Like a surface vein of gold in the Sierra Nevada of California in 1848, Lancias have suddenly been discovered by the larger collector car world. Long hidden in plain sight, these superbly over-engineered, pioneering and championship-winning cars are leaving behind their reputation for being woefully undervalued. Lancias are setting new auction records, and prices have hit levels scarcely imaginable by long-term Lancisti just a few years ago. In point of fact, a very good argument could be raised for the inappropriateness of including the Lancia Fulvia HF as an Affordable Classic at all. While the factory-designed-and-built 1.2-liter and 1.3-liter coupes are still sleepers — known only to a small number of Americans for their excellent balance, elegant design, detailing and build quality — the high-performance HF, or High Fidelity, variants left their mark in the record books of competition long ago.

1960s elegance, modern performance

Based on the elegant, in-house-designed and -built Fulvia coupe, the HF cars have a simple, elegant look with a thin-pillared roof and fine detailing. They are very 1960s in their appearance, but they drive like a very modern car. Although they are front-wheel drive, they exhibit none of the vices often associated with the format and are extremely well balanced and fun to drive. A range of weight-saving measures was taken in the HF models — at least the earlier models — including alloy opening panels, plastic side and rear windows, simpler door panels without armrests, lighter sport seats, removed bumpers and light carpets in place of rubber mats. The most desirable HF, the 1.6 Fanalone, or “big lights” model, even came with a thinner glass front windshield and brake discs. The last Series 2 1600 HF cars are much further removed from this ethos, with all-steel bodies and much more fully trimmed interiors.

Winning on the track

Many forget that Lancia had two major periods of competition brilliance. The first, under young Gianni Lancia in the 1950s, saw the company victorious in long-distance road and circuit racing, as well as Formula One. Later, in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, Lancia was a force to be reckoned with in FIA sports car and rallying. The Fulvia HF Series 1 in 1.3- and 1.6-liter form, between 1967 and 1974, delivered four European or International championships and was competitive in every type of event entered.

Variants everywhere

There are, as is not unusual when it comes to Lancias, a number of variants which serve to baffle and trap the uninitiated. Covering all the differences could fill the entire issue of this magazine and could make even Nosferatu sleep through the night. They are best identified by the Lancia type number and are as follows: 818.140: The 1.2 HF, first of the series built in 435 examples from 1966 to 1967. 818.340: The 1.3 HF, built from 1967 to 1969, with 882 leaving the factory. 818.540: The 1.6 HF Fanalone, with a total of 1,258 built in 1969–70. 818.740: The 1600 HF, of which 3,690 were built from 1971 to 1973. All these models have a specific character — think of the driving experience of an Alfa Giulia GT 1600 versus a 2000, or a Porsche 356B versus a Carrera 2. They’re the same as each other, but they require and respond best to input in a very different manner. For example, the earliest 1.2-liter cars have to be pushed really hard before they reveal their capability, while the last 1600 HFs are much more comfortable as daily drivers.

Watch out for fakes

It is relatively easy to make an HF out of a standard Lancia coupe, and now there is considerable financial gain as well. Do not under any circumstances pay an over-the-odds price for a car with supposed Works competition history if the chassis number doesn’t appear in the definitive book by Enzo Altorio: Lancia Fulvia HF e tutte le altre Fulvia: Berlina, Coupe e Sport published by Giorgio Nada Editore. The type numbers are unique for the HF, and always check that the numbers on the metal data plate match those stamped into the body in the underhood drain rail. If the numbers are obscured by paint, it’s not too much to insist that the paint in the area be stripped to confirm the identity.

The price of admission

Prices for Fulvia HFs have long been far higher than those for standard coupes and have recently taken a decided turn upward. Expect to pay the following for each of the models: A 1.2 HF with questions, missing pieces and/or rust runs about $20,000, with good examples up to $45,000. The 1.3 HF will set you back from $24,000 up to $60,000. The less-desirable and most-common Series 2 1600 HF will cost from about $11,000 to about $30,000. Notice I’ve left the Series 1 1.6 HF Fanalone for last. These are the models which really have no place in an “Affordable Classic” column — except as they relate to other competition-proven cars of their type, say, a Lancia Stratos. Entry level here is around $85,000 and they will run quickly up to $150,000 for a nice example. Add documented, no-hype Works history, and the numbers can double. ♦  

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