I first learned of the Trevi on Tumblr, of all places, when browsing the posts on carinteriors.tumblr.com, one of the many single topic publications that litter the popular service.
It's inside where the Trevi really makes a strong impression, with an almost French-like dedication to a single flawed theme, in this case: circles
Circles everywhere, as if Yayoi Kusama herself had snuck into the Lancia design studios and mucked up the most overlooked part of our cars, the part we should really care about but instead fixate on crap like red brake calipers and the shape of the front air intake.
Given time, money, and space, I'd buy a Trevi simply for its interior, but more specifically, its dashboard. I mean, why not?
(OK, so it was based on the Beta and the related Beta Berlina had the same interior, but this is a story about the Trevi…don't worry, I haven't gone soft.)
We can thank the Italian designer Mario Bellini for the car's interior, a man who was previously featured on #bcotd for the Citroën Kar-A-Sutra, the only concept car designed around the wants and needs of mimes who partake in hedonistic group sex…
Anyway, the Trevi, launched in 1980, was quite the technological marvel underneath: a choice of transverse 4-cylinder engines with electronic ignition and dual overhead cams, and MacPherson struts, anti-roll bar, and an as-standard 5-speed manual transmission to make use of the motors.
They even offered a mechanical supercharger!
These attributes sound great today, but from the outside the Trevi was as daring as a Martha Stewart table setting…and so most potential customers bought something else.
The title includes the word 'Bimotore', signifying two motors…surely the marketing department's idea of a laugh and not actually a Trevi with two motors…
Let's not forget that at this time Lancia's parent company, Fiat—and factory tuning arm, Abarth—was a main protagonist in rally competition, with the likes of Walter Röhrl piloting the rear-drive Fiat 131 Abarth in some of the final years before Audi, quattro, and the Group B formula changed the sport forever.
Central to the company's success in rally was the late Giorgio Pianta, a gifted test driver and, later, manager during Lancia's most memorable years.
As the car set-up guru, he understood that a confidence-inspiring feel was just as important to a driver on the limit as outright performance. He also knew that Audi was leagues ahead in the four-wheel-drive game, having entered a Volkswagen Iltis for the Paris-Dakar as a mule of sorts before stuffing a similar drivetrain into their rally car.
Pianta arrived at four-wheel-drive the same way Citroën did in the 2CV Sahara: for simplicity's sake, why not just pop a second engine in the trunk and call it a day?
This is a hunch, but given the competitiveness of rally in those days, I imagine that the Trevi was an ideal platform to test the peculiarities of 4WD because, even with a second motor in the back and extra air intakes, it's a sleeper car. Who would believe that the staid sedan that just passed was really a test car for the rally team?
Its engines were identical 4-cylinder supercharged units with 150 horsepower each, with throttle linked by an electronic ECU. Basically, the front drivetrain of a Trevi—including suspension and transmission—was plopped out back and made to work under the…uh…care of Lancia test drivers. (Pirelli benefitted, too, with the car providing ample data with which to create their range of tires for Lancia's works rally team.)
The V8 sedan is said to have a top speed of around 240 km/h (150 mph), and consumed a litre of fuel every 2.5 km.
Surprisingly, Pianta left the car in the care of Lancia's historical department, who have kept the machine in working condition to this day—a rare example of a prototype that was spared from the jaws of a crusher.
As a final note, the truly pedantic among you will notice the car's paint scheme was borrowed for a particularly special edition of Delta Integrale…