There’s no other classic quite like the Lancia Fulvia, with its combination of style, performance, practicality and beautiful engineering, yet this is a car that’s appreciated only by those few people in the know. Virtually disregarded in wider circles, the Lancia still looks superb more than three decades after the last example was built, while it’s also great fun to drive and easy to maintain, which is why it’s well worth seeking out a good one.
The Fulvia earned a very good reputation thanks to its numerous rally successes at Italian, European and International levels. In the Seventies, the lovely HF Coupe version outsold the practical yet sporty Fulvia saloon, and the model was kept alive until 1976, being sold alongside the newer Beta (launched in 1973).
Zegato produced a coupe that’s ugly & rare
The Fulvia story starts in 1961, with the arrival of the Flavia. With its 1.5-litre fl at-four engine, this was the fi rst Lancia to feature front-wheel drive, and it offered a distinct break with tradition; gone were the pillarless construction and sliding pillar front suspension of previous models. This new arrival provided the basis for a smaller model to sell alongside; the Fulvia, which debuted in saloon form, in 1963.
These first cars featured a 59bhp, narrowangle 1091cc V4 with a four-speed gearbox, which didn’t give the car the performance it deserved; that’s why from 1964 there was a 71bhp twin-carb option. However, it was in 1965 that the defi nitive Fulvia arrived; the Pietro Castagnero-designed Coupe. Rakish and aerodynamic, this sporting 2+2 soon featured aluminium doors, bonnet and bootlid to reduce weight and improve agility – so even with an 80bhp 1216cc engine fitted, the car felt pretty sprightly.
Those first Coupes were reasonably quick, but it was clear the chassis could handle more power, which is why a stream of more powerful editions was released. Complementing the standard models, the famous HF-badged cars appeared to satisfy Lancia’s desire for competition success. In 1.2, 1.3 and five-speed 1.6 forms they proved enormously successful in international rallying, winning every major rally apart from the African Safari.
They were usually recognisable by their red body, yellow/blue centre stripes and bumperless appearance, the most successful variant, the 1.6HF, gaining the name ‘Fanalone’, translated as ‘big eyes’ in recognition of its larger seven-inch inner headlights. The Fanalone arrived in 1966, and within a year there was another sporty edition; the 1.3 Rallye Coupe, with an 87bhp 1298cc engine. The 90bhp 1.3 Rallye Coupe arrived in 1968, along with a 101bhp 1.3 HF and the 115bhp 1.6 HF Fanalone. With its wider track, bigger headlamps and alloy wheels, the latter was also available with a semi-works 132bhp tuned engine as a rare option.
In 1971 Fiat, having bought Lancia in 1969, introduced the Series II Fulvia, with raised outer headlamps for the UK market, a fivespeed gearbox and alternator.
These were welcome changes, but throughout the car was evidence of cost-cutting measures; gone were the alloy panels and some of the embellishments that made the early Fulvia such a joy to own.
Under Fiat’s ownership, the Fulvia continued to be developed, with the 1600HF (a sanitised Fanalone) being launched. With its wider wings, 115bhp powerplant and 6J wheels, it looked the part but packed the punch to back it up. In the same year, the Zagato-designed Sport 1600 was introduced, complete with electric windows, then in 1972 the Fulvia saloon was phased out. By 1973 the 1600 had been killed off as well, with the remaining wide-arch 1600 bodyshells being used for the limited edition 1.3 Monte Carlo; with a black bonnet and a lack of bumpers, it looked like a true rally weapon for the road.
The final development came in 1974 with the arrival of the bumperless Fulvia Safari, while standard Series III cars were treated to a set of white gauges. These were only tweaks though as by this point the Fulvia (at least in saloon form) was over a decade old; by mid-1976 it would be killed off altogether.
As well as Lancia’s own coupe, an alternative interpretation was offered by Zagato from 1967. Called the Sport and featuring an 87bhp 1298cc powerplant and higher fi nal drive, this initially featured all-alloy panelling and was more aerodynamic than the standard model ; there was also a hatchback profi le in place of the coupe silhouette. By 1970 however, because of the high production costs, the Sport was made of steel throughout; by 1972 the car had been killed off. In total some Fulvias 155,000 were made.