Specification

   
  • Parent company Fiat Group
  • Manufacturer Lancia
  • Production 1972–1984
  • Body style(s) 4-door sedan (berlina)
    2-door coupé
    2-door targa (Spider)
    3-door estate (HPE)
  • Successor Lancia Prisma
  • Engine(s) 1.3 L I4, 61 kW (82 hp)
    1.4 L I4, 67 kW (90 hp)
    1.6 L I4, 75 kW (100 hp)
    1.75 L I4, 82 kW (110 hp)
    2.0 L I4, 86-91 kW (115-122 hp)
    2.0 L Kompressor-I4, 101 kW (135 hp)
  • Height Sedan: 1397 mm (55 in)
    Trevi: 1400 mm (55.1 in)
    Coupé: 1280 mm (50.4 in)
    HPE: 1321 mm (52 in)
    Spider: 1250 mm (49.2 in)
    Montecarlo: 1190 mm (46.9 in)
  • Length Sedan: 4293 mm (169 in)-4320 mm (170.1 in)
    Trevi: 4355 mm (171.5 in)
    Coupé: 3993 mm (157.2 in)
    HPE: 4285 mm (168.7 in)
    Spider: 4040 mm (159.1 in)
    Montecarlo: 3810 mm (150 in)
  • Width Sedan: 1651 mm (65 in)
    Trevi: 1700 mm (66.9 in)
    Spider: 1646 mm (64.8 in)
    Montecarlo: 1702 mm (67 in)
  • Kerb Weight 1000 kg (2205 lb)-1195 kg (2635 lb)
  • Layout FF layout
  • Predecessor Lancia Fulvia
  • Related Lancia Trevi
    Lancia Montecarlo

The history of the Lancia Beta

   

