Iconic Cars Of The Past

Some of the most beautiful machines ever built

No. 5 - Lancia Aprilia

Lancia Aprilia image

Vincenzo Lancia had worked as a racing driver, an engineer and a pilot. As a result he was right up to date on how aerodynamic design could potentially affect the performance of a motorcar. In particular he was interested in racing, and became Fiat's chief inspector and test driver at a very young age. He was a very fast driver indeed; and had he been able to drive more reliable racing cars he may well have gone on to greater things on the track.

He first started making cars in 1908 with the Alfa, which sold around 100 vehicles, but the Aprilia was the car to really put Lancia on the map, in 1937.

Wind tunnels at that time were not new; in fact as far back as 1901 the Wright brothers had used one for aircraft design. Lancia realised however is that this technology could help him to design a body shell with as low a drag coefficient as possible; this would hopefully help him achieve higher speeds and lower fuel consumption at the same time. He collaborated with Battista Farina, the boss of the Pinninfarina coach building company, and the Polytechnic University of Turin, which specialised in engineering and industrial design. Between them, after testing many designs in a wind tunnel, they came up with a body shell which, although not looking particularly streamlined by present standards, was still extremely efficient with a curved rear end which helped to produce a very low drag coefficient. The car had a relatively low powered 1352 cc engine producing just 47 brake horsepower, but nevertheless the top speed was a reasonable 80 mph. Fuel efficiency however was first class for the time, although precise figures are not available.

Access into the car was quite unusual. The front doors were hinged to the front, and the rear doors were hinged at the rear. Where they met in the middle there was no pillar, as there is in a conventional car. Instead the two doors locked together . This meant that when the rear door was open the front one was as well, on each side of the car! This unusual arrangement could not have done very much for body rigidity but it certainly made getting in and out of the car much easier.


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