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Italian Flair

Italy combined art and engineering to produce stylish cars that were fun to drive—and they came in all sizes and price ranges. Innovations such as V engines, overhead camshafts, disc brakes, independent suspension, and monocoque construction put Italian models way ahead of the humdrum machinery and prewar engineering that was prevalent in most of Europe at the time. The success of these new cars established the motor industry in Italy as one of the country’s biggest and most successful exporters, and it is no wonder that Italian car production boomed, quadrupling during the 1950s.

Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider, 1954


Engine2,451 cc, V6
Top speed115 mph (185 km/h)

The B24 Spider put the revolutionary production V6 engine and independent rear suspension that Lancia had first developed for its first Aurelias in 1950 into a gorgeous Pinin Farina-designed, open two-seater body with a wraparound windscreen, and distinctive rear arch haunches. Just 240 were built from 1954 to 1955.

De Virgilio’s V6

The Aurelia’s V6 engine was designed by Francesco de Virgilio, an engineer who worked for Lancia’s brilliant technical chief, Vittorio Jano, in the 1940s. There was a 60-degree angle between the cylinder banks, and the valves were operated by a single camshaft running down the V of the engine.

Left or right?

Italy had switched to driving on the right by the middle of the 1920s, and Aurelias were all manufactured in right-hand drive, as was Lancia’s usual practice. In 1954 the fourth series saloons and the B24 Spider were offered with the option of left-hand drive. Of the 240 Spiders that were built, 181 were left-hand drive cars.

Fiat 8V, 1952


Engine1,996 cc, V8
Top speed118 mph (190 km/h)

This rare sports coupe features a 70-degree V8 engine, with 105 bhp from 2 liters, that was originally intended for a luxury saloon. Only 114 were made between 1952 and 1954, but it was a successful racing car, dominating the Italian 2-liter GT Championship.

Fiat 1100, 1953


Engine1,089 cc, straight-four
Top speed75 mph (121 km/h)

The long-running 1100 combined a prewar engine with a new unibody shell. Saloon, wagon, and rare convertible versions were available, and in 1959 there was a 1,221 cc engine option. Production kept going until 1969, when it was replaced by the front-wheel drive 128.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Saloon, 1954


Engine1,290 cc, straight-four
Top speed88 mph (142 km/h)

This little brother to Alfa’s 1900 saloon was a long time coming, but worth the wait. It had a monocoque body, all-alloy engine with twin overhead camshafts, and superb handling from independent front suspension and a live rear axle. Rust destroyed them quickly, but it was a delightful car when performing well.

Lancia Appia, 1953


Engine1,089 cc, V4
Top speed75 mph (121 km/h)

Lancia’s small car of 1953 copied the style of the bigger Aurelia. Its sliding pillar front suspension harked back to Lancias of old, and there was a live axle at the back, but the engine was a new, narrow-angle V4. Its high price meant sales were limited.


It is a quote. The Classic Car Book – The Definitive Visual History 2016

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