Last revised: 26-1-2009

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Lancia Coupés & Convertibles: the Appia Gran Turismo

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1960_Lancia_Appia_GTE_S2_ZagatoIt didn't take long before Zagato's coupe was again revised. Already in 1960 a modified Appia GTE appeared. On the outside this version could be distinguished by its different front end: the deeply recessed headlights with plastic fairings were replaced by more traditional, less recessed headlights without fairings. Also side indicator lights were added to the front fenders, placed before the wheels.
Apart from modifications to the body also the engine was upgraded. Increased compression, adjusted valve timing and a new double-choke carburettor improved power output to 60 hp @ 5400 rpm. Top speed was now 160 kph, the same as the old, lighter sport version and it made the GTE the fastest Appia available.

1960_Lancia_Appia_GTE_S2_ZagatoRemarkably the Appia GTE was also the largest Appia version. It measured 419 x 142 x 123 cm (length x width x height) and was therefore 17 cm longer than the berlina (and 6 cm longer than the Pininfarina coupe). The reason for that was its relatively long front overhang; its longer, streamlined nose section was intended to reduce frontal drag in order to improve performance. At the same time it was lower (by 22 cm) and narrower (by 6 cm) than the berlina which gave this little car somewhat odd proportions, like as if its intended shape was stretched and flattened by some strange force.
Given the long-term relationship which Zagato had with Alfa Romeo, and to some extend the direct competition between Lancia and Alfa Romeo, it was not surprising that Zagato showed a Alfa-based car in the same vein as the Appia GTE at the end of 1959: the Giulietta Sprint Zagato (SZ). It was shorter and lighter than the Appia GTE, and had a more powerful engine, but showed a strikingly similar, yet better balanced, appearance.

1960_Lancia_Appia_GTE_S2_ZagatoEven so the Appia GTE was a successful racing car in Italy at the end of the 1950s and in the early 1960s. It scored class wins in hill climbs and in touring car and endurance races. In 1960 and 1961 these cars won the Italian GT championship; in 1961 in the hands of Cesare Fiorio, who later acquired fame as manager of Lancia's competition department. Competition versions of the GTE were made more powerful by tuners like Nardi and a power output of up to 70 hp was no exception.
When the GTE became less competitive Zagato introduced another variant: in May 1961 the Appia Sport was introduced. This was a short wheelbase version of the GTE with a flattened front, normally placed headlights, side indicator lights placed behind the front wheels and a rounded-off rear. Measurements were reduced to 399 x 149 x 123 cm (length x width x height) and weight went down to 820 kg. Top speed remained at 160 kph however. This made the car look even more like the Alfa Romeo SZ, but unfortunately it was not as successful in competition.

1961_Lancia_Appia_GT_ZagatoAt the same time as the Appia Sport appeared Zagato made a few last adjustments to the GTE. The "E" in the model name was dropped in order to revert back to the model's originals Gran Turismo name. Externally the original door handles, which fitted flush with the door's surface and extended themselves at a push of a button behind them, were replaced by more common fixed handles with push-button locks. This version was made up to September 1962 after which the production of the "full-size" Appia GT was stopped. Production of the shorter Appia Sport was continued a bit longer and ended in March 1963.
Production numbers of the Appia GT by Zagato were modest: the normal wheelbase model was made 521 times and 200 of the short wheelbase model left the factory. But for Zagato, as a relatively small and traditional coachbuilder, this was a major production run. For Lancia this car was a success in terms of prestige: the publicity it acquired on the Italian racing scene did a lot of good for the name of Lancia's products and made the Appia GT a true classic. This meant that the relation between Zagato and Lancia was far from over.

This of course translates to the appeal the Appia GT has today. Even though much of its racing fame was limited to Italy and the car was hardly exported during its production it now is considered a desirable Lancia model internationally. Its value is about twice that of the other 2-door Appia models, even though its looks may not be to everybody's taste. The value of early Appia GT models, from before 1959, is hard to determine because they're so rare and unique. Even the later cars differ from one to the other, but to a lesser extend.
The Lancia Appia GT established the typical Zagato-style for decades to come and combined intriguing sportscar looks with competitive performance in a very compact production car. A wonderful car especially for those not too tall and appreciative of typical Italian design.

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