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‘For those who require a four seater car of lively performance and excellent road manners, and to whom motoring means more than mere transportation, the Appia is a very desirable possession’.
Autocar, January 1961.
‘Appia’ (as anyone who paid attention in Latin will know) is the name taken from the Roman road started in 312BC, also known as the Via Appia or Appian Way that tracked south from Rome over 300 miles to Brindisi. Two thousand-odd years later the project overseen by Gianni Lancia and the legendary Vittorio Jano would feature a compact V4 of just 10 degrees and 1089cc; resulting in the first Series Appia which was presented at the Turin Motorshow in April 1953.
The second series arrived three years later and to confirm the endurance and reliability of this iteration the Italian journal ‘Quattroroute’ completed 100 circuits of the tough Mille Miglia course - nonstop! This was the equivalent of 97,200 fast miles (at an average of 43.6mph) with fuel consumption returning 33.2mpg. No major breakdowns occurred and a close examination post-test confirmed that no major components required replacing. March 1959 saw the 3rd and final series in the Appia story make its public appearance at Geneva with the factory producing around 55,000 examples of the Berlina type in all before the line was finally closed in April 1963.
The Appia screams Latin charm and those that live and breathe these joyous creations will (we think) agree that the Series 3 version is the one to have. Retaining the rigid pillarless body with suicide rear doors and featuring Lancia's wonderful V4 with staggered cylinder layout - but now upgraded to a heady 48bhp, the Series 3 could sit at 70mph all day and still return 30mpg.
Superbly balanced, the Appia outperformed most 1-litre cars of the period, offering confident cornering with minimal body roll courtesy of Lancia's trusted sliding pillar front suspension (first featured on the Lambda in 1922); a package that secured sports car performance from a modest saloon. The Appia enjoyed great success on the track during the late 1950s and early 60s, mainly in the hands of privateers. In 59 international races this 1.1 litre giant-killer scored 4 overall victories, 19 class wins, 4 poles, and 12 podiums.
Rolling off Lancia’s South African facility on 7th November 1961, this RHD example was first registered to a lady in Durban who enjoyed the car for a decade or so before selling it on locally where it remained in use as a daily driver until 1980. The Appia then went into storage before being purchased by Lancia aficionado and UK importer Christo Smal in 1992. Christo returned the car to regular use and brought it to the UK when he moved here in 2003. He remained MAS 893's custodian until avid Lancia collector John Baker took over the reins in 2018. A subsequent back injury meant the Appia landed in the hands of dealer Retro Marques, from where the current owner (also a dedicated enthusiast) purchased it with a specific plan in mind - as explained in detail here:
"I purchased MAS 893 two years ago as a basic all together rust free Appia – but crucially RHD – making it already a pretty rare car on UK roads. However, being a budding classic car historian and rally competitor I set about investigating the possible rallying history of this model. Although the Appia was used extensively by privateers, the only international event I could locate was a Series 3 entered on the 1962 Acropolis Rally as number 75, finishing a credible 25th overall. I set about converting my Appia as a replica in homage to this entry.
The Italian driver for this event, Luigi Cabella was more often seen on the circuits of Europe with two victories, four class wins and 4 podiums from 31 starts. He teamed up with local co-driver George Kritikos in a rally dominated by large factory teams including Mercedes, Ford, SAAB and Porsche, with famous names from the world of rallying such as Carlsson, Andersson and Pat Moss also taking part. 55 entries took on the heat, dust and gravel of the mountain paths around Athens at the end of May '62 with just 36 completing the course. The privately entered Appia was not only competitive but once again proved its durability.
Common sense dictated our first upgrade, which was to remove the old bench seat (ideal for a nap, less ideal for performance driving) and replace it with two Morris Minor front seats which were then given to my trimmer who did a brilliant job matching them to the rear. Any rally car must be fitted with some form of timing gear and although there are no known pics of the interior of the original 75 it probably would have been fitted with a mechanical Halda or similar. We opted for a Brantz Rallymeter Int. Pro 2 which I have successfully used before on other International rallies. We made up an aluminium base plate to take the Brantz plus a set of stop and clock watches after which I added a dash mounted map reading light with vintage compass. Next up my thoughts turned to a rev counter, this conversion was prompted by another Appia owner who had replaced the right hand ashtray with the ignition switch using that location to site a Smiths tacho in a pod; I duly copied this idea and then went further by converting the left-hand ashtray to a 12-volt outlet for charging (if you are a smoker then this car might therefore not be for you!).
Cars of this vintage, especially those with centre operating suicide doors were not fitted with seat belts and without a ‘B’ pillar there was no obvious place to locate them. Initially, we opted for static belts taken from a fixing point behind the rear seat and ably fitted by Quick Fit of North London. However, these ultimately proved cumbersome so they came up with the brilliant solution of fitting a drop down belt from the underside of the roof to an inertia reel behind the front seat - a solution that works perfectly.
After the interior modifications attention turned to the floor panels. We wire brushed the entire underside of the car then applied two coats of waxoyl, which was also injected into the door and sill cavities. The car had been purchased with a carburetor upgrade from standard to a DC36 Weber and air filter, this worked well but we considered it could be improved with an additional fuel pump – so we purchased a Facet electric pump to compliment the mechanical version and fed them in parallel. Rubber over mats were fitted on top of the original front rubber flooring (carpet remains to the rear) and a 2.5 litre fire extinguisher was attached to the front tunnel.
