Never Seen Rain: 1975 Lancia Beta

The Lancia Beta is one of those cars that we’re aware exists, but it’t not necessarily coveted as a collector car. They pop up with some regularity and always catch my eye because a Lancia in any form that’s relatively affordable is hard to come by. That said, it’s rarer still to see a car like the Beta come up for sale from a long-time owner who has seemingly done an impressive job of preserving it for the long-haul. The listing for this 1975 model here on craigslist claims it has never seen any inclement weather, and that it’s offered up by the owner of the last 45 years – and it’s been garaged the whole time. The price has recently been reduced to $5,900 and it’s located in Vancouver, BC.

If there’s one thing you can’t take away from Lancias, it’s that they made attractive interiors a standard feature regardless of the model you chose to buy. Look at that – it’s gorgeous. In general, the Italians have always made the cabins of sports cars and coupes a pleasant place to be, even in the most troublesome of models like the Maserati Biturbo. This Lancia has clearly been loved, with no signs of damage to the seats or door panels, and beautiful upholstery that strikes a two-tone theme in places. The bucket seats could have been redone at some point, but there’s a good chance the longtime owner has simply been careful. No cracks noted on the dash, and the chrome door sill plates look nice, too.

Lancia, sadly, was not immune to the effects of U.S. efforts to mandate huge safety bumpers on all vehicles, and the European-market versions of these cars are far prettier with its slimmer bumpers. I dig the bronze alloy wheels against the white paint, which looks to be nicely preserved. These are front-drivers, but handling was still fairly sublime thanks to ideal weight distribution and a fully independent suspension. Drivers were additionally rewarded with four-wheel disc brakes and five-speed gearboxes. They weren’t fast, but they were fun. This one looks like a smart buy if you have to own a Beta, but I’m guessing a fairly limited market of buyers is what’s keeping this one up for grabs. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Andrs Dutch for the find.

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Comments

  1. alphasud Member

    I agree loose the 5-mph bumpers. Seems like a great deal for a Italian classic. Turn key and enjoy but keep it out of the weather as it deserves to be kept free of the tin worm.

    Like 2
  2. boostedbird

    I’ve owned two these. They are fun enjoyable cars. Buy it, drive it, but keep her dry !

    Like 2
  3. CW

    I’m surprised it took this long for this car to show up here. I’ve been watching it for a while and got a little more information about the car but with the border shut down I didn’t actively pursue it.
    Overall, I think its a decent example but may not be EXACTLY as described in the advertisement. Apparently there is some minor rust (as to be expected) and some deferred maintenance that would need to be done eventually. Nothing earth-shattering in my view, just not exactly “mint”.
    One nice advantage is that some Euro bumpers are available in the same vicinity that could be picked up by any potential buyer of this car. (Not from the cars owner, just another Beta Coupe owner in the area)

    Like 2
    • alphasud Member

      If you do go and grab the euro bumpers while you are up there keep the cars at a safe distance from each other. Otherwise they will fight to the death! At least that’s what the fish store said.

      Like 5
  4. Tim Read

    My cousin had one of these in the UK, after 18 months she complained that the steering had got vague. When she took it back to the dealership they found that the steering rack had come loose from the bulkhead. The bolts were still tight but the mounting points had rusted through. Rust was a huge issue for these cars and sounded the death knell for Lancia in the UK.

    Like 4
  5. YellowCJ

    Love that car! My neighbor had one along with a Fiat 128 when I was in high school. That was over 25 years ago and I still haven’t seen any others on the road since then! Always thought that Lancia Beta was a great looking car. That Italian styling heavily influenced me to seek out a Giugiaro designed MK1 VW Scirocco as a teenager.

    Like 2
  6. Poppapork

    1. This is not a sports car, it is not a grand tourer. Its an Entry Level Luxury Car class called segment D in Europe.

    2. For many people this is not a lancia but a fiat (first model after merging) to me its a bennefit, easier to find mechanical parts and that sweet LAMPREDI twin cam on webers .

    3. This should have 83HP when new not like the add says 110HP – he might be deliberately listing euro hp.

    4. They made these in many different body styles including 4door sedans and hachbacks

    Like 2
    • SubGothius

      Euro D-segment is for “large” cars, or what we’d call mid-size in the US. While the Beta sedan and (arguably) HPE might qualify, the coupe and spider (Zagato in the US) are a foot shorter with a half-foot sorter wheelbase, and certainly qualify as compact 2+2 sports cars. All have sweetly sonorous, revvy engines, taut yet supple and sophisticated suspension, and impeccable, responsive handling.

      Speaking of that engine, when Lancia was acquired by Fiat, the Lampredi twin-cam was one of the most advanced and efficient in the world, so adopting that engine for the new Beta was a no-brainer. The rest of the car was developed entirely by Lancia stylists and engineers who remained on-staff after the buyout, including many substantial modifications to that engine for transverse FWD duty. While Fiat was a FWD pioneer, they had not used that engine in a FWD platform yet, and the later Fiats which eventually did so inherited much from the Beta.

      Any Lancia Beta is one of the most “modern” classic cars one can find and still afford to buy and maintain, as the first mass-produced model which implemented the engineering formula that ultimately “won” the industry: FWD transverse powertrain, 5-speed transmission, 4-wheel disc brakes, rack’n’pinion power steering, fully-independent strut-based suspension with a multi-link rear — all common features in most any econobox of the past few decades, yet few cars had any of that, let alone all of that, when the Beta debuted in 1972, nor many more by the time it retired a dozen years later.

