Lancia Appia GT by Zagato

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Appia GT by Zagato





The Lancia Appia was a passenger car introduced in 1953 by Italian car manufacturer Lancia as a replacement for the Ardea, and which remained in production for ten years. The Appia was the last in a long line of Lancia production cars dating back to the Lancia Lambda (introduced in 1922) to use the famous sliding pillar front suspension. All three series produced had a Lancia V4 engine of 1089 cc.

In addition to the saloon, a number of special bodied Appias were produced, including a coupé by Pininfarina, a convertible and 2-door saloon by Vignale and an aluminium-bodied GT by Zagato, as well as light commercial vehicle variants. In all 107,000 Appia were built: 98,000 saloons, 3,863 commercial vehicles, and 5,161 chassis supplied to coachbuilders.

First series Appias were only offered in factory body styles. This changed with the second and third series Appias, which were also built as a platform chassis intended for coachbuilt bodies. Towards the end of 1955 a first batch of 14 chassis based on the brand new second series Appia were built and handed over to some of the most prominent coachbuilders of the time: Allemano, Boano, Ghia Aigle, Motto, Pininfarina, Vignale and Zagato. Initially all fourteen chassis were coded tipo 812.00, based on standard saloon mechanicals; five of were upgraded to a more powerful 53 PS engine and floor-mounted shifter, and given the new type designation 812.01. At the April 1956 Turin Motor Show, a month after the successful introduction of the second series Appia in Geneva, five specially bodied Appias were shown: a coupé and a two-door saloon by Vignale, a coupé each from Pininfarina, Boano and Zagato. Between Spring 1956 and Spring 1957 the coachbuilders presented their one-off interpretations of the Appia at various motor shows. Later more 812.01 chassis were built, bringing the total of unique to thirteen.

Of the coachbuilders who had worked on the first fourteen chassis, two were selected by Lancia to produce special Appia body styles: Pininfarina for the coupé, and Vignale for the convertible. Their nearly definitive proposals debuted at the March 1957 Geneva Motor Show, and soon went into limited series production. Built by their respective designers on chassis supplied by Lancia, these were included in Lancia's own catalogue and regularly sold through Lancia dealerships. In the later years other variants were added to the official portfolio: Vignale's Lusso, Zagato's GTE and Sport, and Viotti's Giardinetta. All of these variants were built on the 812.01 type chassis with the more powerful engine and floor shifter; when the third series saloon debuted its mechanical upgrades were transferred to the chassis, and the engine gained one horsepower 54 PS. In early 1960 a revised, more powerful engine was adopted, putting out 60 HP thanks to a new Weber carburettor and an inlet manifold with a duct per each cylinder. In total 5,161 Appia chassis for coachbuilders were made.

Zagato built four coupé versions based on the Berlina between 1957 and 1962, for a grand total of 721 vehicles. Zagato's creations catered to Lancia's sportiest clientele, who would privately race their cars. All of Zagato's Appias were bodied stretching an aluminium skin over a boxed steel framework

The harbinger of all Zagato Appias was the prototype built on a type 812.01 chassis, serial number 1005, and first displayed at the 1956 Turin Motor Show. It was immediately nicknamed Appia Cammello, "Camel", because of the double humps it carried not only on the roof—Zagato's signature double bubble—but also on the engine bonnet and boot lid. Originally painted in two-tone blue and white, and fully finished with bumpers and over-riders, this prototype was victorious at that year's Cortina concours d'elegance. Later it was outfitted for racing—applying an amaranto (dark red) livery, removing the bumpers and fitting more conventional looking bonnet and boot lid—and entered at the 1957 Mille Miglia.

During early 1957 Zagato built some 30 more Appias, which remained somewhat similar to the first Cammello, but lost the humps on the bonnet and boot lid, donned thin vertical fins over the rear wings and Plexiglas-covered headlamps, and gained a new grille which would set the template for all future Appia Zagato. All these cars differed a lot from one another. After this first run of prototypes two models were more or less standardised and built in roughly 150 examples. These were the Appia GT, with open headlights carried over from the saloon, and the same 53 PS engine found on other coachbuilders' models; and the sportier Appia GTS, with faired in headlights, a more streamlined body, often a double bubble roof, and a tuned 60 PS engine. The interior carried over the standard car's steering wheel but added tube-framed leatherette sport seats; on the GTS a wood-rimmed steering wheel and bucket seats were optional.

At the 1957 Mille Miglia three Zagato Appias scored a remarkable 1-2-3 finish in their class: the winner was Luciano Mantovani on a GTS, runner up Enrico Anselmi on another GTS, third the aforementioned Cammello piloted by Giorgio Lurani.

At the November 1958 Turin Motor Show the new Lancia Appia GTE (standing for Gran Turismo Esportazione) was introduced, and deliveries started in January 1959. The GTE marked an important change in the relationship between Zagato and Lancia: it was the first Zagato car to be included in Lancia's price lists and sold by Lancia dealers. For Lancia Zagato went from a buyer of chassis to an official supplier of specially bodied finished cars. First shown to the public at the 1958 Turin Motor Show, the first GTEs were delivered in early 1959. GTE bodywork was more low slung and streamlined than its predecessors'. The car had a continuous waistline, without the previous humps over the rear wheels; the nose was longer, and the under elongated Plexiglas covers the headlights were set deeply into the wings. At the rear the tail lights were partially sunken in and crowned by protrusions in the bodywork.

The GTE went through numerous updates. In the Spring 1959 chassis upgraded to third series specifications were phased in. From the autumn newly enacted Italian traffic laws prohibited headlights cover. GTEs for Italy and some export countries had open headlights, and modified bodywork setting them further forward. During 1960 the improved 60 PS engine was adopted. When the Appia Sport was introduced it did not supersede the GTE, but rather some of its features were carried over, such as new headlights and protruding in place of flush pushbutton door handles. The last GTEs were built on a specific 812.03 chassis; the very last example was completed in April 1962. It is estimated that total GTE production amounts to 167 with the earlier 53 PS engine, and 134 with the later 60 PS one

The last and ultimate of Zagato's Appias was the Appia Sport, built from 1961 to 1963 on a short wheelbase chassis coded 812.05. The Sport's premiere took place at the March 1961 Genva Motor Show, and production began concurrently; it did not replace the standard wheelbase GTE, which remained on sale alongside it up to 1962. At 2,350 mm (92.5 in) the Sport's wheelbase was 160 mm (6.3 in) shorter than the GTE's, resulting in a 200 mm (7.9 in) shorter overall length. Adapting the GTE bodywork to the smaller dimensions was the first job of a young Ercole Spada, just hired at Zagato. From the front the Sport was similar to an open headlight GTE, but had a much rounder rear end, tail lights fully sunken into the bodywork, and a fastback roofline. The Sport is the only Appia Zagato for which production numbers are certain, as the coachbuilder started keeping detailed registers of its production only in 1960: production began in March 1961 concurrently to the model launch, with chassis #1001, and ended in January 1963 with chassis #1201, the 200th car. It is also the most standardised of all Zagato Appias, though differences in exterior and interior trim from one car to another were still present, depending on part availability at the time and on the client's desires.

A Lancia Appia Zagato was raced in the 1959 12 Hours of Sebring, among the drivers was newsman Walter Cronkite.

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