One Of 2,100: 1982 Lancia Beta Zagato Spyder

Todd FitchBy Todd Fitch

You’re only slightly less likely to see a 1982 Lancia Beta Zagato Spyder today than you were in the 1980s. It’s easy to believe the eBay seller’s claim that only 2,100 were imported. Wearing its original blue paint and a black leather interior, this 80,000 mile specimen is described as a driver. The seller says “The Lancia runs strong, pulls well, and even the air conditioning works. The gearbox is smooth and the clutch is good.” The leather looks inviting and, if well-sorted, any Italian car will eagerly attack the byway of your choice. Find this Zagato here on eBay in Greenville, South Carolina.

Like most cars of the mid ’70s to mid ’80s the Lancia Beta’s performance may not impress by today’s standards. Let’s just say that you probably don’t want to put on your game face and flex on a Prius. However, Italian is the Language of Love, and even when all you know is “Lancia Beta Zagato Spyder,” it sounds better than “Prius” any day. Important safety tip, though, “Lancia” is pronounced “LAN-chia.”

The Beta may remind you of the Fiat X1/9 and it should; both are small Italian 4 cylinder “sporty” cars from the same era, though the Fiat boasted a more exotic and Ferrari-like mid-engine layout (precluding a rear seat) while the Lancia Beta offered a more conventional front-engine configuration and a pint-sized back seat. Both the X1/9 and Beta let you remove the roof panel for an open-air driving experience, but the Zagato Spyder’s rear window also folds down convertible-style, opening everything except the Targa bar overhead. Super cool!

Though best suited for small children or your petite Italian Grandmother, the rear seats look rather inviting, and likely has some stories to tell. What do you think of this affordable Italian pseudo-classic? With a Buy-It-Now price of $3,500, what do you have to lose?

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Comments

  1. Chris Kennedy

    These are nice cars! I drove one and was amazed on how well they handled not to mention having ample power when a manual car! I wish I was in a position to buy, it would be mine!

    0

  2. AMXSTEVE

    I hope he painted those wheels with that removable paint. What are people thinking with black wheels these days, chromes will make that car pop!

    1+

    • Car Guy

      I agree. I’m so tired of black wheels. Seller probably thought it would appeal to all the younger buyers. With Euro bumpers and properly finished wheels it would look much better…….

      1+

  3. Pa Tina

    I would have expected to see a unicorn before seeing one of these!

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  4. Klharper

    I just ran one of these through my although an 81. It is actually a fun car to drive and feels more modern than it is.
    They are more difficult to work on than the comparable fiat 124 and there is reasonable support. Weak points watch for rust, and the power windows are horrible.
    I have to many toys to look at this one right now.

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  5. Sam

    You could spread seeds on it and water as a giant Lan-“chia” pet when it bites the dusk and goes to the great beyond.

    3+

  6. joe

    Approx. 2,000 of them have moved through Ebay Motors over the last few years. Most were in crappy condition. I still want a Fulvia Sport Zagato, but prices have gone too high.

    0

  7. Rich

    Looks ALOT like a Plymouth Sapporo doesn’t it????

    1+

    • Blyndgesser

      Um, nooooooo?

      3+

  8. olddavid

    In 1981, I foolishly appraised a Lancia Beta coupe at about 70% of low book. It became an albatross around my neck. Hubris had me thinking “nice car – we can sell this” instead of having it bid. Our Chrysler/Mazda/VW techs couldn’t make it run right and before the year was over I had accrued an almost 100% loss on that #@^&* car. Fool me once……

    1+

  9. SubGothius

    The factory started galvanizing the bodyshells sometime in mid-’81, so rust should not be a concern with this ’82 model. Get some Leather Honey and watch this upholstery really come back to life, almost like-new. I’ve daily-driven and self-maintained a Beta Zagato spider for the past decade-plus and 35k miles (just passed 150k on the clock weeks ago), so here’s my usual spiel in praise of the platform:

    A Lancia Beta is one of the most “modern” 35+ year old classic cars you can still buy and maintain at reasonable cost. It was truly ahead of its time, boasting a DOHC transverse engine driving the front wheels through a 5-speed transaxle, fully independent MacPherson strut-based suspension with an elegantly clever and simple multilink rear, rack’n’pinion power steering, and 4-wheel disc brakes — few cars had any of that, let alone all of that, when the Beta debuted in 1974, nor many more by the time it retired a decade later, yet that’s all commonplace on nearly any econobox nowadays.

    Not to say that the Beta is any sort of econobox; it’s a delightfully spirited, agile driver with a taut yet supple ride, light and communicative steering, and otherwise impeccable handling — “as if on rails” never meant so much until I got mine. Past the limit in cornering, it transitions to neutral understeer in the form of a progressive, controllable 4-wheel drift wide of the line (rather than nose-heavy plowing), an exemplar of the maxim that “It’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow” — though in the US they didn’t come any faster than these ’81-82 fuel-injected models, with 108 HP and 114 lb-ft of torque pushing a mere 2,750 lbs. of car.

    5+

  10. Rich G

    I bought a 1979 X-1/9 brand new. Shortly after, the dealer started carrying Lancia, so I got to see Beta’s, Scorpion’s, and Zagato’s fairly regularly. There was also a Beta hatchback / wagon of sorts. I always thought they were handsome cars.

    I actually see these around my hometown of Columbus OH. IIRC, when Lancia withdrew from the US market, a liquidator in town snapped up the remaining Zagato inventory, and sold them off at bargain prices. So, there’s a number of these running around in various conditions. Plus, Midwest Bayless is here so there are a few they support.

    $3,500 seems pretty reasonable if the condition is as stated.

    0

  11. David Miraglia

    always wanted one of these.

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  12. Dave Wright

    Pure junk even when new……they don’t get better with age. Jeramy on the BBC left one burning along side the road and rated it as one of the worst cars of all time.

    1+

  13. Keruth

    Oh, Ya! Lampredi twin cam in FWD!
    But as mentioned, check for rust!!!
    PPI is a must, Galvanized rockers and Bosch injection for this year, Jeremy be damned, rare to have survived, for sure.
    Garage is full, damn!

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  14. Black Cat

    I’ve always fancied these Beta Zagatos for the clever body style and all the reasons so well summarized by SubGothias, but have yet to add one to the tiny scuderie. Most recently, I’m drawn to a Beta Coupe which seems to have survived in even fewer numbers, Stateside. The latter reminds me of a more modern and totally unappreciated Alfa GTV, neither of which is a bad thing.

    Please stop showing these or I may not be able to resist adding another pony to that scuderie!

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  15. JRP

    Ow! I got something ugly in my eye.

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  16. chad

    Yes, we had the Beta Coupe in silver.
    A lill different after the two 850s & all the 124s.

    0

  17. Danny74

    Although the article says they may remind you of a Fiat, it’s actually reminds me of a Subaru from the body styling to the interior. I used to have an 84 Subaru GL and my buddy had an 82 GL wagon and my neighbor had a 79 Subaru Brat. I’m telling you, what I thought when I first looked at it, was I never seen a convertible Subaru GL like this before..

    0

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