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Lancia Fulvia

Top Scorer Hurst Published: 1st Apr 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fast Facts

  • Best model: Series II 1.3 coupe
  • Worst model: Series 1 1.1 saloon
  • Budget buy: Series II 1.3 saloon
  • OK for unleaded?: Yes
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): 4090 x 1570
  • Spares situation: Good
  • DIY ease?: Generally okay
  • Club support: Good
  • Appreciating asset?: Yes
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Good buy, it’s a cracker
Delightful interior was even better than an Alfa although they don’t wear well and trim parts are hard to obtain Delightful interior was even better than an Alfa although they don’t wear well and trim parts are hard to obtain
Saloon goes much better than it looks and is the more practical Saloon goes much better than it looks and is the more practical
Superb narrow V4 but can cost £5000 to overhaul. Water pumps are suspect Superb narrow V4 but can cost £5000 to overhaul. Water pumps are suspect
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Annabel Hurst in Department S had one of the best cars in the TV series – a Lancia Fulvia. Why not score with this often forgotten classic, too?

Pros & Cons

Great to drive, coupe looks, beautifully engineered, very practical
Rust-prone, best models costly, some parts hard to get and expensive, some DIY maintenance awkward

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.


Even by today’s standards the Fulvia is great to drive. It’s brisk rather than genuinely quick; the 1216cc engine offers 0-60 in 15.7 seconds and a 100mph top speed for example. With double wishbones at the front and servo assisted, hydraulic Girling disc brakes all round (inferior Dunlops on S1s), the Fulvia handles and stops exceptionally well – helped by that all-important low kerb weight of course.

Basing the Fulvia on the Flavia Coupe’s platform proved a masterstroke, as it was these mechanicals which produced such fine roadholding and handling. Even though the Fulvia’s engine is mounted longitudinally with the gearbox behind, the wheelbase, track and overall dimensions along with optimum weight distribution conspire to give a lower centre of gravity and superb handling characteristics.

The result of such a great design is an almost complete lack of skittishness, while the front-wheel-drive offers almost neutral behaviour even in the wet. The sophisticated front suspension counterbalances the relatively primitive rear set-up; a rigid axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs and telescopic dampers. It was an odd choice for such a sporting car maker, but there aren’t many classics available which can deliver such usability and practicality with so much fun. The saloon, whilst having no sporting pretentions, retains much of the handling prowess of the coupe and is a very refined and comfortable drive; it’s quite capable of lifting its skirts and showing a surprising turn of speed although by current standards these Lancias are not exactly great road burners.

If you want the same satisfaction but in a more practical package then don’t ignore the Fulvia saloon. What it lacks in style it makes up for in practicality.


Buying a Fulvia needn’t be costly, with saloons starting at just £2500 for something usable.

Equivalent 1.3 coupes start at around £4000 and go up to £8000 for something nice; Zagatos are worth about ten per cent more. The 1.6-litre cars fetch up to 50 per cent extra depending on condition, but the Series 1 HF models are now moving into collectors’ territory with Fanalones now fetching €50,000 in Europe. Fulvia saloons are generally a bit cheaper due to their lack of popularity. In a 1968 road test Motor called it a car for the connoisseur – and you certainly had to be one, because at £1250 the four-door GT (only a 1.2, remember) cost £1250 – almost £200 over a faster MK2 Cortina Lotus. However the testers thought the Italian’s individuality and engineering justifi ed its lofty price. All Fulvias do in our mind – but now they are bargains.


Because the Fulvia’s chassis was so well designed and set up by the factor y, most people don’t bother modifying the brakes or suspension unless they’re going racing.

Removing individual leafs from the springs will lower the ride height and fi tting modern adjustable shock absorbers can improve handling, but those who don’t know what they’re doing can end up going overboard and spoiling the balance for which the Fulvia is well known so just making sure it’s up to spec is ample. The same goes for wider tyres; it’s best not to fit anything more than 185mm on 1.6 Fulvias and 175mm on 1.2 and 1.3 cars.

The brakes are very good in standard form, which is why most owners go no further than fi tting harder, more modern pads. The brakes of the Series I aren’t so good, but while it’s possible to swap to the later system, it’s very involved because the handbrake is a completely different design. Anyone taking part in historic motorsport is also banned from making such changes.

Engine upgrades are more common, such as more generous carburation. Junking the original Solexes for twin Webers or Dell’Ortos is popular, with the relevant inlet manifold typically costing £200 or so. Tubular exhaust manifolds are also popular, at around £600, while spicier camshafts are the next step. Piper, Kent and others offer suitable shafts between £250 and £400. To prolong the life of the clutch, whether an engine is standard or not, it’s worth fi tting one from an Uno Turbo, which is stronger than the original.

