Lancia Beta Monte-Carlo: Spotted


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.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (47) Join the discussion on the forum

  • rodericb 03 Mar 2018

    A gorgeous looking thing.

  • MalcolmSmith 03 Mar 2018

    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 03 Mar 2018


    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 03 Mar 2018

    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 03 Mar 2018

    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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