Did you know that Lancia only ever released but 7,798 Montecarlos into the wild? Today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Scorpion (the U.S. Montecarlo) is one of that number, and we’re about to find out if you’re wild about its price.
There was little love shown for the price of yesterday’s 1979 Chevy Malibu wagon. That was even with its crate motor, generally nice presentation, and a crotch cooler for what the ad described as ice cold A/C. In the end, what was cold was the shoulders shown to that price, as it fell in a 77% Crack Pipe loss.
The ‘70s were a trying time to be a car buyer. Yesterday’s wagon showed what cold be done to overcome the issues of the era with some judicious updates. Today’s 1977 Lancia Scorpion on the other hand, demonstrates the dichotomy of the time: a car with so much amazing potential let down by the realities of its execution.
The Scorpion was sold here in the U.S. for two years only, 1976 and 1977. It featured amazing Pininfarina styling, a mid-mounted engine, engaging handling, and a fabric roof to let others hear your squeals of delight when driving it. Well, hypothetical squeals of delight I would wager, seeing as the Scorpion was saddled with an 81-horsepower 1,776-cc edition of the Lampredi four rather than the 120-bhp 2-litre that the Europeans enjoyed. It was also called the Scorpion here as Chevrolet was already selling a car called the Monte Carlo.
Of course when the motor is sitting right over your shoulder and you’re in something as amazingly attractive as a Scorpion, even being slow can be fun.
These cars were developed under Fiat’s ownership of Lancia and in fact the Montecarlo/Scorpion was originally intended to be sold as the replacement for the Fiat 124 Spider. It turned out to be too expensive and was sent upmarket to be offered as part of Lancia’s Beta line. Somewhat ironically the 124 Spider outlived the Montecarlo by half a decade. Idiotic brake design issues damned the Montecarlo in Europe, causing a two year hiatus in production before everybody just said we’ve had enough.
Here we have a 1977 Lancia Beta Scorpion that’s been in the possession of its second owner since 1983. Under his ownership the factory gold car has been repainted in red, a hue that extends to the formerly black nose cap and under bumper valances, and that cleans up things a bit. Sadly, there’s just no way that a U.S. reg Scorpion is ever going to look as good as the Euro Montecarlo with its smaller bumpers and composite lights. The downward-facing lights on the U.S. model tend to make the car look like it’s ashamed for something it’s done.
Something ALL Montecarlos/Scorpions do is rust, and this one is no exception. The ad notes that the multi-function rear cross mount had become addicted to the road rot and was hence replaced. It further claims that there are no additional problems with corrosion at this time.
There are other problems however. The seller has rebuilt all the calipers, but thinks there’s a leak in the brake booster vacuum. At 58,697 miles he also says it needs a timing belt replacement. These are interference engines so the new owner should make that a top-end priority.
Inside, there’s some separation anxiety in the seams on the driver’s seat and an AM/FM/Cassette radio that Fred Flintstone might recognize. Other than that, it’s clean and looks complete, and the fabric roof seems to be intact and working. The A/C doesn’t work, but geez, with only 81 ponies on tap, why would you torture yourself by even bothering with it?
The eventual, and inevitable, postmortem on Lancia may not show it dying a natural death. More likely it will show that the once venerable marque was ruefully killed off by Fiat. Once one of Italy’s most innovative car makers, the company most recently has been ignominiously relegated to selling re-badged Chryslers and a single home grown model, the Fiat 500-based Ypsilon.
The Montecarlo/Scorpion was a modest blip in Lancia’s storied past, but it’s still worth our time today. The question at hand however, is whether or not this particular one is worth the $5,500 the seller is asking in its present condition.
What do you think, would you pay $5,500 for this Scorpion? Or, is that too much to pay for just 81 horses?
H/T to VinnyK or yzvinnyf (he can’t remember which) for the hookup!
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