The Lancia Montecarlo is a mid-engine rear-wheel-drive sports car developed by Lancia, the famed Italian manufacturer.
It was produced from 1975 to 1978 and 1980 to 1982.
It was designed by Paolo Martin at Pininfarina design house.
The first-generation cars were known as the Lancia Beta Montecarlo and the second series of cars were simply called Lancia Montecarlo.
The proper spellings Monte Carlo was replaced with Montecarlo when marketing and branding the car.
Lancia Montecarlo was offered in Coupe and Spider variants.
The Lancia Montecarlo Spider featured a unique rollback manually operated Targa style canvas roof between solid A and B pillars. The Targa variant was sold in the US as the Lancia Scorpion from 1976 and 1977.
Total production of 1st generation Lancia Montecarlo Spiders is just 3558, and 2080 coupes.
Total production of the 2nd generation Lancia Montecarlo coupes are 1123 and 817 spiders.
Also, around 220 road-going variants of the Rally 037 were made.
Development of Lancia Montecarlo
Fiat was looking for a replacement for its Fiat 124 coupe. To develop a worthy successor, Fiat hired Pininfarina design house to design and develop the replacement car.
However, Bertone design’s much cheaper alternative prototype to replace the Fiat 124 coupe became the Fiat X 1.9.
Pininfarina continued with its project which was officially known as the Fiat X 1/8. The goal of the project was to create a mid-engine sports car with a 3-liter V6 engine.
This project was to be Pininfarina’s first ever car to be completely developed and built in-house rather than building a car around already existing mechanical components or chassis of a production car.
The design work began in 1969 and the final design was completed by Paolo Martin in 1971.
The first world oil crisis that happened in 1973 ended up changing the perimeter of the project. The first change was the replacement of the 3-liter V6 engine with a more fuel-efficient 2-liter inline-four engine. Now the project was called the X 1/20.
Fiat Abarth SE 030
The first offspring of the X 1/20 project was a prototype race car called Fiat Abarth SE 030 which was developed for racing in 1974.
It was powered with a 3.2-liter V6 engine, delivering 280 horsepower.
The car had many aerodynamic tweaks here and there to improve aerodynamic drag. This resulted in better speed and overall handling.
The SE 030 was intended to replace the 124 Abarth in motorsport events. However, the Fiat 131 platform was chosen over the Abarth SE 030 due to the lower cost of development as well as the marketing the racing would give to promote its mass-produced 131 sedan.
Only two prototypes of the Abarth SE 030 were made. One of those took part in Giro D’Italia automobilistico. This event consisted of racing on the road and circuit racing.
Giorgio Pianta and Cristine Becker teamed up behind the wheel of the prototype to become runners-up behind a Lancia Stratos Turbo driven by Andruet and Biche.
After the 1974 season, Fiat decided to shelve the Abarth SE 030 project.
The X 1/20 project was then transferred to Lancia as Lancia was in need of a premium alternative to the Fiat X 1/9.
Lancia decided to power the car with an already proven inline-four engine from the Fiat 124 Sport coupe. A five-speed manual transmission was chosen.
MacPherson performance-tuned suspension, disc brakes for all wheels were included to improve braking, cornering, and overall handling of the car.
1st generation Lancia Beta Montecarlo
The Lancia Beta Montecarlo was unveiled at the Geneva Auto show in 1975.
The first series cars were fitted with a 2-liter Lampredi inline-four engine. This engine developed a total power of 118 horsepower at 6000rpm.
Lancia Beta Montecarlo rear
Lancia Beta Montecarlo was able to achieve a top speed of 190 km/h. The 0-60mph was achieved in 9.3 seconds.
The interior was done in elasticized vinylic textile as standard. The fabric was also available as an option.
The right-side mirror was also an optional feature
The convertible variant of Lancia Beta Montecarlo was marketed in the US from 1976 to 1977 as Lancia Scorpion. The decision to change the name was to avoid any lawsuits because the Monte Carlo nameplate was already owned by Chevrolet and was used to market their Chevrolet Monte Carlo, two-door sports coupe.
In 1978 the production of the Lancia Beta Montecarlo was halted to address serious mechanical issues of the car.
The Lancia Scorpion was received well by the public. The total production of the car was 1805 in 1976. These 1976 cars were sold as 1976 and 1977 model year units, 1396 as 1966 model year, and 405 as 1977 model year.
