After the introduction of the Aurelia berlina in 1950 Lancia set to work on a smaller model, a replacement for the Ardea. The result was shown at the 1953 Turin Motor Show as the Appia. The Appia berlina was a car in the same vein as the Aurelia, but considerably more compact. It had a similar streamlined shape and the pillarless, opposing opening doors shown before by the Aurelia. But underneath its body it was quite different.
Most important difference was the new engine, a compact 4-cylinder in a narrow V-configuration (at an angle of only 10 degrees) displacing 1090 cc and producing 38 hp @ 4800 rpm, where the Aurelia had an innovative V6 with 60 degrees between the cylinder banks. Other notable differences were a rigid rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf spring suspension and a gearbox placed straight behind the engine in place of the independent rear suspension and transaxle transmission system of the Aurelia. The Appia berlina was a lightweight car at only 820 kg and featured aluminum panels for the doors, fenders, hood and trunk lid, and measured 386.5 x 142 x 142.2 cm (length x width x height). Never the less it was a full 4-seater with a maximum speed of 120 kph.
Like the Aurelia the Appia was built in a number of series, but the Appia range was far less elaborate. Three series of Appia berlinas were made which were, unlike the various Aurelia series, easy to distinguish from the outside. The first series (1953-1956) had the curved Aurelia look, the second series (1956-1959) had a more conventional body with increased wheelbase which had lost its fastback-style and the third series (1959-1963) looked like a modernized version of the second series without the traditional shield-like Lancia grill. With each new series engine and chassis were upgraded. Apart from the berlinas Lancia offered also commercial versions of the Appia: the Furgoncino (a van), the Camioncino (a pick-up) and the Autolettiga (an ambulance). Rolling chassis weren't offered until the series 2 (S2) Appia and were only sporadic available until the series 3 (S3) Appia, of which rolling chassis were produced in higher numbers.
The initially limited availability of rolling chassis and the more humble aspects of the Appia made this model less popular for fitting custom made bodywork by Italy's extensive coachbuilding industry. Appias were regarded as bread-and-butter cars for those who liked something more upmarket than a Fiat 1100 (its closest Italian competitor was the Alfa Romeo Giulietta which came on the market in 1955) and offering coupes or convertibles of this model was not one of Lancia's priorities, as it had been in the case of the more exclusive Aurelia. But the popularity of the lively Appia inspired a demand for less sedate versions of this model, for both on the road and on the race track. After some hesitation and a number of one-offs and very small series by various coachbuilders Lancia decided to offer a convertible and two models of coupe based on the rolling chassis of the Appia. Apart from that also an Appia Giardinetta (station car) by Viotti was offered on that chassis.
The first, limited, edition of Appia rolling chassis emerged from the Lancia factory in 1956. Most of these were similar to the specifications of the regular Appia S2 but some of them were modified. These modified chassis had a more powerful engine with 53 hp @ 5200 rpm (standard was 44 hp @ 4800 rpm) and a gear lever on the floor in stead of behind the steering wheel. Coachbuilders like Allemano, Boano, Ghia, Pininfarina and Vignale presented special bodies on the Appia chassis. Ultimately a coupe design by Pininfarina was picked-up by Lancia to be offered by their dealers.
From May 1957 the Appia S2 coupe by Pininfarina appeared in the brochures. It was an elegant yet slightly restrained design with sort of a feminine style. The roof section of the coupe, often finished in a contrasting color to the body, looked like a hardtop and early versions even had chromed caps on the base point of the roof pillars behind the doors to suggest hinges of a convertible top. The rear window was however its most remarkable aspect: it was a large wrap-around element not unlike a reversed windshield of the Lancia Aurelia America spider which was also created by Pininfarina
The special rear window gave the Appia coupe by Pininfarina its unique look. Other styling features were its sharp fins on the rear and the air intake on the hood. The front end treatment reminded of the Lancia Flaminia, a much larger car which succeeded the Aurelia in 1957.
With its sharp lines it was totally modern at the time, maybe even avant-garde. But next to the more traditional shape of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint, a coupe styled by Bertone and introduced in 1954 which became very popular, it lacked appeal. It was like haute couture shown on the catwalk: appreciated, trend setting, well documented and discussed but not drawing masses to the stores.
The production version of the Appia S2 coupe by Pininfarina used the modified Appia chassis with 53 hp and floor shift. At 412 x 149 x 131 cm (length x width x height) it was longer and lower than the berlina but it was not a full 4-seater. The small bench in the rear only fitted children. It weighed 950 kg and the increased power of the engine brought it to 143 kph. This performance was not enough to make it a sportscar or a grand tourer; it was a stylish and comfortable 2-door car. Production of the Appia S2 coupe ended in March 1959 and few have been made.