30 Years Owned: 1977 Lancia Beta HPE

Although a somewhat rare car by any standard, we’ve seen enough of Lancia’s entry level model, the Beta, on these pages to know you don’t have to look too hard to find one for sale if you’ve got one on the brain. However, the HPE model – short for High Performance Estate – does not turn up that often at all, and deserves a look both for the rarity factor and because it’s much more attractive than its conventional sedan and coupe stablemates. This car has been owned by the same caretaker these past 30 years, and he sounds like a real-deal Lancia enthusiast. Find it here on craigslist with an asking price of just $2,500. Thanks to Barn Finds reader David R. for the find. 

I’m shocked this Lancia hasn’t been snatched up by an enthusiast yet, as the asking price seems more than fair. The Beta may have been somewhat homely in its design, and certainly a four-cylinder, front-wheel drive Italian car isn’t exactly the pinnacle of reliability or excitement, but it still featured innovative packaging with the engine and transmission mounted transversely. This not only served to simply be a neater approach to drivetrain layout, but also improved weight distribution. The engine choices ranged from 1.3L to 2.0L, and the seller notes he swapped the larger 2.0L DOHC mill into this car.

That engine replacement may not seem like a huge upgrade by itself, but it points to an owner who has clearly prioritized keeping this HPE for the long-haul. The seller notes the ignition has bene upgraded to electronic and that the Lancia benefits from a respray in its original colors. The seller doesn’t spell out any other major improvements, other than noting the car runs and drives quite well, but it seems likely that if he undertook an engine replacement with an OEM+ upgrade, we are dealing with someone who is clearly passionate about the brand. The interior does have some flaws, with the seller noting the stitching on the front seats is coming loose.

I’ve looked at the Beta coupe and sedan over the years, considering them as a cheap way into Italian project car ownership. First of all, there’s no way I’m doing that, and second of all, I would need to find a HPE like this if I wished to dip a toe into Italian-car ownership. Shooting brakes are among some of the prettiest cars on the road, in my opinion, and this one is made even more attractive given its rarity. Numerous spare parts will be included with the sale, including rear seat assemblies, alloy wheels, and miscellaneous trim, along with two spare power steering racks. Italian car ownership and an exclusive club? You’d normally have to pay much, much more for the privilege.

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  1. alphasud Member

    Italian ownership doesn’t come any cheaper. I thought this was a smoking deal and if I wasn’t already overflowing with cars I would take this stray home with me. Like with other Italian classics there is a lot of racing heritage with Lancia. This guy has done the hard work of fitting the 2 liter engine. Ditch the US spec bumpers to clean up the lines, go through the mechanicals and have some fun.

    Like 13
    • Mike

      Already gone.

      Like 3
  2. Al Kameeno Member

    hmmmm…a 2 liter 4-banger car with a trailer hitch? What’s he been towing?

  3. Blackcat

    Well, that didn’t last long. 3 hours on BF and posting deleted from CL! Not that I’m surprised. When I sold my Appia Vignale convertible, I figured my Lancia days were behind me, but an HPE as shown would have lured me to do it again. So, whoever the lucky buyer was, thanks for saving me from myself.

    Like 4
  4. SebastianX1/9

    Those American bumpers really do destroy cars from this era.

    Like 6
  5. OlyOop

    I actually went and looked at this car. It was in surprisingly good condition, with bubbles on the rear hatch and the base of the a-pillar, but otherwise quite sound. The leather was in great shape and the perished stitching in the front seats no worse than in my Beta Coupe when I bought it (as my first car) when it was only six years old. Biggest immediate concern was that all window, door, and sunroof seals were completely perished. We couldn’t quite get it to turn over while I was there due to a flat battery. (Given the fragility and rarity of these body shells, and considering the relative commonality of the Lampretti twin-cam drivetrain, the cosmetic condition is as important as the mechanical.)

    While I was there another guy looked at it as well, and I let him take it: as huge a Lancia fan as I am (it’s my favorite marque by far) and as rare as the sexy HPE is (I’ve never seen another in person) I hadn’t had a chance to talk to my wife about it and definitely don’t need another project. He had also had a Beta Coupe as his first car! It was definitely a bargain, would be glorious restored, and had a huge trove of spares. I do regret my decision, and if it shows up on BaT in three weeks, I’m going to hunt down that other guy!

    Like 8
  6. Todd Radke

    HPE’s are attractive but among front engineed Beta lovers (HPE, Sedan, Coupe and Zagato) you will find they believe the coupe or possible the Zagato to be the most attractive and now going up in price. IMHO as a 30 year American Lancia Club member. A guy in my home town had four and in fit of “I have two much stuff” sent three to the crusher. Unfortunately I was out of town but was able to get him to give a beautiful ’81 Zagato to a friend in Las Vegas.

    Like 4
  7. MikeP Member

    Well I’m with you in regard to the coupe, it’s an extremely well balanced and beautiful design, but I always thought the Zagato was clumsy looking, while The HPE
    was just the prettiest little 2 door wagon ever.

    Like 1
  8. Todd Radke

    Different strokes for different folks. I always thought the hump backed HPE was unattractive and the Zagato beautiful. I have owned a couple. With nothing more than a gut feeling I think the Lancia Beta Zagato is the most inexpensive Zagato bodied (at least half a body) car in the world. If only Lancia had insisted that Zagato attached their famous Z emblem to the car.

  9. jokacz

    A Fiat by any other name…

    • SubGothius

      The only thing Fiat about a Beta is the engine, and even that was substantially modified by Lancia engineers for transverse FWD duty.

      The entire rest of the car was designed by old-school Lancia engineers and stylists who remained on the payroll after the Fiat buyout, and built at Lancia’s Chivasso factory right alongside the last of the Fulvias.

  10. Araknid78

    I have always thought the HPE was the best looking of the Lancia Betas. Nice car

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