A Lancia Beta Montecarlo.
|Also called||Lancia Beta Montecarlo
|Production||1975-1978 and 1980-1981|
|Assembly||Grugliasco (Turin) Pininfarina plant|
|Designer||Paolo Martin at Pininfarina|
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||2-door coupé
Abarth SE 030
|Wheelbase||2,300 mm (91 in)|
|Length||3,813 mm (150.1 in)|
|Width||1,696 mm (66.8 in)|
|Height||1,190 mm (47 in)|
|Curb weight||970 kg (2,140 lb)-1,040 kg (2,290 lb)|
Cars from the first series, which were produced from 1975 to 1978, were known as Lancia Beta Montecarlos and those from the second series, produced from 1980 to 1981, simply as Lancia Montecarlos. In both cases Montecarlo was spelled as one word, unlike Monte Carlo in the Principality of Monaco. Both series were offered in Coupé and Spider versions, the latter featuring a unique roll-back manually operated targa style convertible top. The Spider was sold in the United States as the Lancia Scorpion during 1976 and 1977.
Total production numbers come to 7,798 units, with production spanning from 1974 until 1982 with an interruption in 1979. 3,558 first series and 817 second series targas were built; 2,080 first series and 1,123 second series coupés. There were also 220 competition models built (Lancia 037).
This was a rear-wheel drive, mid-engined two-seater sports car that shared very few components with other Betas. The car was originally designed as Pininfarina's contender to replace Fiat's 124 Coupe, but lost out to Bertone's cheaper design, which became the Fiat X1/9.
At the early stages of development the Montecarlo was known as the Fiat X1/8 Project, commissioned by Fiat for Pininfarina to build a 3.0 litre V6 mid-engined sports car. An X1/8 chassis was designed and developed for the first time in-house by Pininfarina and not based on any existing production car. Due to the Oil Crisis later on, the project was renamed X1/20 and updated to 2.0 litre. The first car to be made out of the X1/20 Project was the Abarth SE 030 in 1974. The project was passed to Lancia, and was constructed by Pininfarina, the original design company, in Turin, Italy. The Lancia Beta Montecarlo was the first car to be made completely in-house by Pininfarina.
Initial design drawings were done by 1969 and a final design completed by 1971 by Paolo Martin at Pininfarina.
Lancia launched the Montecarlo as a premium alternative to the X1/9, with the 2 litre twin cam engine rather than the X1/9's single cam 1300. Both used a similar, based on the Fiat 128, MacPherson strut front suspension and disc brakes at both front and rear. Lancia Beta parts were limited to those from the existing Fiat/Lancia standard parts bin, the transverse mount version of the Fiat 124's twin cam engine and the five speed gearbox and transaxle.
Montecarlos were available as fixed head "Coupés" and also as "Spiders" with solid A and B pillars, but a large flat folding canvas roof between them.
|Beta Montecarlo production figures*|
*stated by Pininfarina production records
The Beta Montecarlo was finally unveiled at the 45th Geneva Salon International de l'Auto in March 1975. First Series cars (from 1975 to 1978) were badged as Lancia Beta Montecarlo. They were named "Montecarlo", written as one word, not Monte Carlo, one of Monaco's administrative areas. Power came from a twin cam, 1995 cc Lampredi inline four, developing 120 PS (88 kW) at 6000 rpm. Lancia claimed a top speed of over 190 km/h and a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 9.3 seconds.
Distinctions of the first series were the solid panels to the rear wings above the engine bay and 8,8Jx13" alloy wheels, unique to this model. The interior was upholstered in vinyl (TVE, Elasticized Vinylic Textile) as standard, in cloth as an option. The driver's side mirror (right one was optional) was a Vitaloni Californian. In 1978 the production of the Beta Montecarlo was halted.
The Beta Montecarlo was on sale in the United States for two years, 1976 and 1977. The federalized Montecarlo was re-christened Lancia Scorpion, because the name Monte Carlo was already used in America by Chevrolet. A total of 1,801 were manufactured in 1976 and sold as model year 1976 and 1977 (1396 and 405 respectively).
Because of the strict U.S. emission regulations a smaller 1,756 cc twin cam engine and smog equipment had to be fitted. Therefore the Scorpion delivered just 81 hp (60 kW), down from the 120 of the Montecarlo. In order to meet federal crash test and lighting requirements, the Scorpion had bigger 5-mph bumpers and semi pop-up, sealed beam headlights. Two additional series of vents on the engine cover were required to cool the catalyst. All Scorpions featured the convertible top.
After a two-year hiatus the revised second series was introduced in 1980. The Beta prefix was ditched, and the car was now simply badged as the Lancia Montecarlo.
