Coupe/Convertible
1970Fiat takes over
1974Beta Coupe/Spider
1975Beta HPE, Montecarlo - Prototype
1976Beta Montecarlo - Series, Gamma1
1979Prisma, Delta1
1981A 112
1985Y 10
1994Kappa, Zeta
2002Thesis, Phedra
1 according the Greek alphabet
2 according the roman road names

Vincenzo Lancia founded the company that bears his name in 1906 together with his friend and colleague Claudio Fogolin, who served until 1918 as Commercial Director in the company. Lancia was born in 1881 in Fobello, a small town in the Italian lakes region. His father was a manufacturer of canned foods. Vincenzo was the youngest of four children, the benjamin.

First race win at Fiat's second race participation (1900)

Maybe you can so understand the impetuosity of Lancia. His family had probably rather expected from him a solid classical education. But he felt at home in the workshop of Giovanni Ceirano. Bicycles were produced here under the brand name 'Welleyes' since 1886. Great Britain was regarded in the bike industry as a leader at the time, hence this English sounding name.

From 1899, the events came thick and fast. Vincenzo had meanwhile completed an apprenticeship here. Under the same brand name as for the bikes, a small car with a two-cylinder engine came out, constructed by Aristide Faccioli. Months later, the complete company was taken over by the newly founded Fiat society. The vehicle project was further developed and there is the first Fiat with boxer engine under the name '3 .5 HP '.

Vincenzo Lancia had therefore learned from a pioneer of Italian car design and witnessed the beginnings of Fiat firsthand. Officially, he was employed as an accountant, but his later development will show that he has noticed a lot of know-how. He also proved to be a passionate racing driver. The Fiat superiors noticed his talent early. This has earned him the task of a car tester. Either something breaked down with him, or it kept almost forever.

Obviously, he also had the talent to recognize errors earlier than others and was able to help in the analysis. Passion and skill are often two different things. We saw that much later, for example, at Enzo Ferrari and Alfred Neubauer. Both were driven races in their youth, but from the former became a famous head of a company for racing and supercars and from the latter a famous race director for Mercedes.

Well quite different the situation regarding Vincenzo Lancia. He is more faster than his famous colleagues, among them his teammate Felice Nazzaro. It was rumoured that he was foolhardy and often something went wrong on the road to victory shortly before the end of the race.

There was the Cup donated by William K. Vanderbilt first of all near New York. 1905 Lancia drove off all of them, including such famous drivers as the Belgian Jenatzy. With several minutes winning margin the victory seemed no longer to take, when an accident after returning from refueling on the track him throwed completely back. His driving style assured him very often the affection of the audience.

It was thus not a lack of capability. You could say he was risking too much sometimes, but you also have to consider the circumstances of the former races. To the Vanderbilt race swarmed so many viewers that it took place gradually further away from New York and ended up in California. In Europe, there was the equivalent race for the Gordon Bennet Cup.

The from 1904 was called the 'break-up' race, because it had so many failures. E.g. five out of six Mercedes could not reach it. Four laps were to drive from a total of 500 kilometers.There were dead to mourn and yet the race went on. The Fiats were yet significantly in an inferior position to the German and especially French competition in terms of performance. Nevertheless, Lancia created the finish as the eighth before his teammates Cagno this time.

The conditions for drivers and mechanics also were hard. Usually ten times or even more a tyre change was needed. The had to be taken from the fixed installed rim or often even be cut. More worse was the mounting of the spare tyre and restoring of the bolted connection. Then the engine with up to 16 liters capacity had to be cranked by hand.

Fiat is clearly more competitive at Gordon Bennet 1905. Lancia was once again on the winning position when his radiator gave up the ghost. His big chance you could also recognize by the fact that Nazzaro and Cagno were second and third. How much the Fiat cars increased in performance, you may recognise at the fact that a top speed of more than 200 km/h were possible with them in 1906.

Although the becoming stronger Fiats won more and more, the bad luck remained the companion of Lancia. In the second French Grand Prix, he was back in the most promising position, but bowed out shortly before the end with coupling defect. After all, he was second behind Nazzaro at the Targa Florio 1907. The following year, it depends less on speed than on uniform lap times. Here the alleged hothead Lancia defeated even his teammates.

