Home » This Car Was So Unreliable That You Could Wreck Its Engine Just By Turning The Steering Wheel

This Car Was So Unreliable That You Could Wreck Its Engine Just By Turning The Steering Wheel

Lancia Gamma Unholy Fail Ts2
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Back in March, David Tracy wrote what was perhaps the hottest take of his career. He said if you drive a car with a timing belt, it’s not really reliable. Debates continue today about whether he was right, but there is a car where David’s words are actually an understatement. The Lancia Gamma was so hilariously over-engineered that simply turning your steering wheel full lock had a non-zero chance of snapping your camshaft belt and turning your car into a pretty paperweight.

Truth be told, most cars with timing belts are reliable enough. Sure, it sucks that every 100,000 miles or so you’ll have to toss a few hundred to over a thousand bucks at replacing a part that should last the life of the car. But I’d rather take that over some of the timing chain systems out there. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Volkswagen!

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Some cars are perhaps too complicated for their own good, and one of them is the subject of today’s Unholy Fails.

Images Lancia Gamma 1976 2

This story takes us back to the 1970s. As with so many stories beginning in this era, conditions weren’t ideal. Multiple oil crises, hammered economies, and a new focus on the environment reshaped the auto industry. Suddenly, expensive land yachts that measured fuel economy in gallons per mile were too much for buyers to handle. People and governments alike tightened their belts.

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This was also a time of change for Lancia. The Italian automaker, which was founded in 1906, was no stranger to crisis. As Curbside Classic notes, Lancia’s first real emergency happened when Vincenzo Lancia passed in 1937 at 55 years old. But the company carried on with the family keeping Lancia alive. Lancia’s widow, Adèle Lancia, even took the CEO role of the firm.

Lancia would face a second crisis just a decade later. After World War II, President Truman signed the Economic Recovery Act of 1948, or the Marshall Plan, which provided assistance to war-torn Europe. Vincenzo’s son, Gianni, was at the helm of Lancia. Reportedly, Gianni Lancia and his wife were suspected to be Communist sympathizers and thus missed out on the economic help other Italian automakers got. Thankfully, Lancia was able to pull itself out of the post-war slump thanks to innovative cars that got Italy on wheels again.

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Things then got easier for Lancia and it continued its tradition of being a leader in technology. Lancia trickled parts of what made racecars great into common everyday passenger vehicles. This meant that in the 1950s, Lancia had cars with small 2-liter engines, but with advanced features like independent suspensions, transaxles, and a high aluminum content. Lancia loved to experiment with engines, too. Remember, this was the company that pioneered the VR engine long before Volkswagen brought them back to the modern day.

The Lancia family relinquished ownership in 1956, but the cars were still great. Lancia even caught the attention of the Italian government, which has used the Presidential Lancia Flaminia as an official car since 1961.

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Unfortunately, Lancia would find itself in a crisis again. It had the interesting front-wheel-drive Fulvia and Flavia ranges plus the Flaminia, but sales weren’t keeping up. Lancia had a new factory that wasn’t paying for itself and to make matters worse, competition from Germany was swaying buyers. As Curbside Classic explains, Lancia soon found itself in a spot where it was selling cars for more money than the competition, but due to its investments was making terrible margins on those vehicles.

FIAT would come to save Lancia in 1969. Revitalized, Lancia would be able to release new cars, including an aspirational flagship.

Lancia Proving Itself

Wallpapers Lancia Gamma 1976 3

Reportedly, FIAT latched onto a Lancia that had no real future plans in its cupboards and a workforce more deflated than a football tossed by the New England Patriots. FIAT placed Sergio Camuffo as the Technical Director of Lancia, where he was given a mission to deliver new cars from Lancia and to keep the brand’s costs reined in. In effect, Camuffo had to turn the brand around.

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In 1972, Camuffo launched what would become a three-year development program for a vehicle to replace the aging Flavia. The new vehicle was given the project name of Tipo 830.

As the retrospective at Driven To Write notes, Tipo 830 development ran into a roadblock almost immediately. I don’t need to tell some of you what happened, but 1973 rolled around, as did an oil crisis. As I said earlier, this made big, expensive vehicles unappealing for many. Italy’s economy took a hit as well. Either of these would have convinced any other automaker to rethink its strategy of building a luxurious flagship.

