Shooting brake, sport wagon, two-door estate, avant, there are many names for today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe Lancia HPE. Of course, the most common form of address for the spawn of Fiat's up-scale division is %$*@#-ing car!
Italy, being a Mediterranean nation, enjoys a temperate climate and a general lack of large herbivores acting as road hazards. Contrastingly, Sweden's proximity to the Arctic Circle and prolific moose population make the roads of that northern nation treacherous. That's a potential reason why Sweden's largest car maker has embraced safety as its primary raison d'tere, as staying safe on Nordic roads means you'll live to spend your vacations in places like Italy. Yesterday's V8 Volvo 240 represented an attempt to temper the car maker's safety reputation by injecting a healthy dose of good ol' American excess under its hood. That seemed to be all it took, as 55% of you found it Volvorgasmic, and by extension, Nice Priced. That was even despite sporting tail lamps that made its ass look like, well. . . ass.
If moose avoidance is your bag, you can't go wrong with picking a Swede. On the other hand, should your predilection lean more toward both styling and driving experience that could be best described as bellisima then you might find today's 1977 Lancia Beta HPE more to your taste, the moose be damned.
Lancia had been developmentally adrift for a couple of years by the time Fiat bought the company in 1969. Previously considered to be Italy's equivalent to BMW, the Lancia of the ‘70s were little more than Fiats in fancier duds. The first of the new models – the Beta Berlina - rode on a 100" wheelbase and was powered by the first transverse application of Fiat's twin-cam four. Following up the fastback saloon was a handsome if angular coupe that shared the four door's mechanicals, but rode on a shorter, 93" span between wheel centers. Arriving shortly thereafter, the HPE – or High Performance Estate – split the difference, sharing the coupe's A pillar-forward styling and the saloon's wheelbase. Added to that was a roofline extended back to a generous hatch opening in a form not dissimilar to the MGB GT. Both the coupe and HPE were styled in-house under the guidance of the Fulvia's designer, Pietro Castagnero.
While you just don't find Berlinas anymore (seriously, if you know of any for sale, clue me in) the HPE is also a rare gem in the classifieds. Sure the related Zagato targa may offer alfresco breakdowns by the side of the road, but the HPE is arguably the most handsome of the Betas, the Scorpion included. This one is claimed to have been stored 16 years, and while Lancia Betas have a reputation for going south faster than day-old antipasto, this one is said to have suffered no deleterious effects from its stasis in storage. The seller notes that the 1800-cc, 85-hp four starts and runs as new, which, considering this is a Lancia, could be either a boast or a lament. As some parts don't last no matter what the make, the cam belt has been renewed, as have all the rubber bits – ribbed for her pleasure, of course. Typically, when bare steel meets oxygen, a chemical reaction known as oxidization takes place, or more commonly called rust. The Italians must have aced chemistry in high school because they're masters of the craft, although this particular HPE appears to have dropped out as it is claimed to be free of the tin worm. That's pretty amazing, if true, as are the claims that the arrival dock-installed A/C blows cold, and clutch and gearbox work smoothly through all five gears.
Perhaps this isn't really a Lancia HPE at all but a remarkably accurate replica built on an old Toyota Corolla Liftback? Probably not as no Corolla ever had the Italianate styling and haphazard switchgear placement of the HPE, and here you get both, as well as an interior which has also escaped the ravages of time and its own immutable DNA. That could have something to do with the car showing only 32,000 on the clock, except that Lancias are known to devolve into their base elements faster than that fat Nazi at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Finding this one in what appears to be pristine condition, and with so many parts renewed, is sort of like an automotive Wikileak – you always suspected such a thing could exist, but now you have the proof.
Well as they say, the proof is in the pudding, and $5,500 will buy you a lot if pudding. It'll also buy you what conceivably could be one of the nicest HPEs in the country, a car that paradoxically will also carry a whole lot of pudding. So what do you think, does its $5,500 price mean this HPE will be likely be snapped up PDQ? Or, does that make you say Lan-cia-later?
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Happy Chanukah everybody!