The first series Lancia Appia Berlina was launched at the Turin Motor Show in April 1952. The styling of the body was similar to the more luxurious Lancia Aurelia. Fitted with a 1.1 litre engine, the manufacturer claimed the Appia was capable of reaching 75 mph with some weight saving measures in place, such as aluminum bumpers, doors and rear wings.
The Appia was not the success it was expected to be, and received criticism for a heavy price tag. Three years later, the second series was launched with a more powerful engine and things like the alumunium bumper were replaced for steel items, after too many complaints about the aluminum ones denting too easily. The sales figures were still struggling with just 22,425 second series produced.
Things took a change in 1959 with the launch of the model we have here, which is the third series Appia. It had a new front end and another upgrade on the engine, now producing 48 bhp the Appia could reach 82 mph. The brakes also received an upgrade to a dual hydraulic circuit. These improvements meant the Appia had finally matured, and the 55,557 units produced proved this.
This right-hand drive Appia rolled off the production line at Lancia’s South African facility on 7th November 1961. It was registered to a lady in Durban who enjoyed the car for a decade or so, before selling it locally where it remained in daily use up until around 1980.
The Appia then went into storage before being purchased 12 years later by Lancia aficionado and UK importer, Christo Smal. Christo recommissioned the car to enable him to use it, and brought it to the UK in 2003, when he moved over here.
It remained with Christo until 2018, when it was sold to another Lancia collector, who, after suffering a back injury, sold the car to Retro Marques. The owner knew straight away what they had in mind for the rust free RHD Appia. As a classic car restorer and rally competitor, he began investigating Appia’s in the world of rallying. The only international entrant he could find was for one in the 1962 Rally Acropolis, where the car finished a respectable 25th. This became the vision for the build, as a tribute to the number ‘75’ 1962 rally car.
Three folders make up the huge history of the Appia, which contain a full workshop manual, an historic section on the Appia model and, obviously, the all important invoice section, which is where you can see just how much enthusiasm and detail has gone into the restoration of the Appia. You will also see in full detail, the companies used for parts and specific jobs carried out. The total cost for restoring and creating the Rally Acropolis is in excess of £11,000.
One nice thing to have in the history file is the original owner’s handbook, along with a framed certificate of authenticity, which shows the car originally went to South Africa.
The MOT certificates are present from when the car came to the UK in 2003, and the current one is valid until the 17th November 2021. The V5 is present and shows there have been 3 previous UK keepers since 2003.
Inside the Appia is a fantastic place to be from the moment you open the door. For the real wow factor, open the front and rear doors to enjoy the pillarless Lancia. It is trimmed throughout in red leather to the seats, door cards and dashboard. The front seats have been swapped from the original bench seat to two individual seats. There are also some custom made seat belts which took some thought, as there is no B pillar where they would normally mount. The solution was to mount a fixing point to the roof and floor with the inertia reel mounted to the seat, which has worked really well. The rear seat, as you can see, is trimmed to match the rest and again is excellent.
Behind the original steering wheel of the Appia you are faced with the original instruments, with the odometer reading 28,491 miles. To the right is an additional rev counter. Moving further across, all the switches are labelled for what does what, and these are all reported to be working as they should. The passenger gets some trick things to play with, starting with the Brantz International 2 Pro rally meter or even the period looking Smiths stop watch. Just above is a dash mounted map light and compass, (who needs sat nav).
The floor in the front half is covered with rubber flooring, with a 2.5 litre fire extinguisher mounted to the transmission tunnel. The back seat passengers get the more luxurious red carpet treatment, this is how the Appia would have left the factory. The roof has been retrimmed in light brown mohair, which is in excellent order.
Inside the boot has rubber matting to protect the floor, with the spare wheel to the left, which also has a new unused tyre fitted, and the jack. There is a new battery fitted in the concealed battery compartment.
The outside of this 1961 Lancia Appia is in lovely condition, with just a few blemishes here and there. The first thing you will notice is the ‘75’ decals, which have been placed in the same positions as they would have been during the rally. Starting at the front, and what a stunner! The chrome work is all the original, which is polished to a bright finish, with no areas of tarnishing or pitting that we could see.
The headlights and spotlights are free from cracks or chips, and the chrome is in the same condition to the back of the lamps. The bonnet sits level with the wings and front panel, held down with a leather strap. There are some chips to the edge of the bonnet, and a couple can be seen to the front panel.
Around to the sides of the Lancia, and the car is nice and straight with no noticeable dents to mention along the flanks. There is a rare X Rally Acropolis 1962 finishers medal, sourced in Germany at a great cost, which sits on the driver’s wing. Moving along, there is a small chip to the front edge of the door where it meets the wing.
The chrome trim around the windows is all in excellent condition along with the door handles, that just have the smallest amount of pitting under the chrome. There is some micro blistering to the rear quarter, door and wing, but it is quite light and is reported not to have gotten any worse in recent years. This is the best bit, the suicide rear doors! Open them up along with the front to reveal the pillarless Appia, which looks fantastic when opened like this.
To the rear, and just like the rest of the panels, the boot lid aligns well. The light lenses are free from any splits and the chrome is in good order. Continuing the rally theme is a Rally Acropolis decal to the boot lid.
The steel wheels have been finished in silver and have some original Lancia hub caps which are in excellent condition. The Blockley tyres are period looking and are in excellent condition, having only covered a few hundred miles.
The Lancia’s 1100 cc engine flicks into life with no hesitation, and quite happily idles with no effort. There are no untoward noises coming from the italian 4-cylinder V4 engine. The gear change is a four-speed column shift, which is reported to be precise as you make your way through the gears. The exhaust note is described by the owner as fruity, which we would agree with after hearing the Appia.
The engine bay is well presented. You will spot the Weber carburettor that fuels the V4, there is a twin coil setup, just in case one fails. During the restoration, the engine has been thoroughly cleaned and polished, with any parts replaced that needed to be. Keeping the V4 cool, the radiator has been reconditioned with a new core. The underside is in excellent order with no signs of corrosion to the usual places such as the sills, and the suspension components are also free from any noticeable surface rust.
Bringing the Appia to a stop, the brakes have been overhauled ensuring that these are working just as they should. The car comes to a halt in a straight line with no juddering through the pedal.
What a charming and unique car to own. Restored by true enthusiasts who have seen the project carried out with precision in getting the details just right.
Built as a homage to the number ‘75’ 1962 rally car has created something quite special, and a car that turns heads wherever it goes. Ready to be driven, enjoyed and taken to shows, there is one thing for sure you, will be asked a lot of questions about the classic Lancia Appia.
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