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22k Genuine Miles! 1981 Lancia Beta Zagato Spyder

UPDATE 5/5/2020 – This low mileage Lancia has been relisted here on eBay, hopefully with a lower reserve. Be sure to take another look at it!

Italian manufacturer Lancia has always been renowned for building cars that are both interesting, and beautiful. Sadly, their presence in the United States has been quite sporadic, meaning that finding nice examples of cars like this 1981 Beta Zagato Spyder can be extremely difficult. This particular car looks like it is an absolute beauty, and with Summer just around the corner, it offers the opportunity for some wind-in-the-hair motoring in a great little Italian classic. If that sounds like a tempting proposition to you, then you will find the Lancia located in Scottsdale, Arizona, and listed for sale here on Barn Finds Classifieds.

The most often asked question when dealing with classic Italian cars regards the presence of rust, and with this Zagato, the news is all good. The owner provides a really great selection of photos and this has to rate as one of the cleanest Lancias that I’ve ever seen. I’ve included some of these photos in the gallery at the bottom of this article, and the underside of the car appears to be as solid as a rock. There isn’t a hint of a problem, and the photos of the trunk further reinforce this impression. The Rosso Corsa paint is believed to be original, and it generally has a really nice shine to it. The owner has tested the paint depth, and it is said to be extremely deep and consistent right across the car. That isn’t to say it’s perfect, because there is a small area of staining on the driver’s side fender, along with a couple of small dents in the door on the same side. The owner has the impression that these dents could be addressed by a paintless dent removal company, which is good news. The rest of the panels are as straight as an arrow, while the external trim, plastic, and those attractive alloy wheels are all in good order.

One of the notable deficiencies with earlier versions of the Zagato was a lack of engine power. After taking a hiatus from the American market in 1980, Lancia returned in 1981 with a much-improved car. Under the hood, we find a fuel-injected 1,995cc 4-cylinder engine, producing 108hp. This power finds its way to the road via a 5-speed manual transmission. This is where the story of this particular Lancia becomes interesting. The original owner purchased the car in early 1982 and used it on a limited basis until he passed away in 2005. It then passed through the hands of two members of his family before coming into the possession of its current owner. Documentation confirms that throughout its life, this little Zagato has accumulated a genuine 22,000 miles. From a mechanical perspective, the vehicle appears to be quite solid. The owner admits that it can be a little stubborn when cold, but once warm, it runs and drives very nicely. He attributes this initial stubbornness to the lack of a fast idle and suggests that a tune-up might be in order. The clutch and transmission work as they should, and it rolls on a brand new set of Hankook tires. The only other mechanical fault that the owner notes is that the rear struts are worn, and this makes the car a bit bouncy. Still, that’s a pretty easy problem to address. Included in the sale is a very comprehensive collection of documentation, including service records back to when the Lancia was new, the original Purchase Agreement, Owner Identification cards, and a clean CarFax.

The interior presentation of the Zagato is very nice, with very few things that can be faulted. The leather upholstery on the driver’s seat had suffered from a seam split in the past, but this has been professionally repaired. The remaining upholstery and the carpet appear to be in very nice condition. One really pleasing aspect of the interior presentation is the fact that all of the plastic, including the dash and pad, are free from cracks and fading. The switches for the power windows were a bit troublesome in the past, and in spite of the fact that these have been repaired, they have failed once again. However, I’ve done a bit of a search, and have had no trouble locating new switches for less than $30 each. At that price, I really wouldn’t bother attempting to repair the current switches. The rear section of the Targa top is in good condition, although the rear window is now cloudy. The rest of the hardware and the tonneau cover are said to be in good condition. As well as power windows, the Zagato scores a Blaupunkt radio/cassette player and air conditioning. The A/C blows cool, but the owner believes that it will require more gas to work at its best.

