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Lancia Monte Carlo

Lancia Monte Carlo Published: 26th Jul 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Lancia Monte Carlo
Lancia Monte Carlo
Lancia Monte Carlo
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Great looking, fine driving if sadly poorly executed at launch, the Beta Monte Carlo has matured into a cut-price Ferrari Dino

One of the great things about Fiat is that a variety of associated sporting versions can be occasionally likened to a Ferrari under another name. Cars like the Lancia’s Monte Carlo, for one.

With its pretty Pininfarina shape, decent performance, mid-engine handling, this Lancia is rarer than a Ferrari 308, but so much cheaper to buy and run and, crucially, just as much fun.

Lancia’s Beta Monte Carlo, to give this budget supercar its full title, is the bigger and faster brother to Fiat’s X1/9 (featured elsewhere in this issue-ed) and was indeed initially to be called the Fiat X1/20. The Monte of the 1970s is a glorious mix of the good and poor, something only the Italians can get away with – in this case dicky brakes and a dodgy build quality.

It is not as classy as the fabulous Fulvia, nor does it have the all-wheel drive spiritedness of an Integrale and yet arm yourself with a good one and you’ll savour a Ferrari-like owner experience for the price of our MGB. It came about as a result of Fiat needing to replace its 1960’s 850 Coupé and Spider; it had two projects by the turn of the decade, the X1/9 and this bigger alternative, the X1/20.

Dates to remember

1975 The new car is launched at the Geneva Motor Show. By now, however, Fiat had lost all interest in the idea and so farmed it out to Lancia as the X/19 was doing so well.

Like the Fiat X1/9 on which it was based upon, the more upmarket Montecarlo was a mid-engined two-seater sports car. It shared the Beta saloon’s engine, transmission and all-round MacPherson strut suspension set-up.

1976 Imports start in the US, UK cars following a year later both differing from the original model, seen in our main picture, as they don’t have the solid ‘rear buttress look’ (aping the Dino 246GT).

1978 Production suspended, to sort out those infamous, over sensitive lock-prone brakes.

1980 Relaunched as Series 2 with better brakes, retuned chassis and 14in wheels while the engine gains a Magneti Marelli electronic ignition system but discontinued in ’84.

Buying advice

Look at as many as you can, as they vary greatly in standard. Beware of fresh paint as it may hide lots of filler. It’s reckoned post ‘81 cars are better rust-proofed and thanks to its layout didn’t suffer from the infamous Beta rust scandal but the best-known rot spots are the sills and suspension attachment points at the bulkheads. You’ll need to get underneath to check.

The transmissions are okay, although like all Italians lose synchromesh. Real bugbear are the torturous linkages, which all wear – if browncoloured, then they are the originals. As you would in an X1/9, check the clutch: it’s not easy to replace and the hydraulics are just as iffy.

Early cars used Fiat X1/9 hubs and these are sealed (welded) items. Leading specialists modify them, so inserts can be fitted and the brake servo only worked on the front. Most cars have since been sorted by now but chassis geometry must be set up accurately – a job only for Montecarlo specialists really.

What makes this classic so special to drive and own?

Faster than the X1/9, the Fiat twin cam unit provided decent performance to make things fun; Autocar timed one 0-60mph in just under ten seconds and it went on to almost 120mph. Handling is typically mid-engined and a delight if properly set up and running on quality tyres. It’s safe and secure – less so the brakes… which would lock all too easily. At the re-launch, Lancia had disposed of a servo in favour of bigger 9.9in discs. It’s a noisy car (much like the Europa) but usefully roomier than an X1/9 and easier to get in and out of. Plus you look good in one!

Best buys & prices

Only 7500 were made, probably just over 100 are left in the UK – speak to the Lancia Beta Montecarlo Consortium (motecarlo.org.uk) and Lanica Motor Club (lanciamc.co.uk) for their whereabouts and top specialists. Condition counts the most but like-for-like the S2 cars is the better sorted. Price-wise you’re look at £15K plus for the best and £2000 for projects if you are brave; parts are hard to source and you’ll never see a return for you toil and outlay. Don’t ignore the conventional front-engined Beta Spider (below); nice at half the price



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