Every petrolhead loves a stunning drop top, so this week in our ‘Throwback Thursday’ section, we raid the FCA Heritage vaults and take a look at the Lancia Aurelia B24, dubbed by many as ‘the most beautiful “open-top” ever’…
The ’50s saw the reinforcement of the Turin-based constructor’s world-famous blend of elegance and sportiness The Lancia style was beautifully expressed in the memorable Aurelia B20 GT, a berlinetta with refined, powerful mechanics, from which the splendid Aurelia B24 Spider was derived.
In 1954 Pinin Farina – who had already helped to shape the lines of the Aurelia Granturismo – “dressed” the mechanics of the B20 to create an equally elegant spider, with lines that immediately proved a great success on the American market. By shortening the frame of the B20 4th series and with a few modifications to its 6-cylinder 2,451 cc engine, needed to fit it underneath a much lower bonnet, one of the most beautiful spiders of all time was born.
In just 1955, a total of 240 Aurelia B24 Spider cars were built: 59 with right-hand-drive and 181 with left-hand (with code B24S, the “S” standing for “sinistra”, or “left”). The Spider sported a long bonnet scoop and dual split “wing” bumperettes at the front, accentuating the classic shield grille, the most emblematic Lancia feature. The car’s basic layout was very original: the cockpit was virtually central, between the extended boot and the bonnet. The elegant B24 Spider’s distinguishing characteristics also included itslow doors, leaving room for a high sill with a stylish chrome trim line. The design’s purity was further heightened by the absence of external door handles. On the inside, the dashboard carried three circular instruments, with the large speedometer in the middle, above the steering column. Another exquisite feature was the fine wooden steering-wheel with three aluminium spokes.
The 118 HP engine, tuned down to 108-110 HP for the American market, gave the magnificent rear-wheel drive Turin-built spider, with four-speed gearbox, a top speed of 180 km/h.
In 1956, with the advent of the 5th and 6th series of the B20, the B24 inherited the engine upgrade from 110 to 120 HP, with changes to the bodywork: the Convertible version was also launched.
The bonnet air scoops became more slender and the American-style panoramic windscreen was replaced by a more conventional type with almost vertical A-pillars. The deeper doors, now with handle, were fitted with adjustable windows and wing windows.The bumpers were also modified, as the split bumperettes were replaced with continuous, more wrap-around bumpers, like those on the Coupé B20 GT. The dashboard was simplified and now contained only two instruments, either side of the steering column.
As for the Spider cars, the Convertible chassis numbers followed that of the “sister” B20 units, and the car went out of production in 1958, after 150 units of the Aurelia B24 5th series and 371 of the 6th series had been built: all 512 only with left-hand drive.The great popularity enjoyed by this Lancia, rated one of the most elegant “open-tops” of all time, was reinforced by its use in film.
In Dino Risi’s 1962 masterpiece “The Easy Life”, a young Vittorio Gassman drives an Aurelia B24 Convertibile with dash and daring throughout the movie, making it one of the stars of the plot right through to the dramatic finale.