Lancia Gamma 1980 Photos 1

Reportedly, FIAT pulled back on some of its plans, but Lancia moved forward with the Tipo 830. Engineers still had a lot on their plate. Lancia released the ambitious Beta, which found sales across Europe and North America, but that car suffered from catastrophic rust issues. There was also the Lancia Montecarlo sports car, which had problematic brakes. Reportedly, the Tipo 830 could have been a very different car. Citroën and FIAT joined forces with potential plans for a flagship car. Lancia’s car could have shared components with what would become the Citroën CX, but the partnership fell apart.

Still, those engineers pushed through and in 1976, Lancia rolled the Gamma out to the auto show in Geneva. On paper, there was a lot to love. The Gamma Berlina sedan and the Gamma coupe were penned by the minds at Pininfarina, where designer Aldo Brovarone gets credit for the lovely lines of the coupe. The Gamma name was a big deal, too. Before 1945, Lancia named cars after Greek letters. FIAT ownership brought that back, starting with the Beta.

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1979 Lancia Gamma 15568112518764
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The Gamma still had some of that Lancia weirdness, too. At launch, Gamma buyers drove a car powered by a 2.5-liter flat four. Power output was a meager 140 HP. Later, Lancia would downsize for tax reasons and offer up a 2.0-liter flat-four that made 120 HP. These power numbers wouldn’t be bad for a cheap car, but are pretty modest for a flagship. Still, the engines continued the Lancia tradition of offbeat power. Those engines drove the front wheels through a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic.

The Gamma was also given MacPherson struts on all four wheels with wide wishbones and parallel transverse links out back. It also has assisted rack and pinion steering and disc brakes on all wheels. All of this was wrapped in a luxurious interior. Reportedly, the press was in love, with Car magazine saying, via Driven To Write:

Lancia Gamma 1976 Images 2

“It is a driver’s car par excellence; it will please those who like the individuality and detailing that belong more to days gone by: for this is a car in the true Lancia tradition…” Praise for the car continued: “Frankly we were amazed at the amount of attention this car attracts. People who stop to admire it suggest that it has an air of classic elegance, a sort of old-fashioned quality appeal, despite its contemporary shape. Indeed there are features of the body design that reek of times long gone and make one wonder how on earth Lancia can afford to build them into the car… this impression of traditionalism and quality comes over, and the Gamma owner will be much envied wherever he goes.”

“There is a real liveliness about the Gamma as well as an obvious and quantifiable ability and there won’t be many interested drivers who won’t enjoy getting out on the road with it or even punting it around town: it feels and acts like a proper gentleman’s sporting saloon.” They concluded: “It’s an especially good car. The strange throb of its engine at low revs is somewhat difficult to accept but within minutes you’ll find that you’re enjoying the car for its character as well as its pure ability – and that character comes as much from the engine as anything else.”

The car buff mags found the Gamma to be a beautiful, well-handling vehicle. Unfortunately, the love affair wouldn’t last.

Why The Gamma Fails

Wallpapers Lancia Gamma 1980 1

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By all accounts, the Gamma sounded like it was a fantastic driver’s car. Plus, it’s something that you could look at all day. However, its undoing was the kind of reliability that has given Italian cars the stereotypes they have today.

The first issue is that, reportedly, the Gamma was a maintenance-hungry machine. Lancia specified high-quality oils that should be changed in short intervals. These engines weren’t units that you just let run without care. If you kept up on the mechanicals, you also had to battle Lancia’s notorious rust issues.

Yet, none of them can come even close to how the engine could fail. Reportedly, the engine in the Gamma was based on the proven Flavia’s engine. However, engineers made some critical changes that caused some unfortunate side effects. The Flavia’s engine uses pushrod-actuated valves and has a chain-driven camshaft. That’s nothing far out. The redesigned cast aluminum engine for the Gamma took a slightly different route. Now, the camshafts were driven by a belt rather than a chain.

1979 Lancia Gamma 1556811210f66e
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The problem came from how the other components under the hood were driven. Normally, ancillaries such as the power steering pump and the alternator are run from a belt driven by the crankshaft. If your power steering pump seizes, it will likely either throw or burn up the belt. At which point, you just pull over, shut down the engine, and cobble together an escape plan. It’s the same deal for any other part experiencing sudden death.