Racing driver at Fiat until 1908

By the way, the bad luck pursued him even at his beginnings as a company founder, because after a year there was a fire which delayed the start of the first Lancia model. The series was arranged after the Greek letters, allegedly because Lancia's brother was a Greek professor. By the way, one will keep up this nomenclature until 1930 and then even come back to it much later.

Consequently the first model was called 'Lancia Alfa'. With the model number '12/28 HP 'it had thus 20 kW (28 hp) from abundantly 2.5 litres displacement. It came out in 1907 and had the just patented for Lancia new rear axle made from pressed steel.

Despite the establishment of the company, he remained faithfull to his passion for racing to 1910. The vehicles constructed by himself were indeed powerful from the beginning but were never used as a factory stock car at this time. With two cylinders it was not satisfied. They were combined, as with other manufacturers also, to four and a little later to six cylinders.

In his private life he was described as rather calmly. Not a bit of the assertiveness in the profession, almost a model of kindness. His factory produced as usual at this time, only the chassis with the drive. The bodywork company Lacati & Torretta offered these as a sedan, coupe, Landaulet and Double Phaeton. Two facts were characteristic for the early Lancias, they were lightweight and expensive.

The letters of the Greek alphabet are perhaps just enough for a model series, but not for a type series. So here were used the prefixes 'Di' and 'Tri'. So, the Lancia Dialfa already had the in-line six-cylinder, incidentally as one of the first ever. On the other hand, a minibus based on the Lancia Alfa is offered according to the Lancia catalog.

The market tended to large-volume engines with four cylinders, which were used in the race by the chief and also by customers. Thus, the displacement increased over the further models up to Theta on five litres. It was already the beginning of the First World War in 1914, in the Vincenzo Lancia built his large vehicles with appropriate armor for combat units and transport trucks also. As with many automotive companies the production rose through the guaranteed purchase.

The problem were the workers and after the war in 1918 the maintaining of sales at greatly expanded production facilities. After all, Italy had the good fortune to belong to the victors in the First World War. Thus, for example, the production in the aerospace sector was not restricted, e.g. in Germany. Lancia had already developed a V8 engine for the aviation during the war.

No, you may not imagine the engine as an ordinary V8. He resembled with its enormously small angle between the cylinder banks an in-line eight-cylinder. Advantage of the construction, one needed only one cylinder head. Today, one could perhaps compare it with a VR engine. It became Lancia's hallmark, also in the vehicle sector (Lancia Trikappa of 1921) and with fewer cylinders.

To the excellent reputation of the brand had probably contributed the Paris Salon of 1922, where the Lancia Lambda was presented. The is considered the first car with a self-supporting body. The had become necessary in principle, because the car had an independent front suspension that had to be supported further up, in contrast to the usual rigid axles with leaf springs.

Incidentally, this is not an independent suspension in the modern sense. It is very similar to the method by which the motorcycle manufacturers its rear wheel have taught to spring (though much later). The front wheels are guided in telescopic tubes (again a similarity to the motorcycle) and not with handlebars. Furthermore, one is here then arrived at four cylinders and 13° bank angle (will often changed), if you ever can speak of cylinder banks in this engine. Also worth mentioning is the early introduction of four-wheel brake.

The aerodynamic Aprilia is the last model, Vincenzo Lancia still might have been involved. He died of heart failure 1937. After a short transition period, his son Gianni took over the company. Up to this point, in the company Lancia was to feel a certain continuity. Certainly, the vehicles were provided always quite early with the latest technical achievements, often even with own developments.

But that seems to represent the allure of the brand. After all, it had to sustain its position in the market for high-priced automobiles, this did not seem bad to succeed until then. And who smelled once at the Lancia emblem, does not seem to be able to stay away from the restrained elegance. Lancia also seemed not to come unimpressed through the economic crisis from 1930. One had to break the phalanx of always getting bigger and stronger cars and with smaller models try to gain a foothold. Here then was the reason to abandon the continuation of Greek letters and to restart with 'A'.

English subtitles possible . . .

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