Two Years Only: 1976 Lancia Scorpion

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To the rest of the world, it was the Lancia Montecarlo, but in the US it was the Scorpion. The different names was just scratching the surface because the hidden changes resulted in two cars where the differences were profound. The Scorpion is located in Seminole, Florida, and is listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding on the Lancia hasn’t been what I would call frantic, because after opening at $1,000, it has now reached $2,025.

It might just be me, but I find the styling of the Scorpion to be quite “heavy.” I think that it is the buttresses just behind the doors, but from some angles, it definitely looks better than others. Two key areas are different on US cars. The first is the use of the 5mph bumpers, which aren’t as integrated as the European design. The second change was also a regulatory one, and that surrounded the headlights. To meet US regulations, sealed beam lights, which were a “semi-popup” design were used, and I actually quite like these. The condition of the Scorpion actually doesn’t look to be too bad, with no obvious signs of any rust or major body issues.

Given the age of the Lancia, I’m not surprised to find some very noticeable deterioration inside the car. Couple this with the fact that it has covered 126,000 miles, and this is a recipe for wear. What is surprising is the fact that it is one of the hardest-wearing items that has deteriorated. I expected to see a veritable war zone of discolored and brittle plastic, but this has all held together remarkably well. The seats, on the other hand, are a real disappointment. The leather has split along a number of seams, and the leather itself looks hard and dry. Having said that, it might be possible for a good upholsterer to restitch the seats, and to revive the leather.

When I referred to the major differences being under the skin for the Scorpion, now we get to the heart of the story. The first part of the story is vehicle weight. The European version was blessed with a curb weight of 2,138lbs, while the American version, in a bid to meet crash test requirements, weighed in at 2,278lbs. In a low-powered car, that is a profound difference. But this was just the beginning. The Euro cars received a 1,995cc engine, producing 120hp. The American version received a different engine, with a capacity of 1,756cc, and a power output of 90hp. The impact on performance was enormous, with the US version taking 3 seconds longer in both the 0-60mph and the ¼ mile times. This mid-engined sports car then sends the power to the rear wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission. Unfortunately, the owner isn’t terribly forthcoming about the car’s mechanical state, so we don’t know how well the car runs or drives. One thing that I can see is that the spare wheel is missing from its normal location above, and slightly to the side, of the engine.

When the first concept designs for the car that became known as the Lancia Scorpion were completed, the car was intended to be equipped with a quad-cam V6 engine, and you can’t help but wonder just how good the end product would have been with that engine on board. With a mere 90hp, this isn’t a high-performance sports car, but with only 1,804 cars being imported into the US during its 2-year sales life, it also isn’t a common one. Today it is possible to buy a Scorpion in fair condition for around the $8,000 mark, but even an immaculate one will only sell for around the $25,000 mark. If this one is solid and doesn’t require any major work, it might be one to watch, or even buy.

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  1. Larry Brenner

    In my opinion, the Scorpion is one of those cars that just doesn’t photograph well from most angles. In person, I’ve found the design very appealing.

    Unfortunately, as the author notes, US requirements really hurt the Scorpion, and of course, Lancias at the time weren’t the highest quality or reliable cars to begin with.

    I finally got to see a Montecarlo in person about 10 years ago. Big difference. Trimmer, cleaner lines – especially in front. Even better, in my opinion, with the black trim painted body color. (Hopefully, the links below will work.)

    Like 2
    • t-bone Bob


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  2. Dennis Marth

    Your description of the Lancia Scorpion, history and specs as well as a nice description of the car in question, is in stark contrast to the brief one sentence by the seller. Does it run? Is the engine frozen, tranny, etc.

    I have always been a fan of the Lancia, and this one really looks pretty good. But without more and better info from the seller it’s not surprising that the bids are low and slow. Being an Italian car, vintage Italian car, the term Caveat Emptor seems most appropo.

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  3. Wayne Thomas

    Will never happen anywhere, but the Scorpion (Monte Carlo) is the perfect car for a Lancia Thema V8 swap.

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  4. Ralph

    I never noticed how well these would work as a Back to the Future DeLorean clone……they’re really aren’t any good for anything else…….

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  5. Mark F

    My cousin traded in his 1972 Porsche 914 (which I drove all the time), for a new 1976 Scorpion (same colors), that I drove all the time, too.

    I remember it being a LOT of fun!!!