However, the Gamma’s engine did things a bit differently. Instead of running the power steering pump from a crank-driven belt, the Gamma’s engine ties the pump to the cam belt on the left side of the engine. On the surface, this sounds harmless, because Citroën did the same thing and while the belts did break, they didn’t exactly become infamous. The Ford Vulcan V6 runs its water pump from the cam system but uses chains. The Lancia Gamma Consortium explains what goes wrong:

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Gammas have an unenviable reputation when it comes to their toothed camshaft drive belt, and not without reason! The camshaft serving the nearside (left- hand) pair of cylinders also drives the power steering pump. A lack of development, in early cars in particular, showed itself when unsuspecting owners would start their Gammas on a cold morning with the steering on full lock. This would cause the cambelt to break / jump with the load from the steering pump, resulting in one pair of cylinders firing-up whilst the other pair tried to destroy themselves, at the least causing bent valves. Later models have revised belt tensioners, but are still known to suffer from this problem.

The solution? At the least, it is a good precaution to park leaving the steering in the straight-ahead position. Cam belts should be changed regularly. A special tool is available for hire from the Lancia Motor Club tool library. Lancia recommended every 36,000 miles or 3 years, but considering the relatively low cost of a pair of new belts (about £25-30), many owners change them every 12,000 or even 9,000 miles. The only positive way to solve the problem is to move the pump to the front of the engine and to take its drive from the crankshaft pulley (using the pulley groove intended for the air conditioning pump). A cheaper, less technically elegant, possibility is to slacken off the ‘V’ drive belts to the steering pump, causing them to slip under load. Hardly entirely satisfactory, but if it saves your engine…?

If you follow what you learned in driver’s education, you probably park your car on a hill with your wheels turned over. After all, if your parking brake or parking pawl fails, you don’t want your driverless car plowing into other things or people. However, if you were a Lancia Gamma owner you put your engine at risk by parking properly on a hill. Instead, you parked with your wheels pointed dead ahead and hoped it didn’t roll away on you.

Images Lancia Gamma 1976 1

Jason Torchinsky wrote about this wild phenomenon in 2021, and he points out that you don’t even have to be starting the car to ruin your Gamma’s engine:

It didn’t even have to be when you first start the car — though it is suggested that if you have one, only start it with the steering wheel nice and straight — if you pulled out of a parking spot with the engine cold and cranked the wheel enough, you could pop that belt just as easy.

Holy crap, how does a car company let that happen? I can’t think of another car where you can literally destroy your own engine just by cranking the steering wheel at the wrong time. Well, I mean, other than by cranking the wheel to drive into something.

Now, it might be easy to dismiss this whole deal from the rust to the fatal engine flat to lazy engineering, but Jason points out that such wasn’t fully the case with the Gamma. Engineers gave the fastback Berlina a rear end with an elaborate trunk.

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There isn’t just a rear window, but a second window inside of the vehicle that looks into the trunk and a third window attached to the trunk lid that also allows you to look into the trunk. That third window is covered up with a set of louvers. So there was some serious engineering done on the Gamma, but it certainly wasn’t on how the power steering pump was run.

It’s still not exactly known what went on there. What I can tell you is that both versions of the Gamma were a flop. Lancia sold the Gamma from 1976 to 1984, moving just 15,272 Berlinas and 6,789 coupés in the process. Lancia introduced a slew of Gamma concepts, upgraded the 2.5 engine to fuel injection, and gave the Gamma a facelift, but it could never find a ton of buyers.

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At the very least, the Gamma name wasn’t revived to be placed on a Chrysler product. The poor Flavia was brought back as a rebadged version of the Chrysler 200. Currently, Lancia doesn’t even build rebadged Chryslers anymore but just the little Ypsilon, and that shares its bones with a number of Stellantis European models.

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The good news here is that it seems that Lancia collectors go after the marque’s far more famous rides. You can get a running Gamma for under $20,000 or even under $10,000 if you look hard enough.

It’s a shame the Gamma has such a weird fatal flaw, because it sounds like it was otherwise a great car. Sure, a Gamma won’t blow your socks off, but it sounds like a fun car to drive with the kind of style that makes you look like a distinguished driver. So, maybe it’s worth buying one, just be sure not to park with your wheels turned.