      Like 3
      • Donek

        Excellent, informative response, SubGothius, thanks.

  7. m491

    The CAD to US$ makes the asking price $4174.04 at todays exchange rate.

    Like 1
  8. Jef

    Had one of these in the UK around ’78. Also a 1975 model. 2 litre twin-cam.

    Probably could have been saved from terminal rust but it had no value. Think I sold mine to a friend for 100 quid in 1984. It cost over 200 pounds for steel fenders which, as said friend stated, was ‘effing stupid’. Fiberglass fenders were 30 quid each.

    He got another friend to repaint it for 50. Replaced a gorgeous light bronze with shiny black goop. At least it covered up some ‘blemishes’. Both colors allowed the mid-green cloth interior to shine.

    Great car. Read reviews comparing the Alfa Alfetta GTV and the Lancia Beta both – cars did well. The Beta (Beater?) came up so I went for it. Didn’t regret the choice. Made me a fan of Italian cars. I know, I know. I fall for inappropriate women too.

    One interesting design feature were equal length driveshafts that virtually eliminated torque steer.

    Handled great although I did lose it once when the rear end broke away and I spun. I put it down to exuberance and lack of skill rather than a shortcoming of the car.

    Had 1981 Lancia beta HPE 1.6L later with the less extreme interior. Loved that too. Baby blue over black. Sweeter engine than the 2.0. Loved to rev.

    Like 2
    • Poppapork

      So.why did they put such a huge driveshaft tunnel on a FWD car?
      (Im courious not sarcastic)

      • SubGothius

        It’s not really that huge, just a shallow recess for the exhaust pipe to run through. Also helps improve rigidity of the floorpan.

        Like 2
      • Jef

        I’d second that. Or, maybe, they planed an Integrale version?

    • SubGothius

      Speaking of equal-length driveshafts to eliminate torque steer, how they managed that with a transverse powertrain is one example of clever-yet-simple Lancia engineering brilliance:

      The right-side differential output drives a stout tubular jackshaft to a carrier bearing mounted at the other end of the engine, where the right-side half-shaft drive flange hooks up — i.e., they started with equal half-shafts oriented in identical mirror-image geometry, and then just bridged the right-side gap to the diff with a rigid jackshaft.

      As for your spin-out, most likely your rear wheel(s) just hit a bump or patch of gravel at the wrong time in a turn, breaking traction at that end. A Beta normally has neutral understeer past the cornering limit, arriving gradually as a progressive 4-wheel drift wide of the line rather than nose-heavy plowing, so it’s easy to predict and control, or even use deliberately. I like to brake early, then stomp on the gas into a turn slightly tighter than I want, ride the drift out to the line I want, lift throttle slightly to lock it down, then stomp on it again to pull through, as if on rails; others prefer to go in hot and brake late to lock it in.

      • Jef

        I didn’t want to go too deep into the driveshaft layout but thanks for taking the time. It was clever.

        One thing I did learn, don’t buy just one new front tire. Couldn’t figure out why it kept pulling to one side. Seem to recall I got an answer from the Lancia club in the UK (no usable internet back then) about even slight tire circumference differences causing that. Sure enough, with two new tires it tracked true.

        That spin was likely loose gravel in the middle of the turn. Whacked the right-side rear wheel on the only bit of curb on a country lane, miles from town, bending the trailing arm IIRC. Had a wee bit of toe-in.

        Other than that it was neutral. Never got it (or me) flustered on decent B roads. Then again, I never got into throttle steering front drive cars until the Alfa 33. Now that handles.

        Like 1
  9. Russell

    The statement “it has never seen any inclement weather (ie rain) … in Vancouver, BC.” I find that very hard to believe.
    The “old Top Gear” had a field day (or two) on the rust prone Beta…

    Like 2
  10. Sheffieldcortinacentre

    Mate had a couple of these here in the UK you could practically hear them rust!
    The 76 2.0 at 6 years old had the steering column break away from the dash area complete with mount due to rust!
    The second an 83 at 4 years old, the whole rear wheel tub came away luckily in a carpark he’d just done the weekly shop and couldn’t understand why the trunk lid wouldn’t shut,he rearranged the shopping a few times then realised that the strut top was hitting the lid!
    So he jacked it up closed the lid & limped it the mile home.

  11. JimmyJ

    I live in Vancouver and I does rain way too much but it doesn’t snow much so when they salt it washes away quickly.
    Not too many rusty cars out here. My basement dweller bought a 2000 Nissan Maxima for $900 and there’s not a speck of rust on it.

  12. Uncle al

    ….always leery of a CraigsList ad with NO phone number….Once there were pictures of my BMW 840CI way way cheap, but someone else was trying to sell it….some POS took pictures of my car at a car show, and was scamming people…good luck with no phone number !

  13. Marc

    I owned Beta with 2 L engine and manual
    Fun to drive and fast
    I still have a few parts in my shop for Lancia

  14. chrlsful

    agreed w/above.

    After 4 850s &1/2 doz 124s (spyder&sedan) got 1 of these (’78). Fit, finish, driving, maintenence, all of it – same as any car right out of the showrm today. Nice vehicle. Great co (they stopped at their height I guess) innovated alot of the later accepted standards as 1st in industry. Will they B the fiat electric car producer?

  15. araknid78

    Thanks Jeff for giving us the car’s location in your write-up!

    These are very nice drivers. I had an opportunity to drive one while I had my 1978 Fiat 124 Spider. I was amazed at how much more comfortable and well-manner it was compared to my Spider. With only 76,000 miles (not km since its in Canada?), this one looks like it would be a winner.

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