Home » The Lancia Fulvia Concept Was Too Good For This World

The Lancia Fulvia Concept Was Too Good For This World

Lancia Fulvia Concept Topshot

Lancia wasn’t having a very good time in 2003. Sure, it had the money to launch the flagship Thesis sedan two years prior, but its radical styling and upmarket focus meant that the Thesis never really found an audience. At the same time, the Ypsilon never found much of an audience outside of Italy, the Lybra was an aging slow-seller, and the Phedra was a rebadged Fiat Ulysee. It was a time of impending doom, yet a glimmer of hope emerged at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show – a little concept car called the Lancia Fulvia.

Lanciafulviacoupe 636e751e17f11

For any fan of European cars, that name should be instantly familiar, like an old jumper tucked in the back of your closet. For anyone who isn’t, allow me to introduce a legend. Back in 1963, Lancia launched a sensible sedan called the Fulvia. Two years later, it unveiled a coupe version that blew the world away. Not only did it feature Lancia’s quirky narrow-angle V4 engine, it was drop-dead gorgeous. Piero Castagnero’s design chopped nearly six inches out of the sedan’s wheelbase, then cloaked its mechanicals in some of the sveltest bodywork you could possibly imagine.

However, the Fulvia wasn’t just pretty, it was competitive. Fulvias won the Italian Rally Championship in 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972, and 1973, along with the 1972 International Championship for Manufacturers, the 1969 and 1973 European Rally Championships, and it helped the Stratos win the 1974 World Rally Championship. In effect, the Fulvia was the first legendary Lancia rally car in a whole line of pedigreed machines: Stratos, 037, Delta S4, Delta Integrale.

Lancia Fulvia Concept 1

Fast forward to 2003 and the retro car revival is in full swing. Volkswagen has the New Beetle, BMW’s ushered in a new Mini, Jaguar had the S-Type. The time was right for Lancia to strike, so the brand tested the waters with a reborn Fulvia concept car. How did it look? Why, breathtaking. Flavio Manzoni and Alberto Dilillo did a phenomenal job of stretching classic Fulvia coupe looks over more humdrum modern mechanicals. From the clean flanks to the fabulous taillights, this was a car with extraordinary charisma.

Lancia Fulvia Concept 2

Things were good on the inside too. From dark brown leather to stripe-y wood to metallic switchgear, it made the Audi TT’s cabin look cheap. Considering the focus Audi placed on materials, that’s an impressive feat to accomplish. Best of all, this was a concept car that actually worked. Under the hood was a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine good for zero-to-62 mph in 8.6 seconds. Of course, it helped that the whole thing weighed just 2,180 pounds. Lancia even let members of the press drive the Fulvia concept, an uncommon event for concept cars.

Lancia Fulvia Concept Interior

For a brief moment, everyone hoped that the Fulvia would make it to production. Evo magazine remarked that “Although it’s far from certain that Lancia will do the decent thing, the signs are looking good. Public reaction has been incredibly positive, and with a recent brand restructure within the Fiat group, Lancia is now able to re-establish itself as a sporting brand rather than playing second-fiddle to Alfa Romeo.”

Lancia Fulvia Concept 4

Unfortunately, that never ended up happening. Shortly after it burst onto the scene, the reborn Fulvia was dead. Fiat Group was in a financial tailspin, losing more than a billion dollars a year. Add in the impeding discontinuation of the Fiat Barchetta on which the Fulvia was supposed to be based, and it was difficult to justify a sports coupe for Lancia.

Lancia Fulvia Concept 3

The Lancia Fulvia concept was simply too good for this world, a casualty of bad timing. It’s a car that likely couldn’t be made today due to changing tastes and legislation forcing impeding electrification, which means it’ll forever be out of reach for us mortals. Despite never making production, it will forever live on in our hearts.

Photo credits: Lancia


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22 Responses

  1. I’ve seen the car in the flesh at the FCA Heritage Museum in Turin, a place better described as the MOM – Missed Opportunities Museum, rather.
    The ‘new’ Fulvia looked gorgeous and it would sit well in my garage alongside my 1.6 HF Rallye.
    Flavio Manzoni then moved on and became the head of Ferrari design.

  2. IDK. It does kinda look like a thruple love child of an XLR, Ford 500, and Chrysler Crossfire.

    But I do love the Fulvia name, which never fails to make me think of lady parts.

  3. Low beltline big greenhouse on the first car, while not exactly a turret top, more of a high beltline and a small greenhouse on the new car. The proportions don’t look right to me, most modern cars don’t, but this based on a sleek older design, it looks worse.

  4. Electrification should mean that we’ll get more cars like this. With the mechanicals simplified and no need for emissions certifications giving the marking more interesting designs should be as simple as putting a new body on a skateboard. Instead we’ll probably keep getting 6000lb, $60,000 crossovers until the market implodes.

  5. Just no.Somehow they’ve made it a competition between dowdy and awkward.
    The best i can say about it is the butt reminds me of an older ferrari.Even there it’s too short for the car so not really a compliment.
    Either way it looks nothing like a Fulvia

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