RE: Lancia Beta Monte-Carlo: Spotted

RE: Lancia Beta Monte-Carlo: Spotted

Saturday 3rd March

Lancia Beta Monte-Carlo: Spotted

A mid-engined Italian classic that's still vaguely affordable, and not a Fiat X1/9? We'll take three



Ever feel like words are redundant? We appreciate, given our line of work, that that's a rather dangerous admission to make. But right now, chances are you've already decided whether the Lancia Beta Monte-Carlo pictured above is a gloriously wedgy blend of Italian style and mid-engined spirit, or a deeply flawed old crock that's only worth spending £20k on if it's somehow been entirely rebuilt using rust-free steel - and not much we can say will convince you to change your mind.

But if it's the latter, let's at least have a go, shall we? Because, to be frank, we're very much in the former camp, and impartiality be damned. Of course, we do appreciate that it wasn't so long ago that you could pick up a respectable Monte-Carlo for little more than a few grand; a price which in 2018 feels like an absolute steal.


Against that backdrop, £19,995 for this example now seems like strong money, but this is of course 2018, and with classic car prices seemingly boundless, it's actually about the going rate for a Monte with mileage this low and with a full respray. Naturally, you'll pay less for an Alfa Romeo Alfetta GTV or a Fiat X1/9 of a similar era, though neither can offer quite the same blend of talents as the Lancia.

It's an interesting blend, too. If ever there was a car that typified the compromised ownership experience for which Italian cars of this era became known, this is it. The biggest problem with Series 1 cars such as this one was the brakes, which locked up in wet conditions at the slightest provocation; the noisy engine, plasticky cockpit and firm ride also drew approbation from some testers.

The problem with the brakes was so bad, in fact, that Lancia took the Beta Monte-Carlo off sale for two years or so while it sorted the problem out. It reappeared in the UK as the Montecarlo in 1981 - shorn, of course, of the Beta name after the rust scandal that had afflicted the first-generation Beta saloon blew up in 1980. These later, Series 2 cars had their brake servos removed, which went some way toward solving the issue.


Fortunately, you can effect a similar fix to a Series 1 car yourself by bypassing the brake servo, leaving you free to enjoy the benefits of Monte-Carlo ownership without questioning whether the thing will stop in time. And there are plenty of benefits, chief among them being the handling, thanks to the Monte-Carlo's sweetly balanced chassis, plentiful reserves of grip and throttle adjustability. Well-weighted steering delivers all the feedback you'd ever want, meanwhile, and of body roll you'll find nary a trace.

Then there's the engine; the classic Fiat twin-cam breathing through Weber 34DATR carbs and capable of producing 120hp. In the Monte-Carlo, its sonorousness is rather overshadowed by its volume, but it does give far more punch than its languorous figures suggest; Motor Sport timed it to 60mph in 8.2 seconds, a not-inconsiderable 1.5 seconds quicker than the official stats.


As with all Lancias, rust is the key thing to check - sills, rear strut turrets, bonnets and floorpans are all moisture traps where tin worm is common, but then if you're buying a classic Lancia without either checking every inch of it for crumbliness, or getting someone to do it for you, you're far braver than we are. Just as predictably, electrical issues are commonplace, too, so double check everything works.

So, overpriced relic or accessible Italian exotic? We reckon it's the latter. Yes, you can buy some other Italian cars for less, but as we've already mentioned, few do it quite like the Beta Monte-Carlo. And if you're still not swayed, just take a moment to look at the thing: that raked-back snout, the compact glasshouse, the glazed flying buttresses, the pert, chopped-off tail end. When a car looks this good, as we said at the start, words are somewhat redundant.


SPECIFICATION - LANCIA BETA MONTE-CARLO

Engine: 1,995cc, four-cyl
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 120@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 122@3500rpm
MPG: 30.3 (ECE average)
CO2: n/a
First registered: 1977
Recorded mileage: 46,000
Price new: £5,927
Yours for: £19,995

See the original advert here.

Author
Discussion

rodericb

Original Poster:

1,411 posts

59 months

Saturday 3rd March
quotequote all
A gorgeous looking thing.

