History of the 1956 - 1957 Lancia Aurelia
The Lancia Aurelia was something really rather special when it was launched. Considering it was first shown to the world in 1950 with a specification that includes the world’s first production V-6, front-wheel drive, and unitary construction, it was certainly one of the most advanced cars available at the time. Its all-alloy engine was a true masterpiece—a 60-degree design, with single overhead cam and pushrods that had been developed during WW2 by Francesco de Virgilio, a protégé of legendary engineer, Vittorio Jano., And it was the latter who oversaw the entire Aurelia project.
The Aurelia's transmission was innovative, too, with a transaxle that not only contained the gearbox, clutch, and differential, but also the inboard-mounted drum brakes. But the technical brilliance of the Aurelia was overshadowed somewhat by the sheer beauty of the styling of the B20 GT version, which followed the B10 saloon in 1952. The new coupe was penned by Ghia and built by Pininfarina, and is still considered to be one of the greatest GT cars of its era. It was based on a shortened wheelbase which, Lancia claimed introduced the Gran Turismo concept to the world. With just 1991 cc, the B20 GT was capable of a maximum speed of more than 100 mph.
The front suspension was a sliding pillar design, as introduced in the pre-war Lambda, with its rear semi-trailing arms replaced by a de Dion tube in Series 4 cars. The Aurelia was also one of the first production cars to be fitted with radial tyres, which was another reason why it had such phenomenal roadholding. During its life, the B20 GT evolved through five series of saloons and several coupe and open-topped variations. Most of the iterations involved increased engine output or displacement, though some minor visual cues were modified, and the fourth series marked the first time the Aurelia was available in left-hand drive.
All B20 GTs—be them 2.0- or 2.5-litre versions—were quick, smooth, and effortless, and capable of covering long distances at high speeds. Compelling proof of this was the B20 GT's performance in the 1951 Mille Miglia, where a mildly modified version driven by Giovanni Bracco finished in second position, beaten only by Luigi Villoresi's 4.1-litre works Ferrari. In the mountain passes north of Florence, the Aurelia was actually quicker than the Ferrari.
The days of being able to pick up a cheap B20 GT are long gone, so any cars that suffered from corrosion will either have been dealt with or are about to be. But, considering 3,871 were made, there's still plenty of specialist support for these cars, and parts are easier to find than you might imagine. The Lancia Aurelia B20 GT is a great car that is still underrated by some, but for those in the know, these are one of the true classic car greats, regardless of which of the six series of cars you choose from.