Exotic Project: 1958 Lancia Appia S2 Convertible by Vignale

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Having just covered Giovanni Michelotti’s work with Triumph in the ’60s – when he sketched the Herald, Spitfire, GT6, and TR4 – we now turn the clock back to meet him at Lancia. Michelotti’s first work for Lancia was while he was employed by Stabilimenti Farina. There, he penned a design for a Lancia Astura. He was just 17 years old. By the 1950s, Michelotti was well on his way to his final count of over 1200 vehicle designs, working for Ghia-Aigle, Bertone, Allemano, Viotti, and many others. Meanwhile, Lancia was broadening production of its Appia series, probing the market for the key to better sales numbers. While the first series of Appia were all factory built, the second and third series were provided to coachbuilders to introduce more excitement to the line. Lancia contracted with Vignale for a convertible, an association that meant Michelotti would design the car. Only 1584 convertibles were produced, from 1957 to 1962. Here on facebook Marketplace is a 1958 Lancia Appia S2 convertible by Vignale. The seller is asking $19,950 (cash only) for this project car. Bring your trailer to Tempe, Arizona to collect her. Thanks for helping exotics show up in Barn Finds, T.J.!

Jano had by now left Lancia for Ferrari, allowing technical director Antonio Fessia to throw his weight behind the quest for better sales. By reconstructing the 1.1 liter V4 motor – giving it hemispherical combustion chambers, a lower compression ratio, and different carburetors, valves, pistons, and camshafts – horsepower rose to 44 bhp from 38. Top speed was around 80 mph, though some effort is required with the four-speed manual to row your way up there. This car is disassembled – offputting perhaps, but with a rebuilt engine, the story improves. Still, Lancia experts are not a dime a dozen in the US, so I would want to know who did the work and when.

The interior is fairly complete from what we can see, and the seller indicates that the only missing parts are one headlamp trim ring and the bumpers. Parts are pictured in the trunk; the rest must be stashed in the seller’s shop. A disassembled car takes up about 4x the amount of space as the assembled version.

Yes, there has to be (more?) bad news. While the floor is said to be “new”, there’s plenty of rot yet to be addressed. And now, it’s time to consider value. Unfortunately, as much as we might love Michelotti/Vignale, and convertibles, this body style does not have the panache of Zagato or Pininfarina. It is instead reminiscent of the Fiat 1500 series – pretty but less than glamorous. Comparables are scant, but here is a recent auction that set a reasonable price for a project, at $5500. Perhaps our seller is enamored of the asking price of this restored version, at 65,000. Or in between, this one sold in mid-2022 at £26,750. (Personally, when I look at comps, I want actual sales, not aspirational prices.) I think at nearly $20k, there’s some negotiation required; what do you think?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Nevada1/2rack NevadahalfrackMember

    17 years old, quickly on his way to being a design legend. Many kids of that generation in Europe were scrambling just to get a job, let alone design a machine for a landmark automaker.
    But then this is the civilization that gave us Da Vinci in all his genius, so maybe not so surprising-and no, I’ve no Italian heritage.
    Insofar as asking price-as has been said MANY times before here, “No I don’t get it either, honey! I guess no one here has the good taste to buy and restore it. Well, I tried…”

    Like 1
    • TomP

      I don’t have kids but I wonder if 17 year old kids today are better or worse than 17 year old kids back then. With all of today’s technology and “smart” phones, 17 year old kids today surely must be far superior to 17 year old kids back then.

      Like 1
      • bill tebbutt

        Tom, I have two daughters. I hear you on cell phones, but the harsh reality (in my experience) is that kids do what their parents let them. Let them play games and surf all day and nite on their phones, and you get what you create.

        Both of our kids got phones when they were 12. They weren’t the last ones in their cohort, but in the last 25% to get a phone. We laid down strict rules: no phones after 8pm, they stay on the kitchen counter at nite, no games ever and we reserve the right to search their history any time we like. 7 years later, they have not ever got into games and think they are a waste of time. We’ve never had to discipline them for what’s on their phones/where they have been, etc. Maybe we’re just really really lucky, but its worked out.

