Lancia Beta Coupe

My Italian ‘mistake’

The Lancia represents my one and only foray into Italian cars. In my mind, it represented the best…and the worst that Italian cars have to offer. For the time, it was truly a piece of automotive sculpture. It had power to spare, a thrilling sound when you were in the gas and electrics so unreliable they would embarrass Lucas. Then there was the nagging issue of mechanical reliability, as in there was none. But the Beta is the first car I ever bought brand new and the first car I ever bought for cash so it holds a memorable place in my automotive heart.

I was living in Boulder, Colorado at the time and purchased the lovely Beta from a dealer in Denver. I really couldn’t say what motivated me to buy it but I remember being enraptured by the whole idea of owning an Italian sportscar. I know the coupe came in a variety of colors but, in my opinion, if you’re going to have a faux Ferrari, there’s only one color it can be and that’s red. And red it was.

Very Ferrari-esque

Driving home to Boulder on U.S. 36 out of Denver, I felt on top of the world. The car was just plain awesome. It sounded fantastic and went like a scalded cat when you mashed the gas. Never mind that the Beta was a sort of dressed up Fiat 124 coupe. Youza! I figured this was probably as close to automotive heaven as you could get. Then things turned ugly.

Driving back into Denver one morning, the oil pressure needle dropped to zero. I immediately shut the engine down and pulled of the side of the road. Nothing rattled or clunked and there were no ominous sounds of detonation from the motor so I thought I’d be okay. This was before cell phones, so I got to take quite a hike to get help but the hook came and got my baby and carted it off to the dealership where it was announced that the oil pump had let go and it would be about 6 weeks before one could be brought in from—you guessed it— Italy! It took a total of about 2 months before the Lancia was returned to me and another 3 weeks before the same thing happened. This time, I wasn’t quite as fortunate as the motor simply let go before I could get it shut down.

In the end, I drove the Lancia about five weeks, total. The dealer was good enough to refund my entire purchase so there was no harm on the financial front. I really loved the little Beta but guess I was not destined to own an Italian car. To this day, I think the gods of British iron were getting back at me for cheating on them.