(Images: Lancia/Stellantis, unless otherwise noted.)

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Turbotictac
Turbotictac
27 days ago

David’s article about timing belts still lives rent free in my head as one of the worst takes ever

Jason Smith
Jason Smith
27 days ago
Reply to  Turbotictac

I’ve heard much worse takes but it definitely deserves a spot on the Mt. Rushmore of “interesting” takes…

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
27 days ago

Interesting how toothed belts are becoming more common on bicycles… For reliability reasons.

Then again, my head has plenty of valve clearance. No interference there! Though I’m pretty sure my water pump is due for a replacement.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
28 days ago

Does this ever count as unreliable? I had a Citroen once that would cut out at random. That was unreliable.

Dependably fragile would be more accurate of a car that fails every time you operate the controls a certain way.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
28 days ago

“ The camshaft serving the nearside (left- hand) pair of cylinders…”

If you have to clarify in brackets which side you meant you already know you’ve used a stupid way of defining which side it was.

I hate “nearside” and “offside”. It’s never used by OEMs, but often used by dealers and service garages instead of the universally understood left and right. It’s an anachronism left over from which side you mount your horse without getting your sword in the way, but now so poorly defined that it can be either side of the same car depending on where it’s parked.

Brynjaminjones
Brynjaminjones
27 days ago
Reply to  Captain Muppet

THANK YOU! I’ve been saying this for ages – whenever I order car parts (by phone, which I still have to do occasionally) here in the UK, I always ask for left or right. They almost always reply asking “nearside or offside?”
It doesn’t make any sense to me, especially as I own both LHD and RHD cars. Am I supposed to talk about the nearside and offside for the country they were sold in new, or for the country they live in now?

Davey
Davey
28 days ago

Speaking of rust, why hasn’t any other car company made their vehicles out of aluminum like Ford? Seems like a no-brainer to lessen weight and avoid rust.

That guy
That guy
28 days ago
Reply to  Davey

Aluminum is way more difficult to repair after a collision

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
28 days ago
Reply to  Davey

Higher tooling cost, higher material cost, much higher repair cost, inferior durability, and it doesn’t even necessarily prevent rust, depending on the alloy. Ford aluminum panels are well known for corrosion issues, and on vehicles with both aluminum and steel panels it is common for the aluminum panels to corrode worse than the steel ones.

Dumb Shadetree
Dumb Shadetree
28 days ago
Reply to  Davey

At least for the first two generations, the Honda Insight was all aluminum. The styling of the second gen Insight was honestly a shame; it was a decent little car that never took off because it presented as a Temu version of the Prius.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
28 days ago
Reply to  Davey

Good point. Why can’t all cars be as light and corrosion free as an old Defender?

06dak
06dak
28 days ago
Reply to  Davey

How many Fords are “made out of” aluminum?

That probably tells you about how effective that idea really was

Davey
Davey
28 days ago
Reply to  06dak

All of the body panels of every f150 for the last what-decade or more, you know the best selling vehicle or truck for who knows how long. So yes, quite a few vehicles. C’mon you know exactly what I’m talking about.
And they still are, so yes quite effective I’d say. I’m not even a Ford fan but aluminum panels are a huge bonus in Ontario winters.

06dak
06dak
27 days ago
Reply to  Davey

Understand the F150 represents a metric ton of volume, but Ford hasn’t changed over any other vehicles or platforms. If going Aluminum was an no-brainer success they would have changed everything over. Fact is Ford has spent significant capital, and is burdened with the equipment and raw material cost impacts of trying to move everyone forward when no one actually followed them. It was a calculated risk on their part that so far has not paid off.

I understand the benefits but to say “why has no one followed Ford” is a bit of a stretch, because no one in Ford besides F150 has gone that way or to that extreme.

Davey
Davey
27 days ago
Reply to  06dak

Fair, and makes sense. I do hope more mainstream automakers start to adopt more weight saving and less rust prone body panels or other parts, striking a balance between durability/cost to consumer. Rust was a big problem with our 90’s Explorer…and all our other Ford products tbh. I just wish automakers would at least start with something like an aluminum hood or tailgate or hatch or trunk..something to justify the already increasing costs of their models a bit more.

