Paul Rose shares his thoughts on a boyhood favourite, the Lancia Montecarlo.
When I was growing up, one of my favourite things was my set of Sports Car Top Trump Cards. It was a great boredom buster and started many a conversation about the ultimate cars to own. Needless to say, the stronger cards were usually the Italian ones, with speed and acceleration being a feature, rather than reliability. This introduced me to the delights and designs of Italian cars, and names such as De Tomaso, Bizzarrini, Lamborghini, and Ferrari. These designs were just so desirable and it seemed like I would never be able to see any of them close up or driven in anger. Events like the Goodwood Festival of Speed and the Silverstone Classic have rectified that, and they have lost none of their appeal as a result.
The one car which always stood out for me though was the Lancia Montecarlo. Its name was truly glamourous and conjured up promises of a luxury lifestyle, but it was the design which was iconic. Italian car design at the time was all about the curves but here was something which was strikingly simple in its straight lines. It stood out against all of the competition and was a big influence on many an 80’s car design. This was a mid-engine, mini-Ferrari so it seemed.
However, it is apparently a terrible car, with the typical rust problems common with a lot of cars ofthe period, including not a very nice VW a friend had, not very sporting handling, not being very quick, and brakes which either worked far too well or not at all. Which type of brakes you got depended apparently on which year you bought the car. It never took off in America, partly because they chose to call it the Scorpion, rather than the Montecarlo; a missed opportunity. So it was on sale for a number of years but never truly successful.
Today they are a pretty rare sight but they have lost none of their visual appeal. In fact they achieved some degree of sporting success when they morphed into the 037, the last rear wheel drive car to win the World Rally Championship. So would I want to own one, well the heart would say yes but the head would say don’t be so stupid. Anyway, the saying goes ‘never meet your heroes’ and recent experiences driving an Aston Martin DB9 and a Lamborghini Gallardo have been very disappointing. So I don’t think that a Montecarlo could ever live up to my boyhood expectations; as for the Ferraris I have driven, now that is a very different story…..