MalcolmSmith

167 posts

8 months

Saturday 3rd March
quotequote all
Wonderful car, very cheap in the late 80’s and if youre far enough away looks like a Ferrari to the untrained eye.

Some beautiful special editions, and remember Herbi even fell in love with an S2 model in Herbi goes bananas.

gred

201 posts

102 months

Saturday 3rd March
quotequote all

So the advert has been carefully written

'THIS VEHICLE WILL BE STUNNING AND WE ANTICIPATE IT BEING READY BY OCTOBER 2016 '

Great car of it's era though. I had an eighteen month old Beta Coupe in Red and loved it for the brief period it contained steel rather than oxide on the outer surfaces. Being a young aggressive know it all, I took it to the MD of Lancia at their Head Office and refused to move it from the front door until they gave me my money back. We did a deal and he gave me one of their new Deltas. What a crap car that was - got rid, quick.

1781cc

200 posts

27 months

Saturday 3rd March
quotequote all
Not in this colour and not with that interior, but a well sorted Beta is a lovely thing. I remember seeing a metallic blue one at an Italian specialist about 20 years and it struck a chord, famously unreliable and rusty though.

MalcolmSmith

167 posts

8 months

Saturday 3rd March
quotequote all
gred said:

So the advert has been carefully written

'THIS VEHICLE WILL BE STUNNING AND WE ANTICIPATE IT BEING READY BY OCTOBER 2016 '

Great car of it's era though. I had an eighteen month old Beta Coupe in Red and loved it for the brief period it contained steel rather than oxide on the outer surfaces. Being a young aggressive know it all, I took it to the MD of Lancia at their Head Office and refused to move it from the front door until they gave me my money back. We did a deal and he gave me one of their new Deltas. What a crap car that was - got rid, quick.
I remember a colleague buying the only rust free Beta Coupe in the UK (probably about 3 yrs old) and he managed to buy the only one with a duff Fiat twin cam, no one else I know has ever seriously broke a Fiat TC other than young Stan.



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BIRMA

2,383 posts

127 months

Saturday 3rd March
quotequote all
This along with the Matra Bagheera were my two favourite cars at the time. Couldn't afford either but you could dream.

Richard A

171 posts

109 months

Saturday 3rd March
quotequote all
Is this the only production model that had windows entirely outside the cabin / habitable space? I'm sure there must have been others but I can't think of any.

samoht

757 posts

79 months

Saturday 3rd March
quotequote all

I can imagine it being a hoot to drive, but I'm surprised to hear people consider it good looking. To me it seems quite boxy, and the long, square front overhang has no obvious raison d'etre on a mid-engined car.

rockin

5,729 posts

178 months

Saturday 3rd March
quotequote all
Always a huge fan of mid-engine cars so Monte Carlo and Fiat X1/9 are worthy of attention. Regrettably both shared the same rust problems although only the Lancia gained a reputation for throwing itself off the road - which makes it a car to enjoy looking at rather than a car for driving quickly. Definitely an interesting one but I bought a less wayward Lotus instead.

Good to see TWO rare Lancias mentioned on PH today! Both this one and the Lancia Beta hpe. If you want to explore the full set have a look at Lancia Gamma coupe as well, https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=kp+lancia+gamma+...

Lancia made some interesting cars over the years before they turned towards mundane saloons and hatchbacks.

overunder12g

266 posts

19 months

Saturday 3rd March
quotequote all
I had one of these in the late seventies. Great car, only problem was the manifold to exhaust joint. Frequently failing and cost me a small fortune in sealer.
Never had a rust problem with mine and it was a metallic gold colour.

Bone Rat

179 posts

96 months

Saturday 3rd March
quotequote all
This brings back memories of my stepfather's light green one, rusting as expected and patched with flattened Tartan beer cans (steel you see, not flimsy aluminium).

Looking at the cabin I see the window switches next to the handbrake, these are not ignition linked and work when the key is out. He took the car for servicing with the dog curled up in the footwell - a vaguely psychotic staffie. Got out & left the car forgetting the dozing dog in the car.

