1956 Lancia Aurelia B24 SpiderSOLD

RM Auctions - Monterey Sports & Classic Car Auction - August 16-18

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Estimate: $375,000-$450,000 US

AUCTION RESULTS: Lot was Sold at a price of $550,000

118bhp, 2451cc V6 overhead valve 60 degree V6 engine with rear mounted clutch and four-speed manual transmission, sliding pillar independent front suspension and trailing arm and swing axle rear suspension with four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes, inboard at rear. Wheelbase: 96.5"

Lancia is a storied marque. The firm ’ s prewar cars – the diLambda and the Astura, for example – were sought after by the leading coachbuilders of the day. Competition included Alfa Romeo and Isotta Fraschini, along with Rolls-Royce, Bentley, and the other continental fine car makers. When Italy ’ s leaders sought a prestigious parade car, it was Lancia that was given the assignment – just as Mercedes-Benz was for German politicians. The war, however, all but eliminated the company ’ s manufacturing capability. Allied bombing destroyed Lancia ’ s plants and – with tooling and patterns all lost – gave the company the opportunity to start with a clean slate. At the same time, the death of Vincenzo Lancia just before the war had left the company in the hands of his widow and his son Gianni, a recent engineering graduate. His young mind, combined with the talented team at Lancia and the opportunity to start fresh led to what many have considered the most technically advanced of the postwar crop of automobiles. The engine was a remarkable design, the world ’ s first production 60 degree V6. An overhead valve design, it combined high specific power output and an almost unheard of level of refinement, running quietly and almost without vibration. In another first, the car was fitted with a new type of independent rear suspension, a modified De-Dion design with trailing arms and rear half shafts. A rear-mounted transaxle was driven by a two piece propeller shaft. The clutch was in unit with the gearbox, and the rear brakes were inboard. The result was exceptional fore and after balance, while concentrating the rear weight in the center of the car kept unsprung weight to a minimum. This radical new drivetrain was mounted to a body of welded unit construction. Compared to traditional body-on- frame construction, Lancia ’ s unibody system provided a far stiffer platform, giving an otherwise impossible level of precision to the steering and suspension. Engineering aside, the result was immediately clear to the driver. No other car offered such light and precise handling. The new Aurelia – as it was called – was a truly revolutionary design, combining high levels of handling, performance, and luxury in a single compact package. First offered as the B10, and introduced at the Turin Motor Show in 1950, the car created a sensation in automotive circles – it was an engineering tour de force, packaged in a delightful saloon with engaging coachwork by Pininfarina. Just one year later came the debut of the B20GT, a lovely two passenger coupe designed by Boano but built by Pininfarina. It was mechanically identical to the B10, other than an increase in engine displacement to two liters. If there had been any doubt about the sporting capabilities of Lancia ’ s new Aurelia, the B20 GT quashed them immediately by winning the legendary Mille Miglia outright – with a margin of victory that put Lancia front and center on the world stage. It would prove to be only the first of many victories as privateer racers around the world discovered the competitive potential of the new Aurelia. Other noteworthy victories included the grueling Targa Florio in 1952, and the 1954 Monte Carlo Rally. By 1954, the time had come to offer a truly open car. Just as Ferrari had discovered, the emerging American market offered enormous potential, but demanded even more power, as well as open coachwork better suited to the warm climates of Florida, Texas, and most of all, California. The result was truly inspired - the B24S Spider ( ‘ S ’ for sinistra or left, referring to the left drive chassis). Built to a design by Pininfarina, it was one of the most beautiful open cars of the time, easily the equal of the Ferraris of the period. The car ’ s bold grille visibly established the family identity, but everything else was new. An aggressive hood scoop signaled the presence of the most powerful Aurelia that Lancia had ever built, fitted with a 118 bhp, 2.5 liter version of the now legendary V6. The front fenders flowed gracefully into the rear body, while softly curved rear fenders with mild wheel flares gave the car a restrained but highly sporting feel. Most interesting of all was the stunning wrap-around windshield, which was made possible by the truly open body, with its removable side glass units and a well-fitted convertible top. It looked absolutely wonderful sitting – top down, of course – under a row of palm trees in Miami, San Diego, or even Monaco. It is interesting to note that the cabriolet, introduced in 1956 as the successor to the Spyder, is a completely different car, with no two panels shared between them. Built in far greater numbers, the cabriolet ’ s longer wheelbase, heavier coachwork and more conservative design has relegated these otherwise quite desirable cars to a distant second place in the eyes of collectors today. As good as the Aurelias were on the streets or race courses of the world, they had one failing. Their advanced specifications, semi-custom bodies, and superb quality made them expensive to build, and historians agree that Lancia lost money on every one. Financial problems combined with Italy ’ s ubiquitous labor issues nearly bankrupted the company, and the result of all these factors is that relatively few were built – a total of perhaps 5,000 cars of all models over nearly ten years. Rarest of all is the B24S America Spyder. Although the factory claimed 159 examples built, most historians believe the actual number may have been much less. Furthermore, about twenty cars were lost in the sinking of the Andrea Doria. With survival rates of similar cars at less than a third of production, it is quite likely that two dozen or less remain. Certainly, it is true that they are rarely offered for sale. A review of RM Auctions ’ archives reveals that none have ever been offered – although – for example - we have offered no less than six Ferrari Spyder Californias within the past ten years.

One of the reasons for the low survival rate was the combination of the steel unit body and contemporary Italian build practices of the time – involving little if any efforts towards corrosion resistance. The example offered here is one of these rare survivors, having lived all its life in the forgiving California climate.

In 1992, it was cosmetically restored by Lancia expert Franco DePiero in Italy. The owner at the time was president of the U.S. Lancia club and an avid vintage racer. He had his full-time mechanic perform the complete rebuild of the Lancia ’ s matching numbers drivetrain at his garage in Sears Point, California. During the restoration, the original Weber carburetor was replaced by a period correct Nardi twin-carburetor conversion set- up – which, along with the Borrani center lock wire wheels and the signature Nardi steering wheel, completes the highly desirable Nardi package.

This lovely Lancia B24S was painted in a correct dark Navy Blue and is equipped with removable side glass, which was painstakingly restored. When removed, they are easily stored in the trunk along with the car ’ s original lug wrench and jack. The convertible top was also replaced and despite being a fifties design is very simple to erect and seals nicely – and when lowered disappears completely from view.

Today, this remarkable Spyder remains in high point condition, a testimonial to both the quality of the car before restoration, and caliber of the restoration itself. Only minor evidence of aging can be found upon close examination, but with careful use the car will mellow gracefully, gradually acquiring the patina of a lovely, untouched original.

These stunning Spiders are highly prized by their intensely loyal owners. They offer a nearly ideal combination of desirable characteristics: they are fast, with delightfully nimble handling, quick and responsive steering, and undeniable grace and beauty. Their racing bloodlines and thoroughly sporting manner makes them not only eligible for, but ideal candidates to participate in, any important driving event worldwide.

They are seldom, if ever offered. Within the U.S, only a handful survive in this quality, and this will be the very first one offered for public sale in more than twenty years. The competition for it may be expected to be intense – exceeded, perhaps, only by the rewards the car will offer the winning bidder.

Please note that this lot's year is a 1956 Lancia.

Reference Number 10125

as of 6/1/2007

Car 1956 Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider
VIN B24S1131 
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