Isis
Isis
27 days ago
Reply to  Davey

The switch to Aluminum in the F150 was in 2016 I think. The 2017 Raptor is the first one with Aluminum, so I know it was after 2014 at least.

Suss6052
Suss6052
27 days ago
Reply to  Isis

2015 for F150, 2017 for F250+ were the introduction of aluminum F-series trucks

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
27 days ago
Reply to  06dak

F150s and Super Dutys used exclusively aluminum panels, and many other Fords, like my Expedition, use some aluminum panels. Just the hood and back hatch in the case of an expedition. So, like 50% of all Fords sold are made out of aluminum, if that answers your question.

Mick Molte
Mick Molte
28 days ago

That’s a lovely car, but why do you need three different ways to look into the truck?

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
27 days ago
Reply to  Mick Molte

You have to keep an eye on the victim somehow.

Leo T.
Leo T.
28 days ago

Isn’t there an Alfa design flaw that would have the cam jump timing if the car rolled while not started?

AlfaWhiz
AlfaWhiz
27 days ago
Reply to  Leo T.

On early 24V 3.0 engines one of the cams had very little overlap with the belt (barely a quarter of the cam gear), and it tends to jump, as it is also driving the oil pump (yes, from the cam via a shaft down to the sump). Speaking of 164 24V variants (QV and Q4), those were the earliest 24V Alfas. This was remedied later.

Last edited 27 days ago by AlfaWhiz
Tom Gordon
Tom Gordon
28 days ago

I would think that a car website might understand that things with air in them lose pressure when it gets cold. I know living in New England that I have to check the air on my tires when the temperature drops. But someone people still make Tom Brady jokes…

Tom Gordon
Tom Gordon
28 days ago

Mercedes, this is a perfect storm for me, of my interest in cars and sports intersecting… I maybe expect to get Patriots jokes in one world, but come on, let me enjoy a well-written article without triggering my other fandoms 🙂

PJ
PJ
28 days ago
Reply to  Tom Gordon

When people bring up the deflategate situation, I ask them if they have ever had to inflate their tires in the winter, and then ask if they think it was Brady deflating their tires. Also I ask them to explain how a QB would prefer to throw a deflated football.

Spikersaurusrex
Spikersaurusrex
28 days ago
Reply to  PJ

I’m pretty sure I caught Brady in my driveway putting the valve caps back on in January, so, yeah, it was Brady who deflated my tires.

Daviid Walker
Daviid Walker
28 days ago

Since I own one of these cars, I feel that for the first time I can comment on this great site.
Mine is a ’78 coupe, one of the last carbed ones before the switch to fuel injection. As is the way Lancia did things, changes were both gradual and sudden so my car has a mix of Series 1 and Series 2 features, the carb and the 14 inch wheels from S1s (your 1st picture), and the slightly nicer interior and proper Lancia grille of the S2 (the later coupe picture). Though I have replaced those with 17 inch Volvo wheels (with the same 5 x 108 pcd and centre bore and offset) on 205 45/17 Pilot Sport5 Michelins
These are 1970s European cars made of steel, so yes, they can rust, but in my experience, not as bad as other cars. More than my Citroën BX, about the same as my Citroën CX S1, and less than the BMW E3s, E9s and E21s I’ve driven. Less rust than a Mercedes W123, but more than my 5 W124s. The build quality is an odd mix of better than MB W124 and less than Lada/Yugo/small 70s Fiats. The Ermenegildo Zegna upholstery on the seats and interior is very very good as one would expect, (remarkable now considering the car’s age) but the dashboard and controls are seemingly made of old Airfix kit plastic like Fiats of that age. The external door handles, shared with the Ferrari 365/400 that came down the same Pininfarina production line at the same time, can sometimes jam, but otherwise the handmade body and interior is very good.
The transmission is quite good with a slightly rubbery change feel, but good ratios, mine is like most coupes, a manual. The 4 stage automatic made by AP products in the UK is related distantly to the ones seen in the Issigonos Minis and Austin Americas

Matt Hardigree
Matt Hardigree
28 days ago
Reply to  Daviid Walker

Thanks for all the information!

John Metcalf
John Metcalf
28 days ago

Actually saw a Chrysler Ypsilon in Japan last fall. I did a double take trying to figure out what it was. Now I know it was a Lancia in disguise. Thanks for that.

