The Aurelia B24 feels much more modern on the road than many contemporaries, including the Alfa Romeo 2000 Spider or Aston Martin DB 2/4 Mk III
A race-developed V6 engine, superlative handling and sensational Pinin Farina styling: These are the ingredients of a sports car classic and the Lancia Aurelia B24 has them all.
The B24 represents the ultimate development of one of the most influential designs to emerge from post-World War II Italy. The Aurelia was launched at the 1950 Turin Motor Show, the first car ever to employ a V6 engine. The all-aluminum, 60-degree V6 of 1,754-cc displacement was designed during the war by Francesco de Virgilio. It used overhead valves operated via short pushrods instead of Lancia's traditional overhead camshafts.
The Aurelia's body was of similarly advanced unitary construction. The suspension retained Lancia's "sliding pillar" independent design in the front, as first used on the Lambda, but in the rear was fitted a novel semi-trailing-arm layout, another world first. The transmission was also unusual, with a two-piece prop-shaft and combined gearbox and rear transaxle, on which were mounted inboard brakes.
The B10 saloon was joined in 1951 by the Pinin Farina-styled B20 Coupe, a fastback "2+2" with a shortened wheelbase. With its combination of sports car performance and sedan practicality, it can be said to have introduced the Gran Turismo concept to the world. The V6 was increased to 1,991 cc in 1951 and it was this unit that went unto the B20. Lighter and higher geared than the saloon, the coupe was good for a top speed of over 100 mph.
Starting in 1953, the third-series (and all subsequent iterations) of B20s were powered by a 2,451-cc, 118-hp version of the pushrod V6. This unit was also adopted for 1954's B24 Spider, the first open Aurelia, which also featured a leaf-sprung De Dion rear axle.
Capitalizing on the Spider's success, Lancia introduced a more practical B24 convertible in 1955, soon after production of the Spider had ceased. Again styled by Pinin Farina, the B24 Convertible looked superficially similar to its open sibling, but in fact was a total re-design that shared no panels with the predecessor.
Offered fresh from a complete tune-up and check-over, this superb B24S Convertible was restored by and for noted Lancia collector Dr. Paul Guttman. The restoration, undertaken in the early 1990s, included an engine rebuild by recognized Lancia expert Steve Garland. Finished in maroon with tan leather interior, the car features Borrani chromed wire wheels and comes with a rare, un-restored hardtop.
This 1956 Lancia Aurelia B24 Convertible sold for $92,000, including buyer’s premium, at the Bonhams & Butterfields auction held at the Museum of Transportation in Brookline, MA, on May 1, 2004. The price, though near the top of the SCM Price Guide range, represented a good buy of an important Lancia model.
The B24 is the most highly valued of all post-war Lancias. Possessing advanced engineering, elegant style and superbly entertaining road characteristics, these are truly complete collector cars.
The convertibles were built on the same 96.5-inch, short-wheelbase chassis as the Spider America (so named for its intended market) and used a slightly less powerful 110-hp V6. Top speed was 107 mph. More civilized than the uncompromising Spider, the convertible was also more successful, with 521 built through 1959, as opposed to 240 Spiders (about 20 of which, according to Lancia lore, are said to still be entombed in the hold of the Andrea Doria).
While the rowdy, raw Spider prefers to be pushed, giving its best with high revs in a hustle along a twisting road, the convertible is a more sedate creature. Deeper doors in the convertible decrease the stiffness of the rockers, meaning the convertible has more shake than the sporty Spider. On the other hand, the convertible’s larger clutch, slightly larger brakes, and fourth-gear overdrive make for a more relaxing and user-friendly driver.
Some owners actually feel that the convertible, with top up, is quieter and feels more luxurious than even the B20 coupe, thanks in large part to the lack of the secondary echo that the coupe’s roof creates.
If you’re shopping for a B24, it’s worth knowing that most have already been restored. When values soared in the 1980s, the majority were brought up to show condition. By now, it’s likely that these restorations will need some work, but given the values of open Aurelias, it is generally worth the expense involved to sort one properly, as the costs are likely recoverable over time. (The SCM Price Guide shows values of convertibles ranging from $75,000-$95,000, and Spiders anywhere between $95,000-$120,000.)
It is hard, but not impossible, to find Aurelia B24s in need of complete restoration. Though there are still a few original cars to be had, finding one whose owner is willing to sell at a sensible price might be more difficult. If you do find one with needs, better that they be of the mechanical rather than cosmetic variety.
Unit-body construction makes Aurelia bodies expensive to repair, and complex curves everywhere don’t help. The cars feature double-skinned door sills with an integral jacking point which should be checked for integrity. The Aurelia V6 engine is quite robust and parts are readily available from a few reliable sources here in the U.S. and in Europe. As on all Italian cars of this period, it is important to check the state of the braking system, even on a restored car. If the car has not been used regularly, the master cylinder (located underneath the car) and wheel brake cylinders can seize.
Make sure that the brightwork is complete, as some trim pieces including the grille and door handles are all but impossible to replace. The good news is that if they are there, the chromed brass can be restored to like-new condition quite easily. Bumpers have been available on and off for a number of years, and most, if not all, rubber parts are available.
While the convertible carries an SCM Investment Grade of just “B” (the Spider America is an “A”), that rating is certainly arguable. Yes, the Spider is more sought after by some, but the sophisticated appeal of the convertible and its limited production numbers still qualify it as a blue-chip ’50s ride. The Aurelia B24 feels much more modern on the road than many contemporaries, including the Alfa Romeo 2000 Spider or Aston Martin DB 2/4 Mk III. As such, Aurelia convertibles are perfect for long-distance rallies and tours and provide both high-speed cruising prowess and ample storage space.
The Aurelia B24 Convertible pictured here presented itself well when it crossed the block, with paintwork, interior and chrome trim finished to a high level. Its Borrani wire wheels are a desirable option, which can easily add over $5,000 to the value of the car. The unrestored factory hardtop is also rare and valuable, worth an extra $2,500 or so. Even though few owners use their Aurelia convertibles as anything but fair-weather drivers, the hardtop does look good beside the car at a concours. A friend who owned a B24 convertible for many years swore that with the hardtop on it was one of the best GT cars he had ever driven.
Assuming that the mechanicals of this car match the cosmetics, and with prices of B24 Spiders and convertibles both on the rise, I would call this handsome example “well bought.”