An engine bay makeover became the next priority with all components being carefully removed, cleaned and replaced. The radiator was reconditioned - Lancia has a unique radiator drainage system & a pressurised heat blind - and a new safety cap was fitted at this point. The engine covers were removed & repainted as original in factory crinkle black and an all new ignition system with two new coils fitted in parallel for immediate switching was installed. A pair of vintage air horns were wired in and the Weber was removed & professionally cleaned, vapour blasted & re jetted with a new race air filter. The ‘75’ rally numbers were sourced and placed in the same position along with an original 1962 finishers medal - sourced at significant cost from Germany along with a replica rally plaque. An alternator conversion plus vintage Italian Carello spot lamps purchased from the Netherlands with a period reversing lamp (fitted to the rear bumper) completed the picture, alongside five new tyres with thickened inner tubes which were acquired to reduce the likelihood of punctures.
2019 saw us embark on a long-distance road trip to enjoy a weekend of racing at Angouleme in France during which the Lancia drove faultlessly for 1400 miles whilst attracting endless attention. That trip taught us that the drum brakes were not perhaps at their best, so on our return the car went to Valoroso in East Sussex who undertook a comprehensive update of both the brake and suspension systems.
To conclude, what we have now is a fully sorted and unique RHD 1961 Lancia Appia, built before the intervention of Fiat and truly rare sight on UK roads. Ownership is supported by an active and invaluable UK Lancia Club and via an Appia Consortium that can locate pretty much any spares you might need. I believe I have achieved what I set out to do & have enjoyed the project, so, why the sale? My reasons are twofold: Firstly I'm currently 78 and as such my rally days are sadly coming to an end, and secondly my knees are also pretty shot, so tinkering is becoming a chore rather than a pleasure."
Inspection report - Exterior:
Most importantly, the images in the photo gallery confirm this to be a rust-free example with clean sills and arches. The black finish is not perfect and carries a few small age blisters to the o/s front wing plus some minor blemishes to the o/s rear quarter. The alloy bonnet shows a couple of chips to its front edge whilst the n/s offers more micro blisters on the upper edges which are only noticeable close up. The chrome is generally very good with minimal fade to both front and rear bumpers and the original headlight rings and door handles have survived incredibly well. The exterior shape oozes character and that is enhanced by the sixties brightwork, especially the Carello spotlights. The five nicely finished steel wheels are wrapped in new period Blockley rubber and the original chrome hubcaps are included in the sale.
Delightful and perfectly presented, the Appia interior is a place you could never fail to enjoy spending significant time in. The red trim matches perfectly across the cabin, seats, door cards and dash top and is difficult to fault, with the aforementioned bespoke seat belts with both floor and roof mountings providing another interesting talking point. Rubber flooring to the front with red carpets to the rear is not a concession to Rallying - that is how this Appia would have left the factory. The roof lining - a mohair fabric finished in light brown - is in superb condition whilst the door cards enjoy leatherette storage pockets and alloy door furniture. Classic rally requirements include the fitted fire extinguisher, Brantz Pro timing gear with additional period stopwatches, map reading light and compass, alongside easy to reach switch gear for wipers, spotlights and the headlight flasher etc. The stylish original Lancia dials offer a speedo plus a three in one unit that displays fuel, oil and water readings with typical period Italian flair.
Please note: Any and all of the rally inspired alterations made to this Appia were carried out to be totally reversible should a new custodian look to return the car to stock.
A chance to road test the Appia reveals some more of its unique features, starting (appropriately) with the starting procedure which requires pushing the key (like a button) once it's inserted in the ignition. Barely any choke is required as the V4 warms readily enough, first gear on this column is upwards and with the clutch biting at just under half-way on the pedal a smooth getaway is simplicity itself. The exhaust note could perhaps best be described as ‘fruity’ but is not intrusive as the engine offers plenty of torque, pulling willingly from low revs with top (fourth) feeling comfortable as soon as something like 35mph is breached. The sliding pillar suspension is a classic Lancia design and still works well - body roll is not excessive as the system is quite firm and contributes to strong feedback through the steering. Overall the Appia is more than comfortable mixing it with modern traffic - a quality many enthusiasts look for in a classic car (but not all of them find), and on top of everything else there is simply the sheer charm of this car - it never fails to draw the attention of pedestrians and other road users; most enjoying a double take of this rare little Italian and offering a verbal or visual 'thumbs up'.
The Appia comes with three large folders containing historic information on the model, the original owner’s manual plus a full workshop manual and every MOT awarded since entering the UK in 2003: the mileage at that time was showing as 14,675. Invoices on file list the many thousands of pounds spent over the past two years with correspondence and advice offered by the relevant specialist engineering companies involved. The current owner has put together a small spares package plus several items of Appia memorabilia including an original 1962 Acropolis Rally finishers medal, this car's Lancia Certification (framed) plus a unique painting commissioned by the vendor. Lastly in terms of accessories the car comes with a bespoke coffee table with its image imprinted onto the wooden surface - perfect for the man cave.
The final plus point of owning this unique car will be, as anyone who has read this far will no doubt appreciate, a guaranteed entry to pretty much any bespoke rally, whether it be scenic or competitive, road based or historic, the organisers will understandably be keen for this rare Lancia to be part of their event.
For interested parties viewing can of course be arranged by appointment near Worthing in West Sussex and we can also supply a walk around video to help those not favoured by the geographical location of the car itself.