John E
John E
28 days ago

So, Audi copied the styling and quality control for the 5000. Worst. Car. We. Ever. Owned. In the five weeks we owned it, it NEVER made the 30 mile drive home and we drove it a total of about 45 minutes. Then the dealer bought it back. It was a brand new 1984 Audi 5000. It was my dad’s first new foreign car. It was amazingly modern and sleek inside and out. And it was absolute pure junk.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
28 days ago

That’s not usually what I’d call “over-engineered.” I’d call it “really poorly engineered.” Over-engineered are Rolls-Royce doors and hinges, or possibly, possibly the crazy ass hydraulics of the Mercedes 600 (not the story I was looking for but it’ll do) :

https://www.caranddriver.com/features/a15123457/ancient-grease-keeping-the-mercedes-benz-grosser-600-parade-ready-feature/

This Lancia just sounds like a piece of shit.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
28 days ago

And you just know some GM engineer in the ’70s looked at that issue and wondered why he didn’t think of it first

Paul B
Paul B
28 days ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Well, the Quad4 had its steering pump driven by a belt off of the intake camshaft. At least it was a timing chain to drive the camshafts.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/13/Quad4Engine.jpg

An incredible amount of tension needed in that belt so it wouldn’t squeal.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
28 days ago
Reply to  Paul B

Later Ecotecs drive the power steering pump directly off the end of the camshaft, no belt, but the timing chain still powers it.

Dumb Shadetree
Dumb Shadetree
28 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Wait, so GM simply did a better job of executing questionable engineering decisions?

Schrödinger's Catbox
Schrödinger's Catbox
27 days ago
Reply to  Dumb Shadetree

I had a 97 Grand Am with a cousin of the Quad 4. GM just executed those bad decisions in less apparent ways. Like how the water pump failed regularly and required a lot of labor to replace due to how it is driven by the timing chain/belt. In early 2000 that was a $900 job every 60 – 75k miles.

I loved that engine and 5 speed manual combo in coupe form. In bright red. Fun car, but expensive to maintain for what it was.

Paul E
Paul E
28 days ago

If Lancia had made boats (they would have rusted and sunk, anyway), they’d all be Rho boats.

Paul B
Paul B
28 days ago
Reply to  Paul E

oops, replied at the wrong level…

Last edited 28 days ago by Paul B
Mechjaz
Mechjaz
28 days ago
Reply to  Paul B

You Pauls [A-Z] always doing things like that, you rascals

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
28 days ago

What an odd, fascinating car. I know about the quirks of the Betas, but the Gamma has somehow never been on my radar. Thanks for the info, Mercedes!

Sklooner
Sklooner
28 days ago

It makes my Beta seem reliable

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
28 days ago

So it has the looks of a Ferrari 400 but none of the reliability?

Marantzer
Marantzer
28 days ago

Sounds like a gutless Italian rusty turd….but ok.

Adam Guha
Adam Guha
28 days ago

My mom bought a ’76 Beta Coupe new. While she clearly escaped the issues with the Gamma, this car was not much better. It broke down on the way home from the dealer and proceeded to consistently break down over the next 15 or so years she drove it. Add in the rust issues (it was a front wheel drive car, which mostly sold in the US in northern states, and they didn’t think to use any rust proofing!), unreliable electrical parts, and as beautiful as it was inside and out, it was just a really bad car. She finally gave up on it in the late 80’s, and it sat in our yard for years. Funny thing is, the guy she ended up giving it to hooked up a battery and it started right up even though it had been sitting. Go figure.

Mr. Canoehead
Mr. Canoehead
28 days ago

Those engines drove the front wheels through a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic.

That’s interesting – a four speed auto in the 1970’s? Most automatics of the time used the Simpson gearset which gives 3 forward gears.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
28 days ago
Reply to  Mr. Canoehead

Rolls-Royce used a 4-speed automatic through 1978, but only on the big Phantom limousines (licensed built copy of the original Hydramatic, which GM themselves phased out in the early ’60s). But other than that, automakers did kind of generally forget about 4 speeds for awhile there.