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  6. SMS

    Friend had a FIAT x/19. We drove it to go take a look at one of these. We both expected it to be just a little larger version. Boy were we wrong.

    It was like going into a different world. The doors closed with a thud, the seats were comfy, and the ride was smooth. It had body roll but held the road in spite of it, or maybe because of it. We were very impressed. Unfortunately they could not agree on a price so he stuck with the FIAT.

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    • Mark F

      I had the best of both worlds in 1976. I was either driving my 1974 FIAT X 1/9 or my cousin’s 1976 Scorpion. You could hear the FIAT dissolving from the rust (I lived in CT).

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  7. David Church

    The Lancia Scorpion and Beta needed to have their drive trains put in the beautiful Bertone X/19, styled to be a street version by the same studio of the Lancia Stratos. Both versions of the new mid-Fiat engined sports car were styling disappointments, without the promised V6 Dino engine.

    Like 1
    • SubGothius

      The X1/9 and Stratos were designed at Bertone, while the Montecarlo/Scorpion was designed at Pininfarina.

      Of course the Stratos had the Dino V6 from the outset, but that was entirely unrelated to the X1/9, which was meant to replace the 850 Spider and always had the Fiat 128’s FWD powertrain mounted in the mid-rear.

      At about the same time the X1/9 project started, Fiat also started project X1/8 as a mid-engine replacement for the larger 124 Spider. This was later redesignated as project X1/20 and briefly trialed in racing as the Abarth 030, using the Fiat 130’s V6 (unrelated to the smaller Dino V6). The 030 failed to outperform the Stratos, so development continued towards a mass production model, which they eventually decided would use the new Lancia Beta’s FWD powertrain mounted mid-rear. That decision, along with a need to further distinguish it from the smaller but otherwise similar X1/9, led to it being launched upmarket as a Lancia, though aside from the powertrain much of the running gear (brakes and suspension) was shared in common with the X1/9.

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  8. Bruce

    It is very possible to upgrade the engine on these and I have seen one or two that have done so using a Fiat engine but I forget from where. The comments of SMS are very accurate this is a far more comfortable car than the X1-9 Or the 914 Porsche. On some models the rear panels were glass and the look was much lighter and more like the Maserati Merck.
    These do not handle or brake as well as either my Lotus Europa S2 or Esprit Turbo but that does not mean they are not better than average. There were problems with brake balancing and electrical gremlins which is typical with Lancia cars in general. The biggest blessing these bring to the driver is how much fun they are to drive both to the store or on a long trip. Visibility especially with the glass panels is superb and combined with a larger engine you end up with the car it should have been from the beginning. If I did not have too many projects already I would be flying down to pick up this one. At the very least I would be contacting the owner.
    Check YouTube for a review of Lancia by the TOP GEAR Folks both funny and accurate.

    Like 0
    • SubGothius

      The Lancia Beta engine was a variant of the Lampredi-designed Fiat twincam engine — in fact, the Scorpicarlo’s block is nearly if not fully identical to the Fiat version, lacking a cast-in boss the Beta variant had for mounting a driveshaft carrier — so a larger 2 Liter Fiat block can be swapped in, and most of the usual Fiat twincam tuning tricks and parts can be used to soup up a Beta-family engine to 150 HP or more. Main differences are due to the Beta engine being transverse and leaned back 20 degrees, so it needs different carburetors, intake and camboxes vs. the Fiat counterpart.

      Early Scorpicarlos had boosted brakes only in front, which thus tended to lock up too easily and before the rears. Many owners just bypassed the booster, which S2 Montecarlos eliminated entirely along with adding larger discs. Wilwood brake upgrades are available for S1 Scorpicarlos, though this does require using 14″ or larger wheels rather than these handsome stock “bowtie” style alloys.

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  9. scottymac

    If wishes were dollars, I’d have one of these sitting in the garage next to a Gamma coupe. Am I a sick boy, or what?

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  10. GeorgeL

    Obviously, the name Montecarlo couldn’t be used in the US because of Chevrolet. While the pop up lights are cool, the Euro lights certainly look nicer and the mandated 5 mph bumpers ruined the look of many a European car, notably BMW.

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  11. Ron

    I was also struck by how much the DeLoren resembles this car.

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  12. Greg Eisinger

    Sold these back in the day adding dual Weber’s,headers,and cam….probably got them up to 140 hp,but a lot more fun….

    Like 0

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