Lancia launched the Montecarlo as part of the Beta range. This included a sedan, a coupe and a spider model, the HPE Estate. The Montecarlo followed the Stratos in design principles although it was penned by Pininfarina. Lancia brochures were keen to associate the Montecarlo with the success of the Aurelia B20 rather than the then current crop of Beta.
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Montecarlo production numbers - Series 1
Montecarlo production numbers - Series 2
1978 Lancia Beta Montecarlo Spyder Series 1
One of 334 made
Last Update: Friday, November 06, 2009
Back in the early 1990s I restored Series 2 Lancia Beta Montecarlo Spyder while I was living in Singapore. It took longer to source specific things than it did to anything else. Sadly, all was wasted when the car was broadsided by an errant driver taking a wrong turn early one morning in 1994. That one was hardly a candidate for a resurrection but the current Series 1 Spyder certainly was! And if you value your car and your sanity, and you live in Hong Kong, there is one WORKSHOP YOU SHOULD NEVER EVER USE !!
I owned one other Lancia after that - a Thema 2.0 ie Turbo 8V that had so much torque steer that I've always avoided front wheel drive turbos since (NB: The Thema cylinder head is not interchangeable with that of the Montecarlo). The Montecarlo has always my favorite and an opportunity emerged for me to close the circle fully - another Spyder and another project car I can't wait to complete and rectify all my earlier mistakes. Here then are some of the shots of the new Beta project with a bit of background on Lancia and the Montecarlo - a.k.a. prototype X1/20 (you'll find this prototype reference stamped on the circuit board of the instrument binnacle).
In the first series, Lancia build 3854 examples (of which only 334 were Spyders), production ending in May 1978 after a run of 3 years. The Series 2 appeared in March 1980 with revisions to brakes (being the most significant), wheel size, cosmetics, weight (the Series 2 was 70kg lighter) as well as the removal of the full buttress panels in the rear in favor of glazed ones.
This makes our project car one of the very last of the Series 1 Spyders (it has the rear Lancia β insignia before Lancia tried to distance itself from the Beta model). The car carries chassis 3869, type (or tipo in Italian) 137 AS/T, signifying it was a Spyder. The car was first registered in Hong Kong in 1978 and came with optional red (rosso) cloth-covered seats. Lancia offered several combinations for body and upholstery colors and this car had the original white paint scheme (#152 Bianco) with red interior, the only such combination offered.
Autocar 1978 listed the price of the Lancia Montecarlo at £5,927 total including VAT for the UK market. The Montecarlo was therefore the highest priced Lancia offered in the common market at the time. In comparison, an Alfa Romeo GTV 2000 was offered at £5,799 all in (the GTV Strada was listed at £7,199). The Fiat X1/9 1290cc was listed at £3,627 all in. The closest you could get to a similar sports car would have been the Porsche 924 at £7,350 all in - and that was for the basic model. Unless, that is, you were willing to go with TVR and stake you life on a 3000M for £5,716 or a TVR Taimar non-turbo at £6,223. By the end of 1981, the Montecarlo Series 2 Spyder was listed at £8,600 with the Coupe at £8,345 all in. The Fiat X1/9 1500cc was priced at £5,590 and the flagship Lancia Gamma 2-door 2.5-litre at £10,249, compared to Alfa's flagship GTV 6 2.5 Coupe at £9,850. Alfa's only comparable to the Montecarlo would have been the Alfetta GTV 2.0 Coupe, priced at £7,995.
MOTOR's issue of 30th May 1981 road tested the Series 2 and compared the car to the Alfetta GTV, Nissan's 280ZX, Mazda's RX7, the Porsche 924 and Triumph's TR7. In terms of price, the Lancia rated fairly well, the cheapest being the TR7 (also the least powerful) at £6,880, while the most expensive was the 924 at £9,103. MOTOR noted that the Montecarlo had no other natural rivals; the X1/9 was priced much cheaper, others such as the TVR Tasmin (£13,824), AC 3000 ME (£13,238) and Lotus Esprit (£13,461) priced much higher.
A comprehensive report was undertaken by Martin Buckley in Classic and Sportscar of May 1990, and featured a Series 2 Spyder. Buckley even pointed out that the road test car that MOTOR ran in 1978 crashed through the window of Sutton Conservative Club and that its origins were in question from the onset at the launch of the car at the Geneva Motor Show. A Fiat version, badged X1/20, was on display at the Pininfarina stand as well.
Fast forward to 1995 and a Budget exotica group road test by Brian Palmer in Thoroughbred & Classic Cars of August 1995 that pitched the Montecarlo Series 2 against the 1983 AC 3000ME, the 1982 De Lorean, the 1974 Lotus Europa Special and the 1972 VW-Porsche 914. To paraphrase Mr. Palmer...."The Monte Carlo (sic) was meant to be a Fiat until the marketing department decreed it should be an ongoing part of Lancia's distinguished competition-bred history - besides, they could charge more lira for a Lancia. Aficionados knew a con when they saw one - the new car even sported Fiat chassis numbers." This was of course true - the Fiat parts bin was huge and the practice was not uncommon. The Montecarlo began life as the X1/8 FIAT prototype 'zero' in July 1970. By 1972 it was known as the X1/20 and by 1975, the basic shape had been determined. As Brian Long put it in Auto Italia of Sept/Oct 1997, the Montecarlo was a sportscar with an identity crisis. Still, bastard that it may have been, with a variety of Fiat, Abarth and Lancia titles, it was still a Pininfarina design that won the Style Auto Award for best production design of 1975!
This car was found in a somewhat derelict state in Hong Kong but complete. A deal was struck while we were in New Zealand during the Southern Festival of Speed in February in 2005 and work began on the car in June.
On the road again....After over a year and a half, the Montecarlo looks like it could be a regular trouble-free road car again. The rebuild could have been done better, but we live and we learn.
What's been done so far: The body has been taken to bare metal and sprayed Guards Red by a fly-by-night operation in Sheung Shui that you should never ever use. All the suspension components, the interior, drive train etc have been removed for blasting and refreshing. The engine will eventually be fed by twin 40 DCNF Webers in place of the progressive choke 34 DATR (once the car has been fully set up), the brake servo removed and brakes upgraded with a kit from The Monte Hospital. The Interior has been taken apart and reupholstered with black top grain hide (from two cows). Seat covers will remain in the original red cloth from the factory.
The plastic quality that Lancia used (as with all Italian cars from the period) needed a significant amount of Araldite and Super Glue but thankfully these items and the aluminum bracing and strengthening are hidden from view. Plastics on display (cig ash tray surround and clock surrounds were customized to a mirror finish in black. The hood material has been replaced with OEM material (which took a full day of labor to replace) and a Zagato Bubble-top has been added with a custom headlining. You'll notice the red stripe on the bubble top and eventually I'll get down to adding a pair of glass or perspex screens as a sun-roof for the top.
Designs showcased in 1978 from Bertone and Pininfarina. Bertone showed the Ferrari Rainbow, Volvo 262C, Lamborghini Bravo, Lamborghini Marzal Jaguar XJS Ascot and Bertone Trapeze while Pininfarina came up with the Alfa Romeo Eagle, Lancia Gamma and Montecarlo, the Ferrari 308 GTB, Ferrari CR25 and the Peugeot 104 Peugette. Ital Design had a Maserati Medici saloon, the Maserati Bora and the Maserati GT
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