FlyingMonstera
FlyingMonstera
28 days ago
Reply to  Mr. Canoehead

It’s an AP transmission. I remember the issue of Autocar that tested the Lancia Beta fitted with it. Must have been a quiet week as the full cover photo was of the gear selector. AP also made the 4 speed auto for the Leyland A-series installations (Mini, Metro etc), although I can’t imagine it’s the same one as that’s an in-sump unit.

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
28 days ago

Hm, looks like a Subaru flat-4 would slot right in there.

Pappa P
Pappa P
28 days ago
Reply to  Eggsalad

An EJ would somehow be even less reliable

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
28 days ago

When I was young I was taught to park cars with the wheels straight ahead to lessen pressure on the hydraulic lines. I don’t know if this was good advice or not but it’s become a life long habit.

Phuzz
Phuzz
28 days ago
Reply to  Dodsworth

Whereas I was taught that if I was on a hill, to always park with the wheels turned, so that if the handbrake failed the wheels would jam on the kerb. Instead I just leave the car in gear.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
28 days ago
Reply to  Dodsworth

No, the power steering lines don’t bear any pressure if the pump isn’t running and the steering wheel is not being turned.

SLM
SLM
27 days ago
Reply to  Dodsworth

I was taught to park with the wheels straight too (standard french drive ed), but the reason was more about being sure of the wheels position when leaving. I still do it even if my car dont have assisted direction. But most cars in France are manuals, we’re taught to let it in gear when parking on a Hill…

McLovin
McLovin
28 days ago

I know at least 1 Gamma made it through. In 2014ish I bought a Fulvia Coupe from an old Doctor who bought it new, and drove it daily until buying a Gamma Coupe new off the floor at a motor show. The Gamma was still very much alive and lovely and if I had the money I would have bought it as well.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
28 days ago

As they would say in Texas it is all hat no cattle. Designed to be looked at not driven. Designed not engineered. But clearly most Italian cars were designed for immediate obsolescence. And a car where you can capture the rusting with a still picture camera is a bomb.
On the bright side I’m hoping to get my Fiat 124 started this week.

Andrew Daisuke
Andrew Daisuke
28 days ago

Did car companies ever think about galvanization or, at the very least using some sort of paint/primer/coating for their cars? Or was it just, that’s way too expensive, let them rust?

I mean, rust in places that use copious amounts of road salt, sure, you’re just delaying the inevitable, but was the main cause of these cars disentigrating Europe salting roads as well or just normal moisture?

Last edited 28 days ago by Andrew Daisuke
Marathag
Marathag
28 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Daisuke

Later Chevy Vegas had galvanized panels to try to do something about the terrible rust thru in their panels

Before that, some manufacturers would dip the entire body in paint to try to seal them.

It got noticed more in the late ’60s as body panels were being stamped out of thinner gauge steel to save money, so rust thru happend more quickly

So by malaise era, you could get rust thru in under two years

Sklooner
Sklooner
28 days ago
Reply to  Marathag

Fiat stored unpainted bodies outside their factories in the 60s

Speedway Sammy
Speedway Sammy
28 days ago
Reply to  Marathag

The Vega had .028 inch thick fenders instead of the typical .032. Or as they called it in the plant “oh too thin”.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
28 days ago
Reply to  Marathag

I believe American Motors was the first company to switch to entirely galvanized exterior panels in the late 1970s, before that, GM and a few other companies had at least started doing the sills and fenders. Prior to then, it was mostly the 1957 and 1958 Chrysler Forward Look bodies that really stood out as horrendously bad rust buckets with rust-through in 2 years or so, along with the imports (the Vauxhalls we got in the late ’50s were typically dead after 2 Midwestern winters)

R Rr
R Rr
28 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Daisuke

I have a friend who’s into Jeeps (buys, sells, modifies, offroads them). He has bought brand new Wranglers with rust just from sitting on a dealer’s lot for a few weeks.

Last edited 28 days ago by R Rr
Andrew Daisuke
Andrew Daisuke
28 days ago
Reply to  R Rr

holy crap

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
28 days ago
Reply to  R Rr

Is your friend named David T?

Davey
Davey
28 days ago
Reply to  R Rr

I had a rental Wrangler with only 5,000klms on it that had rust bubbling up from beneath the paint on the rear door sill. It’s a Jeep thing so I didn’t understand.

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