・South African import in UK with all paperwork done
・Amazing, solid ‘survivor’ condition
・Rot-free and completely original car
・Runs and drives really well
Back in the 1970s, almost every car manufacturer offered a large luxury saloon, and Lancia was no exception - the Ford Granada-sized Gamma was its big sedan offering.
Lancia, though, was a company with a bit more about it than just a plain old saloon, so in order to draw attention to itself the Gamma was also offered in slab-sided coupe form, complete with 2.5-litre fuel-injected Boxer engine and wacky interior.
The Gamma Coupé was both styled and assembled by Pininfarina, who also built it under contract on the same line as the equally bonkers Ferrari 400i.
From 1982 onwards, Bosch fuel injection was fitted and the revised engine internals included larger diameter valve stems, revised pistons and camshaft profiles, though its 140bhp output remained the same.
The car we have here is a Series 2 version, recently imported to the UK from South Africa where it has lived in or around Cape Town for most of its life – a dry and barren climate that has been astonishingly kind to its notoriously fragile metal. Sadly for Lancia, a combination of dreadful rust problems and poor reliability from the 2.5-litre Boxer engine meant that the Gamma’s honeymoon was short-lived, and today survivors are extremely rare, especially in unrestored condition. We’ll come to that…
“The Gamma Coupe was tipped by James May on BBC Top Gear to be one of three classics to invest in for the future.”
This is a 1983 car that was owned by three previous owners in South Africa. It has 12,486 kilometres recorded on the clock, though we’d assume this to be 112k as it only has a five digit clock. That’s about 70,000 miles, so still a minimal amount for a 38-year old car.
Its history isn’t really known other than that it was acquired privately and imported to the UK earlier this year.
As a South African import, the Lancia comes with minimal paperwork – it’s quite common with cars from the country to not have stacks of history as the same culture to preserve service history that we have in the UK doesn’t exist.
However, there is a copy of the South African registration document and a few minor documents.
The vendor specialises in importing vehicles from the country having lived there for many years, and knows the process inside-out. The cars he brings in are sourced via classic car contacts he has out there and are imported with all of the duties paid and NOVA paperwork (port notifications) complete. The car also has a brand new UK MOT, meaning that all that’s left is to complete an application for first registration – something the owner is happy to help with and which is a very straightforward process.
You can thank the engine designer, Ettore Zaccone Mina, for the wonderful rakish appearance of the Lancia Gamma coupe 2500 ie, which was one of the most striking designs of the 1970s.
It was Mina who argued against Lancia’s case for making its flagship model a V6, insisting instead that he could give the car just as much character and performance by developing a large capacity four-cylinder flat-four Boxer engine for the car, allowing Pininfarina’s chief stylist, Aldo Brovarone, to translate the car from sketch to metal with little in the way of compromise.
The result was a modern-looking square design with a low bonnet and steeply raked windscreen, which was inarguably handsome.
And it still is today – at least on the handful of cars that have survived the rampant corrosion for which Lancia became known in the 1970s and 1980s.
Finished in Diamond Blue, the Gamma is extremely presentable and – importantly – very solid as a result of a life spent in sunnier climes.
It looks great, but it’s no show pony. Closer inspection reveals some scuffs to the offside rear wheel arch and on the bumpers. Overall, though, the original blue paint still looks very presentable and the body is free of rot, while underneath the floor is remarkably solid, if coated with surface rust. We’d make a clean-up and underseal the very first job and the seller is happy to assist in getting this done via a local classic car specialist – he hasn’t done it himself for the simple reason that he wants whoever buys this car to be able to see the condition of the underside for themselves first to show he’s not hiding anything.
The upper bodywork, meanwhile, is straight, honest and completely original. However, 38 years have taken their toll and while the car looks amazing from 10 paces, up close there are scuffs, marks or paint crazing to every panel. But no rust.
If you wanted to make it a show car, then a respray would make it just that – but the counter argument is that it would dilute the car’s originality – you can choose between it being the perfect basis for a show car, or an original one with an authentic patina.
As with the underseal, the vendor is well-connected with a local classic car specialist and would be happy to make the necessary introductions should the winning bidder want to get the Lancia painted. It is for sale ‘as is’.
The interior of a Gamma Coupe is a very special place indeed, stylish in a way that only the Italians could muster. From the oddball dash and steering wheel to the delicate oval pedals, everything has an element of design to it.
But it’s the seats that really steal the show. Finished in blue velour, the fabric features an ‘L’ for Lancia logo embossed into the fabric, with matching velour door trim.
The cabin is in straight and tidy condition, complete and with no major problems, though the air conditioning no longer blows cold and the nearside electric window doesn’t work, while the radio is also absent.
The car has been mechanically recommissioned very recently and has just had a full service, with fresh fluids and filters throughout.
It sounds fabulous and starts on the button, maintaining a steady idle and temperature and emitting a wonderful noise thanks to its horizontally-opposed layout.
This is also a rare five-speed manual model – many Gamma Coupés were automatic, but the three-pedal models are generally more dependable.
We were able to drive the car a short distance and can confirm that it starts and runs well, the gearbox engages all of the gears smoothly and the steering feels keen and responsive. The ride is firm, while the brakes have been recently overhauled and feel responsive and progressive.
First things first, this is not an immaculate show car -though it would be a great basis from which to create one if that’s your fancy.
What it is, though, is a remarkable rot-free example of a very rare make and model, which would make a perfectly usable daily driver If you fancy something a bit different, or moreover just fancy a Gamma Coupé that’s perfectly respectable and ready to use.
It’s an incredible survivor.
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