The Lancia Fulvia is one of the finest cars to come out of Italy in my humble opinion, it has style, classic looks and the real WOW factor without the need to ‘jump up and down’ screaming look at me with garish paint jobs or big wings, unlike other cars from the 70’s. For this week’s ‘Throwback Thursday’ blog we flick through the FCA Heritage archives and take a look at the 1.6 Coupé HF version of the fabulous Fulvia…
By winning the Monte Carlo Rally in 1972, the Lancia Fulvia Coupé 1.6 HF stoked the Italian public’s interest and passion for rallying, laying the foundations for a magnificent succession of Lancia victories. The Fulvia’s success was continued by the Stratos, Rally 037 and Delta S4, culminating in the Delta Group A’s record-breaking run of titles.
Ownership of Lancia transferred to Carlo Pesenti in 1959, following which the brand’s Technical Director Antonio Fessia successfully ushered in a new era of mass-produced front-wheel drive cars beginning with the Flavia in the early 1960s. A professor at the Polytechnic University of Turin, Fessia was a staunch advocate of this technical solution, which was innovative at the time but would later become the most widely adopted configuration by all car manufacturers to this day.
It was customary for Lancia to launch cars with a larger or smaller sister model, as in the case of the Aprilia/Ardea and Aurelia/Appia. So in 1963 the Flavia was followed by its “little sister” the Fulvia, which combined innovation and tradition in its technical solutions. The Fulvia also adopted the new front-wheel drive setup but with a narrow V 4-cylinder engine in keeping with Lancia convention. Four efficient disc brakes, another rarity for the time, underlined the excellence of the equipment, which borrowed heavily from the Flavia.
The Fulvia Coupé was created two years later from the pen of designer Piero Castagnero. Drawing inspiration from the contours of Riva motorboats, the then manager of the Lancia Style Centre designed an elegant 2+2 sports coupé with a bright interior, featuring large windows and a much more raked windscreen and rear window compared with the saloon version. The first Fulvia Coupé was fitted with a 4-cylinder 1216 cc engine producing 80 hp, which was soon raised to 1.3 litres and subsequently to 1.6 litres. The model’s defining elegance and class didn’t prevent Lancia’s factory racing team Squadra Corse HF Lancia from using it in competitions, particularly in rallies.
The acronym HF stood for High Fidelity. After the great racing successes of Gianni Lancia in the 1950s, the Lancia sports team was relaunched in February 1963, almost as a private initiative by loyal enthusiasts of the Turin-based brand, because Fessia’s engineering approach was not conducive to competitions. The team was headed by Cesare Fiorio, team driver and son of the brand’s then chief of public relations Sandro. The budding young manager would go on to mastermind great successes for Lancia, Fiat and Abarth in rally and endurance championships in the years that followed, before being appointed sporting director of the Ferrari Formula One team in 1989.
The Fulvia Coupé spawned the HF versions, which were built for racing and had a more spartan trim with no bumpers, aluminium doors and front/rear bonnets, and tuned-up engines. The first HF was equipped with a 1216 cc engine boosted to 88 hp and a four-speed gearbox (435 units from 1966 to 1967). It was followed by the 1.3 HF with flared wheel arches and an output of 101 hp (882 units between 1968 and 1969, with later ones trialling a five-speed gearbox). In 1969 came the 1.6 HF, nicknamed “Fanalone” (or “Fanalona”) meaning “big headlamps”, on account of its oversized headlights. It produced 115 hp (130 hp in the 1016 version) and 1258 units were built, plus another 20 chassis for the Squadra Corse team. The Fulvia Coupé 1600 HF second series did away with the aluminium parts and was mostly produced in the Lusso (“Luxury”) version, with a total of 3690 units produced from 1970 to 1973.
The Fulvia Coupé made its racing début in the 1965 Tour de Corse, but the model’s crowning glory came in the 1972 Monte Carlo Rally with Sandro Munari and Mario Mannucci’s career-defining victory in their No. 14 Lancia Fulvia Coupé 1.6 HF.
The Fulvia Coupé was an elegant car favoured by women, including those who raced competitively. It is perhaps no coincidence that one of the first victories of a Fulvia Coupé 1.3 HF was achieved by an all-female crew, which is more of a rarity now than it was back then. At the 1968 Sestriere Rally the irrepressible Pat Moss—kid sister of the celebrated British racing driver Sir Stirling Moss—and Swedish co-driver Elisabeth Nyström took the chequered flag ahead of another three Fulvia HF cars in the expert hands of official team drivers Harry Källström, Sergio Barbasio and Ove Andersson. This was no flash in the pan: a few weeks earlier Pat Moss had finished second in the gruelling Rally Sanremo, part of the European Championship (at a time when the World Rally Championship did not yet exist), leaving behind not only her team-mates but also French rivals in the formidable Alpine sports coupé.
Practically all the 1.2 and 1.3 HF cars were painted in a dark red shade called Amaranto Montebello, with a blue-on-yellow longitudinal stripe (the heraldic colours of Turin) on the bonnet, roof and boot lid. The 1.6 HF initially sported the same livery, although later models were mostly finished in Corsa Red. And it was this red livery, with the bonnet painted matte black to minimise reflections and “LANCIA-ITALIA” emblazoned across the front, that distinguished the most famous Fulvia of all: the fabled 1600 HF bearing the race number 14, which triumphed at the Rallye Automobile de Monte-Carlo in 1972, taming more powerful and advanced rivals in the legendary special stage at Col de Turini on 28 January 1972.
Battered by rain, wind and snow, the French team threw in the towel, while the German rivals paid the price for equipping their overpowered cars with rear-wheel drive. On the icy hairpin bends of the Turini mountain pass road, the “Fulvietta” driven by Munari/Mannucci proved unbeatable thanks to its impressive power-to-weight ratio and the greater manoeuvrability ensured by front wheel drive. Team victory was also secured by the contributions of Lampinen/Andreasson in fourth place and Sergio Barbasio in sixth, alongside navigator Pierino Sodano. It was a memorable night that came towards the end of the Fulvia’s long and decorated career, after it had already been in production for years: the first victories actually dated back to 1969 with Barbasio in the Elba Rally and Harry Källström in Spain and in the RAC Rally in England. However, that 1972 Monte Carlo triumph was an extraordinary success that had a regenerative effect on the whole Lancia brand, boosting sales and prolonging the life of the Fulvia Coupé, which was eventually discontinued in 1976. To commemorate its victory at the Monte Carlo Rally, Lancia produced a special “Monte-Carlo” edition of the Fulvia Coupé 1.3 S closely resembling the legendary “Fulvia #14”. Subsequent wins in the Morocco and Sanremo rallies propelled Lancia to victory in the 1972 International Championship for Manufacturers, cementing the popularity of a sport that had previously struggled to gain traction with the Italian public.
Perfectly preserved and still with marks on the bodywork from that unforgettable night, the legendary Fulvia HF 1.6 #14 is exhibited in the “Rally Era” space of the FCA Heritage HUB, alongside a total of eight Lancia, Fiat and Abarth competition cars that once dominated dirt tracks and roads around the world.