When it came to build processes, the one that Lancia employed for the Zagato Spyder was about as complex as it could get. The original “body-in-white” was shipped from Lancia to Zagato for removal of the roof and other conversion work. The body was then shipped back to Lancia for rust-proofing. It was returned to Zagato for paint and trim, before finally returning to Lancia for the fitting of the mechanical components and other work to complete the build. When you look at that, it is no real surprise that Lancia eventually only built a total of 9,390 cars for worldwide sale, and that the company managed to lose money on every one of them. Today, finding a good example is extremely difficult, but this one looks like it is a real beauty. If a cool Italian classic is something that is on your shopping list, then this is a car that is well worth a serious look.


  1. Avatar photo KEVIN L HARPER

    The seller loses credibility from the EBay ad by saying that Mr Wilson was an Alpha guy, not once but twice. Italian car guys pick this up and it is a red flag.
    My mom had one of these in the same color combination and the same year. She had previously had an early Vetter and wanted something more civilized but with a bit of style and the Lancia fitted the bill. She purchased it when I was in high school and sold it while I was in college. It did well with nothing unusual and for an early 80’s car was fun to drive the few times she let me drive it.
    From the ad. The shifter should be smooth and probably needs bushings. Power windows suck in all Italian cars and these are no different. Add relays for the window and the light switches.
    Oh working on these is a PITA. The engine access is tight and with AC power steering and an oversized FI plenum room is tight. Changing the starter is really bad. Cold start should not be a problem as these use Bosch L-jet FI. If it is either the cold start or aux air valve is probably giving a problem.

    Like 6
    • Avatar photo fjcappy Member

      @KEVIN L HARPER I am the seller. I was trying to explain that the seller loved Alphas but when he saw the Lancia he fell in love. I am sorry it did not come out correctly. I was paraphrasing from what the family had told me. Thank you for your thoughts.

      Like 1
      • Avatar photo KEVIN L HARPER

        Well was he in love with the first letter of the Greek alphabet. Because that is what an Alpha is, and I don’t know how that is relevant to cars.
        I think that what you meant is that he liked cars made by Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili better known as ALFA or Alfa Romeo if you prefer. When you write alpha every Italian car enthusiast assumes you don’t know what you are talking about, and a everything you say about the car is suspect.
        Sorry to be harsh but you are trying to sell a niche car to a small enthusiast market. Errors like that are detrimental to the sell and the price.

        Like 13
    • Avatar photo Bob

      We used to deal these cars along with some others. The Fiats and Lancias rusted faster than light due to the Italians using steel from the old Soviet Union with lots of impurities.
      The little Beta was a neat car, but did require a lot of maintenance for niggling little faults.
      In the end, the whole Fiat/Lancia dealer network collapsed due to their horrible warranty costs, which Fiat couldn’t or wouldn’t pay. This is a toy, only suitable for short summer drives in the dry, and if you understand that, you’ll enjoy it.

      Like 1
  2. Avatar photo Classic Steel

    I had a 76 Lancia Beta back in the day. It drove good and was fun to shift. It had one issue and that was terminal rust. It was patched with metal and painted along with a machine shop later building a structure to support front engine torque and front rust issues.
    The wiring can be a pain in bum as mentioned above.

    Like 2
  3. Avatar photo Dave Painter

    Had one new. Worst POS ever.

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Doc Member

      Sorry to disagree. Triumph TR 7 ‘s were worse.

      Like 5
    • Avatar photo PairsNPaint

      Nope – Fiat X-1/9. Kissing cousin to this pile.