What To Look For

  • All Fulvias can rust very badly, so pay particular attention to the front subframe and its rear mounts, steel boot lids, the door panels and the rear panel when vetting an example.
  • Many of the Lancia’s most serious rot areas are well hidden from view, particularly the rear subframe legs and mounts, which is why a crawl and poke underneath is essential.
  • The Fulvia was extremely well engineered mechanically, and if properly serviced, things tend to just keep going sweetly. The quirky V4 engine is DIY friendly and holds few horrors apart from duff water pumps.
  • The original carbs also wear, but they can be swapped for modern Dell’orto or Weber alternatives for better performance, and a range of performance cams are also easily available. A professional full V4 rebuild costs around £5000, so listen for worn bearings, which rumble and check for decent oil pressure.
  • All Fulvias were fi tted with a manual gearbox, the Series I cars with four ratios and others with fi ve. All of them survive well, but the fi rst sign of wear will be weak second-gear synchro (a common ailment of Alfas, too), so check for baulking as you swap ratios.
  • Dunlop brakes (similar to Jaguar set up) were used on the original Fulvias; from the Series II there were Girling items fi tted instead. As with most classic cars, lack of use causes the most problems, as the system tends to seize up; the front discs are also costly to replace.
  • The biggest hassle with Series II brakes is the separate handbrake system. This dedicated set-up requires a special tool to remove the dedicated shoes, meaning owners usually leave it alone and don’t carry out any maintenance, which can result in a £200 bill for replacement linings and an overhaul.
  • Make sure the switchgear all works properly as it’s now hard to fi nd on a new basis, although used bits are generally available. The switchgear is generally robust and the electrical system is usually pretty good too; the Fulvia doesn’t suffer from many of the electrical gremlins that plagued other Italian cars of the period, although many faults can be traced to the usual poor earths and aged contacts.
  • The front suspension is durable, although the ball joints, dampers and bearings eventually wear out. The rear suspension isn’t so tough however, as the leaf springs sag with age. . The standard heater is only average at best but if the unit doesn’t work at all it can be a dash out job to remove on the Series II cars.
  • Spare part availability is fairly good via Lancia specialists – the most expensive bits being original carburettor parts, new water pumps (some £100), replacement timing chains (£70), wheel bearings (more than £100 each) and engine bearings (£250 or so for a full set).
  • The major body panels for the coupe are now available again at reasonable prices, although saloon panels are very rare. Also dedicated trim parts, especially early hub caps, are hard to fi nd. If you see one cheap enough, buy a spare Fulvia that you can cannibalise.
  • Interior trim is also hard to fi nd. Most Series I and II cars featured vinyl interiors, and this gives few problems. Leather was also offered and this tends to be less durable; it’s rare though so you probably won’t find a car that features it. Series III Fulvias featured cloth trim and this isn’t very tough but there’s nothing especially tricky about retrimming these cars.

Three Of A Kind

Alfa Romeo Giulia 105-Series
Alfa Romeo Giulia 105-Series
Like the Fulvia, this was offered in saloon and coupÈ forms, while for two seasons only there was also a convertible offered, the ultra-rare GTC. Saloons are an acquired taste, but they’re great to drive thanks to the lusty twin-cam four in the nose; the coupÈs are more readily available though and with 2-litre power (2000 GTV) they can show many moderns a thing or two.
Fiat 124
Fiat 124
Once again there’s a choice of saloon or coupe, with an estate thrown in for good measure – and a sleek and sexy Spider too. All are rare in the UK now, especially in right-hand drive form, but they’re worth seeking out for their advanced engineering – even the saloon is great to drive with its all-disc brakes and decent suspension. The coupe is unusual; prepare for a long search for good ones however...
Opel Manta Type A
Opel Manta Type A
Opel’s response to the Capri, the Manta A was pure Ascona underneath. That meant a choice of 1584cc and 1897cc overhead-cam engines, while there was also an 1196cc unit for Europe. There were even turbocharged editions offered in the UK, but survivors are very rare now. it doesn’t matter though; even standard Mantas are great to drive, look great and they’re practical too.


There’s little to touch a Fulvia, although a few other Italian classics come close in some areas. You can’t compare these cars with anything from Britain however, but suspicion of Latin machinery insures many enthusiasts stay away from the Fulvia even though it’s well supported by clubs and specialists. Don’t make the same mistake; try one out and you’ll see why this is the afficionado’s classic.

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