Before Lancia dominated the rally world and blew the world away with the likes of the stunning Stratos, the Italian carmaker was renowned for some very stylish and elegant cars, thanks to a certain Pinin Farina…like the Appia Coupe – the high-class coachbuilt car.
Italian cars—and Lancia cars in particular—have always been distinguished by their technical refinement and elegance. Their success owes much to Italian coachbuilders, most notably Battista “Pinin” Farina from Turin.
A business associate and personal friend of Vincenzo Lancia, Pinin Farina created some of the brand’s most iconic cars, including the Appia Coupé. Built around the compact narrow-angle V4 engine, a design favoured by the Turin-based carmaker, the Lancia Appia was based on its big sister, the Aurelia, from which it inherited its styling and elegant profile. Besides producing three Appia series in the ten-year period from 1953 to 1963, from 1956 Lancia prepared numerous chassis for Italian coachbuilders to make versions with special bodywork, from coupés and convertibles to luxury saloons and “Giardinette” (small station wagons).
The special chassis destined for coachbuilders were equipped with a tuned-up version of the 1100 cc engine that developed 53 hp at 4800 rpm, coupled to a four-speed gearbox with shift lever control. Just like the mass-produced Appias, they had independent front suspension, rigid rear axle suspension and four drum brakes.
Some of these cars were included in Lancia’s sales catalogue and marketed through its dealer network: Zagato produced lightweight and aerodynamic coupés with typically race-oriented features, Viotti created a “Giardinetta”, Vignale a spacious 2-door “Lusso” (luxury) saloon and a convertible, whereas Pinin Farina developed an elegant 2+2 coupé.
Although the mass-produced Appia saloon was clearly modelled on the supremely elegant Aurelia, the coupé by Pinin Farina was inspired by the Flaminia, Lancia’s new flagship model.
The front end, characterised by a long, dynamic bonnet scoop and wings that ended in round headlights, recalled the lines of the flagship Flaminia, while the rear end was noticeable for the classic American-style fins, a common feature of cars produced during the period.
The original interior was distinguished by a large glazed area and a contrastinggreenhouse. The roof was supported by distinctive V-shaped pillars with wide chrome trim, resembling the hard top or closed hood of a spider. The elegant and luxurious interior also featured a rear seat bench with two seats for occasional use.
More elegant than sporty, the Appia Coupé Pinin Farina was much loved by the jet set and refined female drivers in particular. The actress Sylva Koscina appeared behind the wheel of an Appia coupé in Luigi Zampa’s 1960 comedy film “Il Vigile” (The Traffic Policeman), which also starred Alberto Sordi. The vehicle apparently belonged to the actress, who claimed that her Appia Pinin Farina was the only car she could drive.