Who remembers the Lancia Beta? “Enormous fun to drive, beautiful raspy exhaust note and, like most Italian cars, the harder you thrash it the better it likes it. Plus there is the perverse enjoyment of driving something everyone assumes long since turned to ferrous oxide.”
So says this car’s owner James Ross Sinclair, who is all too familiar with comments regarding the “Lancia Rust Scandal” when he displays his 1978 Beta 2000 Berlina at car shows. He says: “Everyone has a view, usually negative and mostly Top Gear-inspired.”
At times Sinclair has stood next to his Lancia while “people have told me they were all crushed – at which point I have to point out it is an actual car and not an artist’s impression”.
When the Beta made its debut in 1972 there was considerable debate among motoring enthusiasts as to whether it was worthy of the innovative Italian marque’s shield badge; the power plants were courtesy of Fiat, which had owned Lancia since 1969 (the Beta being the first new model introduced after the takeover), while Citroën developed the transmission.
However, when British imports commenced in 1973, the Beta appealed to those who might have otherwise considered a Triumph Dolomite or a BMW 2002.