The Lancia Beta is a car produced by Lancia. It was the first new model introduced by Lancia after it had been taken over by Fiat in 1969.
The first body style to appear, and the most common was the four-door berlina (sedan), with a wheelbase of 2,540 millimetres (100 in) and 'fastback' styling giving the appearance of a hatchback, although in fact it had a conventional boot like a saloon. This practice was common in the industry at the time as manufacturers deemed that hatchback designs would not be accepted in this market sector.
Late in the Beta's life, with assistance from Pininfarina, a drastically reworked three-box shaped saloon variant was released as the Beta Trevi; the Trevi also introduced a controversial new dashboard layout with deeply recessed displays, which was also later used in the third series Berlina. Number built: 194,914 Berlinas plus 36,784 Trevis.
The second style to appear was a 2+2 two-door coupé with a 2,350 millimetres (93 in) wheelbase. The bodywork was developed inhouse by a Lancia team led by Aldo Castagno, with Pietro Castagnero acting as styling consultant. Castagnero had also styled the Beta's predecessor, the Lancia Fulvia saloon and coupé. Number built: 111,801.
The next version to be launched was a two door convertible called the Spider (or Zagato in America). In brochures Lancia spelt the name with a "y" rather than an "i" possibly to differentiate the car from the Alfa Romeo Spider. The Spider used the coupé's shorter wheelbase and featured a targa top roof panel, a roll-over bar and folding rear roof. Early models did not have a cross-member supporting the roof between the tops of the A to B Pillars. Later models had fixed cross-members. The Spider was designed by Pininfarina but actually built by Zagato. Number built: 9390.
Then came a three-door sporting estate or shooting-brake called the HPE. HPE stood for High Performance Estate, and then later High Performance Executive. This model had Berlina's longer wheelbase floorpan combined with the coupé's front end and doors. The HPE was also styled in house at Lancia by Castagno's team, with Castagnero as styling consultant. Number built: 71,258.
The final variant was the Pininfarina designed and built two door Lancia Montecarlo (note that the vehicle was named "Montecarlo" written as one word, not Monte Carlo, the capital of Monaco). This was a rear-wheel drive mid-engined two-seater sports car that shared very few components with other Betas. Montecarlos were available as fixed head "Coupés" and also as "Spiders". The car was originally designed as a Fiat, a big brother to the Bertone-styled Fiat X1/9, and was initially called the X1/20 in prototype stage; it is therefore not related to the Beta by design, but used much of its components. First Series cars (19751978) were badged Lancia Beta Montecarlo. There was then a 2 year gap in production. The revised Second Series cars (19801981) were simply badged as Lancia Montecarlo. In the United States of America the First Series cars were marketed as the Scorpion alongside the rest of the Beta range. Scorpion was used because General Motors had already used the name Monte Carlo for one of their cars. The Scorpion name was a reference to Abarth. Number of Montecarlos built: 7595.
When Fiat acquired Lancia in 1969, the company had been without a Technical Director for a year, no successor having been appointed following the death of Antonio Fessia a year earlier. At the Betas launch late in 1972 Fiat chief Gianni Agnelli told journalists that Lancias output would be about 40,000 units in 1972 at a time when a volume of 100,000 was needed to cover the fixed costs involved in developing and building the cars. Lancias lack of profitability was also evidenced by the absence of replacement models under development at the time of the Fiat take-over, while the Lancia Fulvia, though much loved by enthusiasts, had been developed with little concern for making it cost-effective to produce: it had therefore been sold at a high price in correspondingly low volumes. The companys new owners objective with the new Beta was to retain the quality image (and resulting price premium) of existing Lancias, while minimising development time and production costs by using in-house Fiat group technology and parts as far as possible. The project adapted a well-regarded existing Fiat engine, fitted transversely and driving the front wheels in line with Fiats investment in this configuration during the previous decade. The gear box was a development of a transmission unit then being developed by Fiat-partner Citron for a forthcoming model of their own. Above all, and in contrast with the Fulvia, the Beta design was relatively inexpensive to produce in volumes significantly higher than those achieved by predecessor Lancia saloons.
The company chose the name Beta for a new vehicle to be launched in 1972. The choice of name symbolised a new beginning as it reflected the fact that the companys founder, Vincenzo Lancia (18811937), utilized letters of the Greek alphabet for his early vehicles such as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and so on. "Beta" had been used before, for Lancias 1908 car and again for a 1953 bus. Lancia had previously utilized the first letter of the Greek alphabet, Alpha, but this was not chosen for the new 1972 Lancia due to the obvious confusion it might cause with Alfa Romeo.
All versions of the car came with DOHC engines, five speed gearboxes, rack and pinion steering, independent suspension using MacPherson struts all round and disc braking on all four wheels. The front wheel drive models were available in a number of engine capacities ranging from 1.3 L to 2.0 L.
As with a number of previous front wheel drive Lancia models, the engine and gearbox were mounted on a subframe that bolted to the underside of the body. However, in the Beta the engine and gearbox were fitted transversely in line. This Fiat-inspired configuration not only enabled neat engine bay packaging, but also, by tilting the engine 20 degrees rearwards, the Lancia engineers achieved improved weight transfer over the driven wheels and towards the centre of the car, as well as lowering the centre of gravity. The rear-wheel drive Lancia Montecarlo employed a similar layout except the subframe was mounted at the rear.
On the front-wheel drive Betas, Lancia designed a particularly original independent rear suspension with MacPherson struts attached to parallel transverse links that pivoted on a centrally mounted cross member bolted to the underside of the floorpan. An anti-roll bar was fitted to the floorpan ahead of the rear struts with both ends of the bar trailing back to bolt to the rear struts on each side. This unique design went on to be used in later Lancia models. Unfortunately the design was never patented by Lancia, and consequently inspired similar rear suspension system layouts in other manufacturers' vehicles during the 1980s and 1990s.
The different models all underwent various revisions and improvements over the years. Power steering specially produced by the German company ZF became available on certain Left Hand Drive models and was also used on the Gamma. Electronic ignition became available in 1978. Automatic transmission became available the same year; the Beta was the first Lancia manufactured with an automatic transmission factory option. In 1981 power steering also became available on certain Right Hand Drive models. Also in that year a fuel-injected version of the 2.0 litre engine became available on certain models.
