Greatest road tests ever: Lancia Montecarlo Spider

Greatest road tests ever: Lancia Montecarlo Spider

After Lancia’s nightmare with rusty Betas and a first generation plagued by grabby brakes, the rear-drive, mid-engined Montecarlo was reinvigorated for a second series.

Tested 6.6.81

A new grille from the Lancia Delta, newly glazed rear buttresses and revised alloys completed the Montecarlo’s cosmetic changes, while the brakes were no longer servoed but used larger discs. Electronic ignition and a mechanical fuel pump tweaked the mid-mounted, transverse four-cylinder engine, which retained its single downdraught carburettor.

Despite unchanged power, the new Montecarlo took 1.4sec from the original’s 0-60mph time due to a little more torque, better tyres and a 27kg weight drop. In-gear shove impressed, too. The well spaced ratios could be swapped quickly via the heavy gearbox. Brakes were much friendlier than before, but faded with repeated stops. Inherent understeer could be coaxed into benign lift-off oversteer, and body roll was minimal despite a fairly forgiving ride.

Wind noise was okay with the fabric roof stowed, but engine thrash and gearbox whine penetrated the retrimmed cabin due to limited soundproofing. While visibility was good and the seating position comfy for most, restricted rearward seat movement and a fixed steering column troubled taller drivers.

For Flexible engine, pace, brakes, body control

Against Cabin noise, heavy controls

Fact file

Price £8350 Engine 4 cyls in line, 1995cc, petrol Power 120bhp at 6000rpm Torque 126lb ft at 3400rpm 0-60mph 8.6sec 0-100mph 29.7sec Standing quarter mile 16.4sec at 82mph Top speed 120mph Economy 25mpg

What happened next…

Production ended in 1981. Despite dumping the haunted ‘Beta’ preface from its name, Mk2 Montecarlos sold fewer than the Mk1. The Montecarlo underpinned both a turbocharged Group 5 endurance racer and the 037 Group B rally car, winning the 1983 WRC constructors’ title over the Audi Quattro.