On the exterior the most evident changes were the updated signature Lancia split grille first introduced with the 1979 Delta, the glazed rear buttresses (providing better visibility) and, in place of the model badging on the tail, a full width brushed aluminium strip. Larger eight-spoke 5,5Jx14" alloy wheels from the Beta were adopted to clear the upsized brake rotors and calipers, and the brake servo was removed to address the brake lockup issue. In the cabin there was a new three spoke Momo steering wheel in place of the old two spoke one, as well as revamped trim and fabrics. The engine was revised too: a higher compression ratio, Marelli electronic ignition and new carburettors made for torque gain.
The Montecarlo/Scorpion suffered from several issues. Between the taller springs used to meet the US height requirements, a lack of caster, and bump steer, handling of US market Scorpions did not meet the promises of the cars design.
The engine noise in the interior of the car was sometimes criticized; Road & Track listing noise as one of their biggest complaints about the car, with 'little joy listening to the wheeze of an emission equipment-stifled 4-banger', and Motor calling the engine noise a 'raucous cacophony'.
Harsh shifting is common and increases as the bushings wear (a common trait in mid-engined cars). The rear crossmember is a design flaw; the metal used was too thin and is susceptible to corrosion and eventual failure, although stronger replacement crossmembers are available from aftermarket companies.
The S1 Montecarlos and Scorpions suffered from overly boosted brakes, which caused the fronts to lock up easily in the wet. These were often criticised in reviews; for example Road & Track complained of 'severe front locking and 37% fade' and Motor that they found 'it disconcertingly easy to lock up the front wheels when approaching corners'.
As a result production was suspended in 1978 while the braking problems were resolved by some engineering changes including removing the brake servo.
Rust is an issue for the Montecarlo and Scorpion. Unless kept in a dry environment active prevention is required to fend off rust. The firewall and wheel wells are common locations for rust. Rusted floor pans are a major cause of early Montecarlo/Scorpion demise.
Abarth SE 030
The first offspring of the X1/20 project to actually be revealed to the public wasn't the definitive Beta Montecarlo, but rather the Abarth 030. Powered by a 280 hp, 3.2 liter V6, sporting conspicuous aerodynamic appendages (including a snorkel over the roof to feed the engine) and the Abarth red-yellow livery, the SE 030 was first intended as a replacement to the 124 Abarth in motorsport. Nevertheless Fiat for the time being preferred racing the high volume selling 131 for marketing reasons, and only two Abarth 030s were ever made.
In 1974 one of the two prototypes took part in the then-popular Giro d'Italia Automobilistico, a championship consisting of both road and track races. Driven by Giorgio Pianta and Cristine Becker it scored a remarkable second place, just behind the Lancia Stratos Turbo of the duo Andruet-Biche.
The Montecarlo Turbo was a Group 5 racer. Fielded by Lancia, it won the 1980 World Championship for Makes and 1981 World Endurance Championship for Makes. Hans Heyer also won the Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft in 1980 at the wheel of a Montecarlo.
Being a silhouette car, the Montecarlo Turbo only shared the centre section of the body with its namesake prouction car. Front and rear tubular subframes supported the suspension and housed the engine, still mid-mounted but in longitudinal position. Three engines were used: 440 hp 1,425.9 cc, 490 hp 1,429.4 cc and 490 hp 1,773.0 cc.
Similarly to the Montecarlo Turbo, the 037 only retained the center section from the Montecarlo but little else, and its supercharged engine, while still midship, was mounted longitudinally rather than transversely as it is in the Montecarlo.
In popular culture
- A Lancia Scorpion appeared in Disney's Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977) as Herbie's girlfriend Giselle.
Notes and references
- "Paolo Martin Designer - Lancia Beta Montecarlo". martin.demaria.to.it. Retrieved 2012-11-10.
- "Lancia Montecarlo". carfolio.com. Retrieved 2007-11-21.
- Production Data Retrieved from lnx.betamontecarlo.it on 2 April 2009
- "Produzione Complessiva" [Cumulative Production] (PDF). pininfarina.it (in Italian). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-05.
- "Fiat/Bertone X1/9, Lancia Montecarlo, Ferrari 308GT – Brio Trio – 174". classiccar.co.nz. Retrieved 2012-11-10.
- "Lancia Montecarlo Development History". lanciamontecarlo.net. Retrieved 2012-11-09.
- "Montecarlo Consortium - Our Cars". montecarlo.org.uk. Retrieved 2012-11-10.
- Lancia Servizio Pubblicità e Promozione (ed.), Lancia Beta Monte-Carlo (official brochure)
- Road & Track September 1976
- Motor April 23, 1977
- BENJAMIN PRESTON, "Could Pretty Cars Be the Key to Attracting Younger Car Nuts?", The New York Times, June 4, 2013
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