Collection of Linda and Bill Pope, Paradise Valley, Arizona

Sponsored by: David Jon Walker and Family, Rhealistic Design

Lancia is a marque that’s not well known to many Americans, but the firm has produced remarkable road and racing cars. From his company’s inception in 1906, Vincenzo Lancia offered technically advanced models, with pioneering features. Lancias were sporty, high-performance cars, with the perfect chassis dimensions to attract custom coachwork.

After Pinin Farina’s stylishly successful efforts on the Cisitalia 202, many wealthy cognoscenti requested the carrozzeria’s design work on other marques. Lancia’s sporty Aurelia coupe, introduced in 1951, had an advanced unit body, albeit a rather plain design, but the rest of the specification was very exciting: a two-liter twin-cam, dual-carburetor V-6, independent front and rear suspensions, and race-inspired inboard drum brakes. It was a perfect sporting platform, just begging for an exciting body design. For the 1952 Turin Auto Show, to demonstrate his firm’s creativity, Pinin Farina presented an imaginative concept car on the Lancia B52 Aurelia chassis.

Just fifty-two Lancia B52s were produced, and they all carried bespoke or limited-production coachwork. Their inspiration came from the skies. By the early 1950s, after the dramatic breaking of the sound barrier in the United States, jet aircraft and rockets were a major design inspiration for Italy’s custom body builders. Pinin Farina’s Lancia PF200, one of a series of just three open cars and three (possibly four) coupes, was a stunner. In the front, a large oval grille opening, ringed with a wide chromed bezel, resembled the yawning air intake on a North American F-86 Sabre jet, the preeminent supersonic US fighter aircraft of that era. Tiny bumperettes and a discrete hood scoop were additional complementary features.

Although simplicity and purity of line were always Pinin Farina hallmarks, the military jet aircraft–inspired coachwork on this spider was not carried over into production Lancia Aurelias. Production Aurelias are very desirable collector cars today, and the special PF200s have become seven-figure stars.

—Adapted from the exhibition catalogue essay by Winston Goodfellow and and Ken Gross

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