Lancia HIT by Pininfarina

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What a fantastic name, eh? I'll let you think about what it means over a few paragraphs…

But to start, an apology. It's been 124 #bcotd articles so far and I still hadn't, before today, featured a Lancia.

One of my favourite automakers, Lancia is sort of like if you combined Subaru and Buick together and founded the company in Italy, at the turn of the 20th century.

Lancia HIT styling model

Lancia HIT styling model

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Before you think I've lost it, consider that, like (early) Buick, Lancia embodied panache, style, and performance. It's an elegance and economy of design that only mid-level automakers seem to pull off, compared to overwrought luxury car makers.

Subaru? Though relatively conservative and elegant in terms of styling, packaging, and price, Like Subaru, Lancia often created engineering solutions when developing vehicles.

The first Lancia in 1907 had, in part, a tubular steel frame. Just a few years later, in 1922, the Lambda was introduced with revolutionary features for the time, such as an independent front suspension, 4-cylinder engine arranged in a compact "V", and a body low enough to require a transmission tunnel.

I can never figure out if Lancia went racing to hone engineering or of they created engineering solutions to win at racing, but by the 1980s management shuffles, declining sales, and reliability woes conspired to leave the Delta Integrale as the last great Lancia.

Lancia HIT styling model with model

Lancia HIT styling model with model

A car (to say nothing of the team or drivers!) that can win the World Rally Championship a record six times in a row is a stunning achievement, but to earn such success the bones of the car had to be good from the start. 

Lancia was one of the first manufacturers to figure out that putting a turbocharged engine and all-wheel-drive into a 5-door hatchback made for an ideal rally weapon—and enthusiast pin-up.

The Delta was on sale from 1979, with the early 4WD HF models introduced in 1986 and its successor, the Integrale, living on until 1993.

lancia-hit-by-pininfarina.jpg

Being a successful Italian sports car, it was only a matter of time before the styling houses and carrozzeria created their own interpretation of the car, which is where the Pininfarina-designed HIT comes in.

HIT stands for High Italian Technology and was intended as a look at the future of sports cars. It incorporated mechanicals from the Delta Integrale, except for the chassis.

Because that was carbon fibre.

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Just two years after Horacio Pagani's seminal Lamborghini Countach Evoluzione, Pininfarina and Lancia took a production-minded approach to building their own carbon fibre-based prototype.

Sure, Lancia's racing department had been working on the ECV series, race cars largely built from carbon fibre and kevlar, but the HIT was one of the first prototypes to adopt a similar construction.

Introduced at the Turin Motor Show in 1988, it wowed enthusiasts with its advanced design and engineering, but probably went unnoticed to the masses.

Well, the attendees who hadn't bothered to look inside: a carbon fibre dashboard and red Nomex seats would have been difficult to forget!

With a weight of just 980 kg (2160 lbs), it was more than 230 kg (500 lbs) lighter than the standard 5-door Delta Integrale. 

But it was not to be.

The closest the Delta Integrale came to aping Audi's Quattro Coupe and becoming a 2-door GT car came in 1992, a few years after the HIT was shown, of a limited-production Zagato-designed coupe called Hyena.

Interestingly—and I won't say too much in case the Hyena makes it to #bcotd eventually—but the quoted weight for Zagato's small composite and alloy coupe was within about 20 kg (45 lbs) of the HIT. 

Now, more than 25 years after the HIT was introduced, it's clear that Lancia was on to something with an affordable carbon fibre sports car—the new Alfa Romeo 4C and BMW i8 are perfect examples of how long it takes technology to creep into production.

It's just too bad that, in 2014, the once-great Lancia can't respond with a carbon fibre-framed sports car of their own.



Sources / Recommended reading

Lancia Hit by Pininfarina: carstyling.ru, Pininfarina (.pdf)

Lancia Delta Integrale: Wikipedia

Lancia: Wikipeida, autoevolution.com

Pininfarina: Website, Wikipedia