The historic competition record of these cars cannot be overlooked; they are eligible and welcome just about everywhere
Despite the fact the Lancia nameplate continues to exist over one hundred years after it was established in Italy, this builder of fast, refined automobiles is relatively unknown outside sporting circles. Lancia cars competing over the past century have won everything from F1 races to World Rally Championships. Vincenzo Lancia began working as a bookkeeper in an automobile factory, but by 1899 he had become a chief inspector at Fiat. After his prowess as a racer was discovered, he founded Lancia & Cie, Fabbrica Automobili, in 1906. The firm's first car was destroyed by fire, but Lancia persisted and soon was supplying the upper market with technologically innovative automobiles. In the late 1940s, son Gianni Lancia and designer Vittorio Jano unveiled an all-new range of V6 Aurelia models. Powered by a 56-hp, 1,754-cc overhead-valve engine and mated to a 4-speed gearbox integral with the rear axle, the Aurelia range was expanded in 1951 with the introduction of a 75-hp, 1,991-cc B20 Aurelia GT coupe. The B20 proved to be both a commercial and sporting success. Following the 2nd Series, the engine was enlarged to 2.5 liters, but the horsepower rating dropped slightly in the 5th and 6th Series. When the 6th Series was introduced in 1958, the V6 engine was rated at 112 hp, yet the maximum speed was maintained at 185 kph (112 mph) and the roadholding was improved thanks to the fitting of a DeDion rear axle. The smooth V6 engine, combined with its well designed chassis, provided the Lancia B20 Aurelia GT coupe with the speed and road-holding capabilities to achieve victories in such well-known world racing events as Le Mans, the Targa Florio, Mille Miglia, and Monte Carlo. The beautiful lines of the coupe were penned by Italian coachbuilder Pinin Farina, and throughout the series production run the subtle curves and flowing lines were further enhanced with trim details. This 1958 Lancia B20 Aurelia Grand Turismo coupe was a California car that was fully stripped, completely disassembled, and then meticulously restored. The coupe's fine Italian lines were amplified by the rich dark blue paintwork and fine, often delicate touches of brightwork and trim. The mechanicals of this B20 were rebuilt by respected restorer and Italian car expert Iggy Franciamore of New York. A similar blend of style and functionality can be found inside. The interior has been completely rebuilt and refinished in rich tan hides, with fresh carpet, chrome fittings, and paint.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1958 Lancia Aurelia B20 GT
Number Produced:2,640 (all series)
Original List Price:$6,195
Distributor Caps:$160
Chassis Number Location:Engine compartment on firewall
Engine Number Location:Stamped on right side of block
Club Info:American Lancia Club 27744 Via Ventana Los Altos Hills, CA 94022
Investment Grade:B

This 1958 Lancia Aurelia B20GT sold for $129,250, including premium, at RM’s Automobiles of Amelia sale on March 8, 2008.

It is arguable that the “Gran Turismo,” or grand touring car, had its genesis in sporty, fast yet comfortable cars built in the 1930s, such as the Bugatti Type 57, Bentley 8-Liter, and Alfa Romeo 6C 2300. They had all the pedigree of their racing siblings, but could still carry a gentleman and a companion from London to Paris, Paris to Milan, or Rome to Nice. And they could do it without exhausting the driver and rattling his passenger, as well as carry the luggage necessary for them to have evening clothes for dinner on arrival at their destination.

But it is an undeniable fact that the first car to carry the initials “GT” was the 1951 Lancia Aurelia B20. Although Pinin Farina regularly gets credit for the shape of the car, it was actually designed by Mario Felice Boano for Ghia, which built the first 90 cars. Partly due to Ghia’s lack of production capacity, Pinin Farina and Viotti were called in to supply more cars, and at that point Farina refined the design, which then was produced almost exclusively by his company, although some later cars were also built by Bertone and Maggiora on contract to Pinin Farina.

Founder Vincenzo Lancia had steadfastly refused to enter his cars in competition in spite of, or perhaps because of, his early experience as a racing driver. After WWII, with his son Gianni now in charge, everything changed. A big fan of motorsport, Gianni was convinced the key to raising the prominence of Lancia was through racing. While grand prix racing was growing in appeal, the star events of the early postwar period were still the great road races, such as the Mille Miglia, Targa Florio, Carrera Panamericana, and Le Mans.

They knew they had a world beater

With the advanced specification of the new Aurelia, Gianni and his engineers knew they had a potential world beater on their hands. Indeed, the B20GT, on a shorter platform and with enhanced power, proved formidable in production car racing. Shortly after its launch, a slightly tuned B20GT won its class and finished 12th overall in the 1951 Le Mans 24 Hours. A limited series of “Corsa,” or race, models were prepared and once again won their class, finishing 6th and 8th in the ’52 Le Mans race. Lancia achieved 3rd overall in the Mille Miglia, and 4th after Mercedes and a pair of Ferraris in that year’s Carrera Panamericana. Success continued through 1953 and 1954 with lightly modified street cars in races and rallies.

There were six series of the B20, and their characteristics have made for particular preferences. The earliest cars, Series 1 through 3, were the lightest, but are regarded as a bit underpowered (in spite of their competition successes). With the 4th Series of 1954 came a major revision of the rear end, with a De Dion axle and a lower ratio, as well as larger brakes. The 4th Series cars were also the first to offer a left-hand-drive option, as all Lancias to that date had been right-hand-drive only.

The 5th and 6th Series are much more oriented toward touring, with lower compression and a softer ride. Most Europeans prefer the earlier cars, such as the 2nd Series B20 sold at the Bonhams Rétromobile sale in February (SCM# 63030), while many consider the 4th Series the ultimate B20GT, as it has a balance of the early car’s lightness with increased power and the later model’s improved suspension.

Superb vintage rally cars and the first “GT”

Most common in the U.S. are the later 5th and 6th Series models, which are frankly more suited to our style of highway cruising. One of the key factors in the Aurelia’s popularity today is its event eligibility. Note, however, that in spite of the auction company’s copy, unless you are extremely well connected, it’s unlikely that a 1958 6th Series car would be admitted to the Mille Miglia Storica, which has a production cutoff of 1957.

The 1958 Lancia Aurelia B20GT sold by RM was a good, but not great, example of the model. It was well painted, with good panel fit. It seemed to run well but was let down by several areas, which included an interior that was not trimmed correctly and, more notably, rather poor bright trim. Nevertheless, the historic importance of these cars cannot be overlooked and (Mille Miglia Storica aside) they are eligible and welcome just about everywhere.

As vintage rally cars they are superb performers and are as comfortable as you would expect the first GT to be. Combine that with a timeless shape, and it’s no surprise that values have been rising steadily. Not long ago, the price achieved by this Aurelia B20GT would have bought a concours-level example. Now, it has to be considered market-correct for a B20GT with no serious needs.

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