To comply with US emission regulations, a low emission tuned 1.7-liter twin cam engine was used to power the car. To cool the catalyst converter, two additional vents on the engine cover were required.
The camshaft profiles were less aggressive, the small carburetor, the lower compression ratio of 8.1:1, resulted in lower power output. The maximum power output of the engine was a dismal 81 horsepower.
To comply with US safety regulations, Lancia had to develop the front end of the car to absorb an impact at 5mph speed without deforming the shape of the bumper or without damaging any safety-related mechanical components such as the headlights.
Lancia developed bigger bumpers to absorb more energy at crashes, sealed beam headlights, etc.
These updates made the car heavier and increased the curb weight by another 59kg.
The Lancia Beta Montecarlo and US variant Lancia Scorpion suffered many mechanical issues.
To comply with US height requirements, Lancia had to use taller springs to lift the suspension a little. This resulted in a lack of caster and bump steer. The loss of precision handling made the car not meeting the original requirements.
These cars were sold as 1976 and 1977 model year units.
1977 March 23 Road and Track magazine reviewed the Lancia Scorpion and criticized its engine noise and went on to say that it was just a raucous cacophony.
The rear cross member of the car was a design flaw, as the metal used to build it was too thin and is susceptible to corrosion and eventual failure. Stronger and corrosion-resistant cross members are available from aftermarket companies.
Harsh shifting of the gearbox was one of the main complaints regarding the car. This issue only got worse as the bushings wear, a common trait in mid-engine cars.
The Lancia Beta Montecarlo and Scorpions
Both Europe-spec Lancia Beta Montecarlo cars and US-spec Lancia Scorpions were suffering from overly boosted brakes, which caused the front disc brakes to lock up easily in the wet.
Rust was one of the main enemies of Lancia cars made in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Lancia Beta Montecarlo and Lancia Scoprion were no exclusions.
The cars were supposed to keep in dry indoor conditions to prevent corrosion. It was necessary to use dust proofing methodologies to keep the firewall, wheel wells, floor panels, and cross member from rusting away.
To address these issues the production of Lancia Beta Montecarlo and Lancia Scorpion was stopped in 1978.
Second generation Lancia Montecarlo
After a two-year hiatus, the reworked second-generation Lancia was introduced for the 1980 model year.
Now it was simply known as the Lancia Montecarlo.
The exterior changes included a Lancia split grille, glazed rear buttresses to provide better rear visibility, a full width brushed aluminum strip on the tail instead of the badge.
Larger 14-inch alloys from Beta were adopted to provide more room to house the bigger brake rotors and calipers. The brake servo was removed to address the brake lockup issue.
The old two-spoke steering wheel was replaced with a modern three-spoke Momo steering wheel.
The interior was revamped with new fabrics and trim levels.
The engine was reworked with a higher compression ratio, Marelli electronic ignition, and new carburetors to deliver more torque.
Lancia Montecarlo Motorsport Carrer
Lancia Montecarlo was used by privateers to compete in rally events. However, its derivatives like the Lancia Montecarlo Turbo ad Lancia Rally 037 were the most successful.
Lancia Montecarlo Turbo
The Montecarlo Turbo was a Group 5 racer, a silhouette racer. It shared only the center section of the body and name only with the production car.
The front and rear tubular subframes were covered with easily detachable body sections. This subframe supported the suspension and housed the engine.
Three powertrains were used to power the car including a 1.4-liter inline-four engine delivering 440 horsepower, a 1.4-liter inline-four engine delivering 490 horsepower, and a 1.7-liter inline-four engine delivering 490 horsepower. All these powertrains were mated to a still mid-mounted Colotti gearbox.
It was the first Lancia to be fielded in eight years when it entered the 1979 Silverstone six hours race.
It went on to win the World Manufacturers Championship and the 1981 World Endurance Championship for manufacturers.
Hans Heyer drove a Montecarlo Turbo to win the Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft in 1980. It also won the second place at Giro d’Italia automobilistico.
Lancia Rally 037
The Lancia Rally 037, a silhouette racer, was based on the center section of the production Montecarlo.
It shared little with the production Montecarlo other than the front windscreen, and center section of the car.
The engine was a supercharged engine and was mounted longitudinally rather than reversely as it is in the Montecarlo.