Blue Plate Special: 1978 Lancia Beta


This sad 1978 Lancia Beta may seem like a slice of barn find exotica, but it’s actually a fairly basic front-driver with tired cosmetics and a limited aftermarket for spares. Listed for $1,050 somewhere near Sacramento, it’s claimed to have a solid body despite looking like it’s been baking in the desert for 30 years. The interior, however, is fantastic. Find it here on craigslist and thanks to Barn Finds reader Roger for the find. 

The shame of Lancias from this era is that they came loaded with the good stuff, from disc brakes to fully independent suspensions and five-speed manual transmissions. They suffered at the hands of emissions and safety zealots here in the U.S., with ugly “park bench” bumpers and power-robbing equipment that further limited its already modest output.

Despite the sun having taken its toll on the exterior, the cabin of this Beta remains in excellent condition, with deeply bolstered bucket seats front and rear that look like they haven’t aged a bit. The limited photos show the door panels have gone missing but that the dash and seat upholstery appear to be in good shape for the condition of the car.

Old-school blue plates give some indication as to how long the Lancia has been sitting. Lancia was not long for the world of U.S. automotive sales by the time the Beta was winding down its presence in showrooms, and what could have been a great car was left as a forgetful chapter in Lancia’s mixed history stateside. Will this Beta find a Lancia enthusiast owner to restore it, or is it a few days away from a visit to the scrapyard if the owner just wants it gone?


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  1. hatofpork

    Interiors were originally leather and rather elegant. These seats have been re-covered. Hope somebody loves Lancias enough to want to bring this back to its former glory! It won’t be a cheap undertaking.

    Like 3
    • Simone

      Actually, while you may be right about this specific car, I am pretty sure the Beta Coupe’ was offered with fabric/velvet interiors and black stitching like this one, at least in Europe.

      • t-bone Bob

        I have a friend who has an original Beta coupe. It was brown with orange velour seats.

  2. Evan

    I believe the entire powertrain is an upgrade swap into a FIAT X1/9. That might be the best use for this.

    Like 1
  3. J Liu

    The blue plates remain with the car for life, unless the registered California owner wants to replace them. From the sticker attached, it seems this poor car was last registered in 1999. From at least the early 1950’s, California had yellow plates with black letters/numbers (1956), then black plates with yellow letters/numbers (1963), then blue plates with yellow letters/numbers (1969-1970) and then on to the numerous white plates and a myriad of personalized plates. When the car is sold the plates go to the new owner, unless there are personalized plates that the seller wished to retain. Having the original plates on a California classic or collectible car generally brings an uptick in the car’s valuation.

    Like 2
    • Paul T Root

      when I moved there in 1985, I got blue plates, with 7 characters, starting in 1.
      I bought a ’69 Datsun 510, but I can’t remember the plate it had. Must have been a 6 character blue plate. One of them was lost, before I bought it. I actually had a temporary license (yellow paper in the window) until I moved and licensed it in Kansas.

  4. Jef Fowler

    Had a ’76 in the UK. it was a 2 liter, bronze with green cloth interior (looked a lot better than it sounds).
    Pretty sure the seats have been recovered in this listing.
    At 3-4 years old my Beta had some serious rust starting but it got me hooked onto Italian cars. Mostly Alfas since.
    Whenever I see a Beta I get the bug again. Favorite model was the HPE (High Performance Estate (wagon/notchback). Not sure if it was imported to the US.

    • SubGothius

      The US market did get the HPE for a few years, I think ending with the ’79 model year. Front half of the coupe on the sedan’s longer wheelbase with a sleek hatchback rear half, practical and roomy for backseat passenger comfort and cargo hauling.

      Like 1
      • Jef Fowler

        I picked up an ’80 IIRC in the UK, second gen with less wild looking seats. 1600, great motor preferred it to the 2 liter, more rev happy albeit slower.

        Baby blue with black interior. One of my favorite cars. Owned it less than a year. Ended up almost giving it away.

        They may have fixed the rust by then as well as it was older with no structural rust unlike the ’76 coupe I had earlier.

        I also looked at the Volumex coupe (supercharged) pretty quick but the engine lost its soul. Didn’t want to rev like the n/a version although it pulled well.

  5. schooner

    You had me at Lancia Beta. Beautiful coupe (other than bumpers). Wait, what – door cards missing? I’d expect battery, air cleaner, something besides that. Then again, hatofpork (pork pie hats reference?) was correct on the interior so the cards may still be out getting recovered. Something to check as the other eighteen ’78 Betas sold have been crushed.

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