15 min later there was a oh crap moment, where's the dog? Ran back to the garage to see the car surrounded by fitters, the car was rocking as a by now very awake, very angry bull terrier was to use the terms of the 70's 'going mental'. The head rest was shredded as was the door cap and steering wheel, he wanted revenge for being left behind.

As he bounced round he would hit the window switch and the window would edge down slowly, the fitters slowly realising that eventually a furious staffie would emerge and would be unlikely to greet his tormentors with a cheeky wag of the tail and licks all round. I think it took a while to calm him down.

Must admit the interior never recovered after the onslaught, the car was written off soon after due to the other highlighted problem with the brakes. Wasn't well after skidding under the back of a land rover with a tow hitch


davidn

1,027 posts

192 months

Saturday 3rd March
quotequote all
I had one too in the mid eighties, a black '77 model so a MkII I think. Previous owner decided it was practically a JPS Esprit so painted the wheels gold and re-trimmed the interior in gold velour or draylon (whichever was worse that was the one) but I loved it.

Usual brake problems, solved by disconnecting the servo!, occasional wisps of smoke from the dash vents easily solved by opening the windows. Cooling in sub zero temps, well, none. Metal feed and return pipes from rad at front to engine at rear ran under the car so quickly froze and cooked the engine needing a new head gasket and a lesson on the importance of anti freeze.

Mention has been made of the long front over hang but it effectively turned a 2 seater into a 3 seater. When you were 18 this seemed an ideal way to transport a mate, but the bonnet wouldn't close so on the short journey there would be a terrified pair of eyes staring out of the gap at the lucky two cocooned in golden velour luxury.

Sold it after a year or so for a couple of grand and noted a few years later they were being sold for between £10 & £15K, bugger!

samoht

757 posts

79 months

Saturday 3rd March
quotequote all
davidn said:
Mention has been made of the long front over hang but it effectively turned a 2 seater into a 3 seater
Not just a junior Ferrari, but a veritable cut-price McLaren F1 then !


Edited by samoht on Saturday 3rd March 16:38

SS54

5 posts

29 months

Saturday 3rd March
quotequote all
I remember driving one of these, which was probably a year or two old at the time, over 100mph the roof looked like it was going to come off.
The gear change was like a fence post in a muddy puddle and in the wet or even driving down a steep hill the front brakes would lock up.
Plus the steering wheel was about 4 turns lock to lock and build quality marginal.
Twenty grands seems like a lot of money to me.
But each to their own.

DPSFleet

191 posts

94 months

Saturday 3rd March
quotequote all
Great to see an article on the forgotten Monte. I owned one from 83 through to 2001 and loved it. That engine is a peach and very tunable, stock it comes with a downdraft single carb. Easy to upgrade to twin DCOE's.... then the magic starts. Yes they rusted but hey, so did Ferraris!


unsprung

2,395 posts

57 months

Saturday 3rd March
quotequote all


If purchased in 1977 for £5,927, the equivalent price (RPI) today would be £33,790.

I like this car, but it also reminds me of so much that ailed cars of that era: rusting on the forecourt, bits falling off a short while later, temperamental engines, inept in harsh weather, etc. smile

QuartzDad

442 posts

55 months

Saturday 3rd March
quotequote all
Bought my first car in '89, a MkIV Spitfire but really wanted one of these instead. Still do. One day.

fph

37 posts

50 months

Saturday 3rd March
quotequote all
Fantastic looking 70's styling and Herbie's love interest in Herbie goes to Monte Carlo

MikeGalos

216 posts

217 months

Saturday 3rd March
quotequote all
Let's put it in historical perspective as well. The car was not meant, originally, to be a Lancia. It was designed to be the FIAT X1/20 and be the big brother of the X1/9 as the FIAT 124 Sport Spider was the big brother of the FIAT 850 Spider. The badge engineering was meant to fight the bad impression for rust and unreliability that FIAT had at the time in hopes of selling a more upmarket model.

irocfan

17,249 posts

123 months

Saturday 3rd March
quotequote all
TBH I was never sure about these.

I had 2 X1/9's and really liked them but there's no way I'd pay that sort of money for its big brother. Truth be told I did have a real hankering for a 124 coupe though