      Like 4
  4. Avatar photo zagato8182

    To all Italian car enthusiasts, here is a great example of an Italian car with a rich and impressive history. Even before Alfa Romeo existed, or even Ferrari, Lamborghini or Maserati, no other car company in the world has had such a successful racing history (80’s, 90’s) as has Lancia. Of course, it is not without the combined efforts of Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Fiat, and Maserati.. Could it be because Fiat owns them all ? Well, this Lancia Zagato is a superb example of what a Lancia should look like today. Yes, there are a few things needed to make it 100%, but it is a 9.9 out of 10. The interior, engine bay area , trunk and under carriage is immaculate. Forget about it…. You see… I have been buying, fixing and selling Lancias, Fiats and Alfas for over 30 plus years now. I love those brands. This Lancia here is the only car in the world made and built by two of Italy’s famous coach builders, Pininfarina and Zagato. A fine example of an almost perfect Lancia Zagato. You will not, I repeat ….will not find another one as good, or as close, as this one. It looks like, it was kept in a time capsule with no rust, no deterioration and original paint. Let us focus on THE CAR and not any misspellings, or writing errors. If you really want a car like this, I am telling you, it’s a great opportunity to own one that is almost perfect. I carry all the spare parts for it, new and used including electrical upgrades. There is not one European car in the 80’s era that did not rust unless it was kept indoors, hardly used and well maintained like this one. One person’s bad car experience can not be taken as the norm. What else can I say… Go for it!!

    Like 13
  5. Avatar photo t-BONE BOB

    Time left: Time left:7d 02h 2/29, 11:44AM
    Current bid:US $9,100.00
    Reserve not met
    [ 70 bids ]

    Like 0
  6. Avatar photo mike hawke

    Fuel injected Zagatos are only 1981 and 1982. I recall that something like 500 were sold in the US. Can’t be more than a handful in this shape and they’d cost a lot to restore. I loved my 1982. Way stronger motor than my 1981 Fiat Spider.

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo SubGothius

      They imported 791 Zagatos with FI for ’81-82, in addition to the 2,076 carbureted Zagatos imported for ’79.

      Like 0
  7. Avatar photo alphasud Member

    My friend and fellow technician had one and said they have a really nice suspension. Looks like a really nice car and a bargain considering it’s condition and rarity. I was a trained Alfa tech and have owned several Alfa’s. Everybody hates on these cars and I would have to agree they are not as reliable as a Asian or German car but they offered a feel and a spirit the the other cars could not match. With proper maintenance these cars are dependable. Never had to walk when I owned Alfa’s. I can’t get excited about modern cars as they all look and feel the same. Where’s the character?

    Like 5
    • Avatar photo zagato8182

      While acquiring so manny of these Lancia Betas over a 30 years span, I never had one leave me on the road. Why I wonder …. because I always knew to keep them well maintained, just like any other car.. yes, Japanese cars in the USA were more reliable but they sold millions in the USA market. The more sales the more a company is able to improve on the brand and make adjustments and updates on cars… this did not happen for many Italian cars. Not to even mention, they were very expensive to buy in the first place. But forget the past, focus on the present. Today’s these cars are a bundle of joy to own with the proper care and with the internet, you can purchase anything you want. This Lancia Zagato is a GREAT ITALIAN BEAUTY. Red and awesome design, like no other. Enjoy the weather as summer is almost here and stay safe everyone. Oh and by the way, I have the same exact car with a little more miles.

      Like 5
      • Avatar photo alphasud Member

        I could afford to keep the Alfa’s I owned in correct working order. The same could be said for the 3 Porsche 911’s I used to own. Newsflash here! All old cars break! Most classic cars don’t get daily driven. That has an equalization effect since all cars driven infrequently will require maintenance. The choice comes down to what you can afford to own and maintain. The Lancia being sold is a great car for the price of admission.

        Like 2
      • Avatar photo SubGothius

        Yes @alphasud these cars don’t take well being left to sit for long periods of time; plan on driving it frequently to keep things in good working order, at least every weekend or so.

        Like 0
  8. Avatar photo Araknid78

    Very nice!

    Like 0
  9. Avatar photo Michael

    RUN, and dont look back

    Like 0
  10. Avatar photo Bryan Daley

    Looking for a red Zagato… preferably an 81 with low miles.

    Let me know if you know of one, or have one to sell.

    Thank you.


    Like 0

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