1951 LANCIA AURELIA B50 COUPE
COACHWORK BY VIGNALE
Chassis No. B50-1406
Maroon with biscuit leather interior
Engine: V6, 1,750cc, 56bhp at 4,000rpm; Gearbox: four-speed manual; Suspension: front, independent via Lancia sliding pillars, rear, independent coil springs with semi-trailing link; Brakes: hydraulic four wheel drum. Left hand drive.
This Lancia, with its distinctive Vignale body, clearly illustrates the 'transatlantic' themes running through Italian car design in the late 1940's and early 1950's. This is especially noticeable in the exuberant and expressive use of chrome trim. The Aurelia, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, is one of the most advanced production cars ever made. Its specification, respectable today, was a wonder at its 1950 introduction. The design was the work of both Gianni Lancia and the famed Vittorio Jano who was responsible for all the great pre-war Alfa Romeos including the Monza and P3. Aurelias feature the world's first production V-6 engine, rear-mounted 4 speed transaxle and inboard rear brakes that give the cars a handling balance not often found outside of competition cars. Indeed from the outset competition versions were highly successful; in 1951 there was a class win at Le Mans, a 2nd in the Mille Miglia and they dominated the Pescara Six Hour Race. The remote gear linkage is smooth and direct. Manufacturers of similar systems could not get it as 'right' in the 1970's as Lancia did at the beginning of the '50s! This car has the first series 1,750cc single carburetor engine, not known for its power, but possessed of adequate torque to make the car eminently driveable in modern highway traffic.
Chassis number B50-1406, was ordered in the Spring of 1951 from Lancia by a main agent in Novara (Piedmont) Italy, who made something of a specialty of Vignale bodied Lancias. It was delivered in the early fall of 1951, to a wealthy resident of Alessandria (Piedmont) Italy. Nothing is known of its history until it appeared at a Coys of Kensington auction in London in June, 1996. The auction catalog lists a 'noted Italian collector' as the seller, and says that he purchased the car in 1980 in Naples, however, it also mentions that it was shown at 'the 1951 Genoa Motor Show' and is 'a one-off'. The current vendor has carried out extensive research in Italy, including at the Carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia Museum in Turin, but could not find any evidence of a motor show having been held in Genoa. In addition, further research has uncovered at least one other Aurelia built in this series. Chassis number 1475 was offered at auction in Paris on June 28, 1999. The cars differ in small detail; wheelcovers, upholstery, bumpers. This example, 1406, was sold at the London auction to a Japanese collector, who then sold it through a dealer in the San Francisco, California area in early 1997.
The present owner purchased the car in March of 1997 and gave it a complete mechanical rebuild (it was not in good running order at all) which was completed in August 1999. This work included a full rebuild of the engine and all its ancillaries, along with work to the gearbox, clutch, brakes and electrical system. All of this work was carried out by a specialist in Italian cars and is well documented. The cost of this work amounted to some $24,645. Upholstery was probably replaced around five years ago. While the paintwork is presentable, it is now beginning to show its age. In October 1999 the Lancia was driven on a 500 mile round-trip to the invitation-only Castle Hill Concours d'Elegance in Ipswich, Massachusetts. There the car received an award for Most Significant /Original Post-WW II car.