The unusual dashboard of the Trevi and third-series Berlina, with deeply recessed dials and controlsLate in the model's life Lancia released the Trevi VX, with a Roots-type supercharger fitted between the carburettor and low-compression two-litre engine; the Coupé VX and HPE VX followed soon after. These three variants were known as Volumex models and had the highest performance of all the road-going production Betas, with 135 bhp (101 kW) and substantially increased torque over the normal two-litre 200 Nm (148 lbft). The Coupé VX and HPE VX can be distinguished from the normal cars by the offset bulge on the hood which is required to clear the new air intake, a spoiler fitted below the front bumper and the rubber rear spoiler. They also have stiffer spring rates. Lancia produced 1272 Coupé VX, 2370 HPE VX and 3900 Trevi VX. Most were left-hand drive (only 186 right-hand drive HPEs and around 150 RHD Coupés were imported to the UK,however the car was also sold in some other RHD markets so exact RHD production remains unknown). Only one right-hand drive Trevi VX was made.
For some the Beta was not a Lancia but rather a Fiat. However, it should be noted that Lancia were allowed a surprising amount of autonomy from Fiat in the development of the Beta. The levels of technology in the Beta described in the previous section also highlight the sheer amount of bespoke engineering that went into the then new Lancia.
The main reason for the Fiat label was that despite its unique Lancia chassis, suspension, interior and bodywork, the Beta used a Fiat-based engine. It is important to note that the Fiat DOHC engine, originally designed by Aurelio Lampredi, who built engines for Ferrari until Fiat employed him, was one of the most advanced 4-cylinder engines in Europe at that time. It continued in production well into the 1990s and, in highly developed form, was used in performance road cars such as the Lancia Delta Integrale and Fiat Coupé.
The Lancia engineers made changes to the engines fitted to the Beta range. These included a bespoke cylinder head which incorporated hemispherical combustion chambers, altered valve timing, new inlet and exhaust manifolds as well as different carburation. These modifications resulted in higher horse power and torque figures for the engines as used in the Beta. In addition the mounting points on the engine block were different to allow for the transverse installation as opposed to the longitudinal installation utilised by the rear wheel drive Fiats. For these reasons the engines are not interchangeable between Betas and contemporary Fiats such as the Fiat 132.
The Beta was very well received by the motoring press and public when launched. The various models were praised for their performance and their good handling and roadholding. They were widely regarded as a "driver's car" with plenty of character. The Beta was competitively priced in export markets due to a weak Italian currency at that time, and managed to become the highest ever selling Lancia model up to that point.
Unfortunately a combination of poor quality steel (allegedly Russian steel supplied to Fiat in return for building the Lada factory, a claim that has never been proven, but is still widely circulated; it is far more likely that the problems with the metal itself had more to do with the prolonged strikes that plagued Italy at that time than with the metal's origin), poor rust prevention techniques (typical of almost all automobile manufacturers in the 1970s), and inadequate water drainage channels led to the Beta gaining a reputation for being rust-prone, particularly the 1st Series vehicles (built from 197275). The corrosion problems could be structural; for instance where the subframe carrying the engine and gearbox was bolted to the underside of the car. The box section to which the rear of the subframe was mounted could corrode badly causing the subframe to become loose. Although tales of subframes dropping out of vehicles were simply not true, a vehicle with a loose subframe would fail a technical inspection. In actuality, the problem affected almost exclusively 1st Series saloon models and not the Coupé, HPE, Spider or Montecarlo versions.
In the UK (Lancia's largest export market at the time) the company listened to the complaints from its dealers and customers and commenced a campaign to buy back vehicles affected by the subframe problem. Some of these vehicles were 6 years old or older and belonged to 2nd or 3rd owners. Customers were invited to present their cars to a Lancia dealer for an inspection. If their vehicle was affected by the subframe problem, the customer was offered a part exchange deal to buy another Lancia or Fiat car. The cars that failed the inspection were scrapped.
Giovanni Michelotti produced three concept cars on Beta mechanicals. Two were sedans based on the Berlinaone unusual in having four gull-wing doors -- the other was an open top two-seater based on the Coupé.
In 1980, Giorgetto Giugiaro built a concept car on Montecarlo mechanicals, called the Medusa. Unusually for a mid-engined car it had four doors, and the body was shaped to have a very low drag coefficient for the time.
Lancia built one very special variant of the Beta themselves. The twin-engined Trevi Bimotore was used for tests related to Lancia's new four-wheel drive rally cars; it was powered by one Volumex engine under the bonnet driving the front wheels, and another in the back driving the rear wheels, with air scoops in the rear doors. The two gearboxes were linked, and an electronically controlled throttle replaced the mechanical system so the two engines worked together.
There are few records of Lancias ever being assembled outside Italy but, exceptionally, Betas were. It was announced in August 1976 that SEAT would commence Spanish production of the Lancia Beta. Three years later Beta production by SEAT indeed commenced at the company's recently acquired Pamplona plant, though only the Coupe and HPE lift-back versions were included. The arrangement was short lived because of a falling out between Fiat, Lancia's parent company, and the Spanish government over the increasingly urgent need for investment to upgrade the SEAT range. In 1981 Volkswagen became SEAT's major auto-industry partner, and under the new regime the plant that had assembled the Lancia Beta and SEAT 124 switched to building the Volkswagen Polo.

Type 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Small family car …Ardea Appia Fulvia  
Large family car …Aprilia     Flavia   Beta
Executive car   Aurelia Flaminia 2000 Gamma
Coupé       Fulvia Coupé / Sport  
        Beta Coupé / Spider / Montecarlo
  Aurelia Flaminia   Gamma Coupé
Sports car         Stratos  
Racing car     D23/D24 D50      
Type 1980s 1990s 2000s
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Supermini   A112* Y10* Y Ypsilon
Small family car Delta I Delta II   Delta III
Large family car Beta   Prisma Dedra Lybra  
Beta Trevi      
Executive car Gamma Thema Kappa Thesis
Mini MPV       Musa
Large MPV     Zeta Phedra
Racing
car
  037 Delta S4      
  LC1 LC2      

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