The cars we loved.
The late 60s to early 70s might be looked back on as the Golden Era of Italian sports car design. The variations coming out of Modena, Turin and Malian ranged from sleek and graceful to quirky and wonderfully odd. From the wonderfully off side of the range comes Lancia’s Fulvia coupe. The Fulvia was actually a family of cars with a boxy looking sedan (Berlina) and two coupes. The first Fulvia was a sedan introduced in the early 60s and was joined by a later a graceful and elegant coupe with a distinctive boat like shape. A second variation of the coupe call the Sport was introduced in 1968 using the Fuliva chassis, but got distinctive aluminum body panels designed and built by Zagato.
Where the original Fulvia’s graceful design reminded one of the early 65-68 Nissan Silvia coupe, the Zagato built Sport look much more aggressive than the standard coupe. It’s stance and hunched over look reminded one of a hyena, an animal essence that future Zagato cars would channel. Like all Fulvias, the Sport was praised for its advanced high precision engineering. The heart of the Sport was its narrow-angle V4 DOHC engine making 87 hp. Advanced for its time; it made enough power to move the light Sport with some authority.
As displacement grew through the late 60s and into the 70’s, a new model variation appeared called the Sport 1600. Lancia drew on its long and successful racing history by setting up the Fulvia for performance. With 115 hp from a longitudal mounted engine, the 1600 featured impressive road holding and superior balance under most situations with its front wheel drive. Despite all the hoopla the 1600 received for its advance engine design, the car was essentially a combination of new and old tried and true technology. The suspension was a prime example. The front was an independent wishbone design while the rear a solid rear axle sprung by a single leaf spring. The brakes were drums all around, but were refined and enlarged in models after 1970.
By the end of the Sport 1600’s run in 1974, it had as much as 135 hp and received many refinements. Today it’s considered a near classic, which can be used as an everyday driver due to its solid construction and somewhat hassle free engineering (by Italian car standards). Fulvias were very rare in the United States. In 1967 Lancia pulled out of the US market just as the Sport 1600 series was reaching its stride, so cars after that time had to be imported by individuals and federalized at considerable expense. The Fulvia continued to make a name for itself in Europe where it was a popular rally car. It was replaced the now legendary Lanca Stratos in 1975.