        (To an earlier post) Having said all that, the 17 year old (almost 18) is an artist. She draws, paints, sculpts. Despite the fact that I have been an active road racer for almost 40 years, she’s never felt inspired to draw my cars etc. Yet she just laid down an oil painting of Pedroza on his GP bike because it just struck her fancy, and its just brilliant. There’s a lot of creativity in “some” kids out there, we just need to find a way to make it easy and cool for them to express it in a world dominated by technology…..

        Sorry for the rant,

        Like 6
      • jwaltb

        Read “Varieties of Religious Experience”
        and understand it was a series of lectures given to young college students in the early 20th Century. It took me years to read and I had to focus on every word. Students then were vastly more self- disciplined and interested in learning than most are today, IMO.

        Like 2
      • Paul in Ma

        My son can make tons of things. He has with 3d printers, vacuum formers, laser cutters and a few other things. I did more with cars when I was his age but he uses these

        Like 1
  2. bobhess bobhessMember

    Someone in the US will want this car but it’s not me or any car nuts I know.

    Like 2
  3. Martin Horrocks

    Usual expert description, Michelle. As a big fan of Italian cars, I’d stay away from this one. It is thoroughly rotten and when finished will be thoroughly gutless.

    Pundits often go on about how great Lancia engineering is ( and they are well-built), but I mainly see over complication and under achievement. 50 bhp from 1100cc wasn’t anything special at the time.

    Like 3
  4. Geoff

    Michelle, The “chassis cars” like this one got a little more power than the standard berlina, with carburetor and head changes (the 814.00 motors). In second series guise it would have had 54 hp. Later ones had 60 hp available with head porting revised in 1959.

    Like 0
    • Michelle RandAuthor

      Thanks for the color on this obscure little beast!

      Like 1
  5. jwaltb

    So to the car. I like Appias; I got one running that was a baked CA piece with every rubber part dessicated or, in the case of the brake hoses, as gooey as I imagine La Brea is.
    Some of the parts inside the master cylinder looked like brass jewelry. I’m a fan.
    Appias were built for the common man. They were never meant to be racy or develop big power. As I understand it the top speed was around 80 and they’d do it all day.
    Sadly I agree that this one is a horrible rustbucket good only for parts. The owner is unlikely to get much if he can sell it at all.

    Like 0
  6. chrlsful

    as a kid this was what I got my wrenchin skills at. A totally different world in late ’60’s. Goldies JY was just down the st & the economy was booming. Plenty of late 50s early 60s ‘Italian art’ for me to drag home. I could not afford a car like this but could get’n restore one to drive on my own time’n dime. One only needed a frnt fender and new rag top. I’d restore’n drive till the nxt caught my eye, sell and upgrade to start over. 8’er 9 Lancias, Alfas, Fiats I’d never B able to drive (price point) became free rides this way.
    Went to college’n 10 yrs later I got hooked on broncos the same way. Kept the final (was ’89 by then) a ’70, from all the left over 1st gen pieces on the property. Too bad I sold each restored B4 the ‘rise of the net’ as the bronk prices climbed w/that development (1992 or so).

    Like 1
  7. Mark MitchellMember

    A number of years ago, there was one of these Lancia Appia convertibles in a junkyard in Santa Barbara. It had been there for a very long time, but nobody ever needed any parts from it so it remained 100% complete. I showed a bit of interest in it so the owner made me a deal I couldn’t refuse: $250 and a free tow home! It looked almost the same as this car, but it was light blue and less rusty. I really just wanted to save it from the crusher, and had no desire to restore it. I cleaned it up and resold it to an “enthusiast” in LA, then watched it bounce from one flipper to another for about a year. Not sure if it ever got restored-

    Like 0
    • Tony

      Hi I bought 2of these lovely cars série 2 and Série 3 nice little cars a guy from Germany came and bought two of them. In good shape one had 12k kms running the other needed more work. In a lot better shape than this.

      Like 0

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