By 1955 Lancia was in serious financial problems, caused in part by a too ambitious racing program which included a very advanced Formula 1 car with V8 engine, the D50, designed by Vittorio Jano. The D50 project virtually drained the company and after the 1955 season it was handed over to Ferrari. Never the less the Lancia family had to sell their company to survive and Italian cement tycoon Carlo Pesenti bought the majority of the shares. He replaced Jano with Antonio Fessia as Lancia's chief engineer and reorganized the company.
One of the first matters Pesenti dealt with was the replacement of the ageing Aurelia. He was impressed by the Florida showcars which were created by coachbuilder Pininfarina on the Aurelia platform since 1955 and commissioned the coachbuilder to develop this design into a production model. Engineer Fessia and his team concentrated on designing a more modern platform for the Aurelia replacement. Most notable changes were a new engine, since the V6 of the Aurelia was at the end of its possibilities, and a new front suspension. The new engine was again a V6, by now a Lancia trademark, displacing 2,458 cc which was similar to the Aurelia unit it replaced, but with larger dimensions, allowing future upgrades, and better cooling. A classic Lancia trademark disappeared with the replacement of the sliding pillar front suspension by a modern suspension system utilizing double wishbones and coil springs, complete with anti-roll bar and telescopic dampers. Initially the new chassis was fitted with servo assisted drum brakes on all wheels with disc brakes as an option, but soon after production of the new car had commenced disc brakes became standard.
Meanwhile prototype versions of the new Lancia berlina were shown at car shows in 1956 and 1957. Pininfarina gradually turned the exotic Florida design with its pillarless suicide-doors into an eminent luxury saloon. Finally at the 1957 Geneva Motor Show the production model was shown. Named the Flaminia, after a famous roman road just like the Aurelia and the Appia, it made a profound impression on the world of cars. It had lost the suicide doors, the body now had pillars and 4 forward opening doors, but modernized body design in one strike. Round and bulgy shapes were abandoned, as was the classic shield-like Lancia grill, and straight, angular lines with modest tailfins were introduced. The Flaminia design set the style for saloon cars for years to come and is perhaps Pininfarina's most influential work to date. Influenced by the Flaminia-style for instance were far more common cars like the Peugeot 404 (introduced in 1960) and the Farina-saloons of the British Motor Corporation (introduced in 1958 with the Wolseley 15/60).
Sadly for Lancia the Flaminia berlina did not become a commercial success. It was an expensive car, largely hand built, and lacked development during its rather long lifespan. Being a quality car it did not help that it was tormented by pesky rust problems. On the other hand the Flaminia berlina was generally considered a better car than the Aurelia, with top notch handling and performance, ample room and luxurious comfort. Instead of middle class the Flaminia was aimed at the upper class, attracting customers like the Pope and the Italian president amongst a select crowd of industrialists and celebrities. Ultimately the last Flaminia berlina left the factory in 1970, after 3,943 had been made.
There were no commercial chassis available of the Flaminia, at least not officially, and also the number of revisions was limited due to lack of development. The only important modifications to the Flaminia berlina were in 1961 when the power output of the engine was increased from 102 hp to 110 hp thanks to a different carburettor and in 1962 when the capacity of the 2,5 litre engine was increased to 2,8 litre, good for 125 hp and still relatively modest for a 1,550 kg car.
Instead of offering separate Flaminia chassis Lancia chose to offer a range of coachbuilt cars directly. These were based on a shortened Flaminia floorpan and created by some of Italy's finest coachbuilders. There was the 4-seater coupe by Pininfarina, the 2-seater GT and convertible by Touring and the Sport and Super Sport coupes by Zagato. They represented some of the best cars Italy had to offer and sold better altogether than the berlina. Hardly a profit was made by Lancia on these models however, more likely money was lost, but they firmly established Lancia's illustrious reputation for decades to come.
First of the coachbuilt Flaminia models to appear was the Pininfarina coupe. Like the berlina it was based on a special, in this case the Florida II concept of Pininfarina which was shown in 1957. The Florida II appeared like a fancy 2-door version of the Flaminia but featured 2 smaller, hidden doors behind the front doors which opened rearward and provided easy access to the rear seats. It was a very elegant and well proportioned car which served designer Battista Pinin Farina as his personal transport for the rest of his life.
His enthusiasm rubbed off on the Lancia management and a production version of the Florida II was introduced in 1959. This model was simply known as the Flaminia coupe. It had lost the rear doors and the styling was slightly more subdued but in all it looked very similar to the original concept.
The Flaminia coupe was perhaps even more of a show stopper than the berlina had been. Rather a luxurious tourer than a sportscar it attracted wealthy customers with its abundant elegance and fashionable appearance combined wit a roomy interior and a practical boot. Within 3 years 3,201 were sold and the counter stopped at 5,236 in 1967, its last year on the market.
Underneath its fancy appearance the coupe had a chassis shortened by 12 cm. That didn't make it a nimble car however: it measured a stately 468 x 174 x 142 cm (length x width x height) and at 1,490 kg it weighed only 40 kg less than the berlina. Some of this bulk was compensated by a more powerful engine, the 2,458 cc V6 produced 119 hp @ 5100 rpm in the coupe. This was enough for topping 170 kph, which was reached safely thanks to the outstanding road-holding and stable ride of the Flaminia.
In 1962 the engine of the coupe was uprated by fitting a triple-barrel carburettor. This version was dubbed "3B" which was indicated by badges on the car. Now the engine produced 128 hp @ 5600 rpm and propelled the car to 178 kph. Apart from an adjusted final drive ratio no other changes were made.
This lasted until 1963 when the Flaminia coupe was fitted with the enlarged 2,775 cc version of the V6 engine. Again with the triple-barrel Solex carburettor this version was known as the 3B 2,8 and featured 140 hp @ 5400 rpm and a top speed of 181 kph. Other changes included a revised 4-speed gearbox and again an adjusted final drive ratio to get the best from the 18% increase in torque. By now the coupe was an ideal car for travelling distances at speed and comfort. New options for the 3B 2,8 were tinted glass and electric windows.
The end came for the coupe in 1967, with 3,201 produced of the 2.5 Litre version, 950 of the 3B and 1085 of the 3B 2,8. Only 233 coupes had right hand steering, mainly for export reasons. There was little to distinguish one version from the other from the outside besides different badges on the 3B and the 3B 2,8. Currently the coupe is the least valued of the coachbuilt Flaminias, while still a popular and expensive classic. This is mainly because it now appears a bit conservative compared to the other versions (proof of how quickly this novel styling was adopted at the time) and it's the most common. Even so, it remains a striking and rare car to find outside of Italy.