1978 Lancia Beta Berlina

Update: Sold! After several months on the market, I sold this car in July 2011 for $1475 (what I paid for it, plus maybe the new tires, and none of the other stuff!). I really wanted to like it, but every time I needed to fix something, I had to remove two other parts first. With a twin carb conversion, a/c delete and the smog crap removed, this could be a great car. In California, that’s just not a reality.

In 2008, I was still doing what I was doing in 2005… going through craigslist, reading bringatrailer, and realizing that there were some cool, weird old cars passing through the marketplace. I considered BMW Bavarias, looked at an MGB GT (nice enough, but unwilling to rev compared to the Alfas, and thus less fun), and probably read all kinds of listings for oddball cars. I even saw a listing on craigslist for a Lancia Beta up in the Napa area, which, as it turned out, was a sedan. However, my impression was that it had been laid up for a long time and needed retrieval from a field. Not wanting to deal with it, I passed.

Later on, in August of that year, a guy who was parting with some of his car collection had listed an Alfetta Sedan (sportomatic, I believe… sounds like an oxymoron), a Fiat 124 coupe, and a Lancia Beta sedan. No telling if the Beta was the same car, but I checked out all his eBay listings. While I’ve always wanted a 124 coupe, this one was a later-model CC and quickly went above my budget. So I bid on the Beta, which looked pretty good in the pictures, and not that bad when I drove by to see it in person. We were not able to connect for a test drive, but I figured as long as I hadn’t handed over the cash, I still had a way out if he’d misrepresented the car. After winning the auction ($1250), I went over, took the car for a test drive, and found that while it didn’t run fantastically well and needed new shocks, it was still a project I was willing to take on. After all, it’s not like I was going to go next door and find another one. On the bright side, the electrics were in good shape, and the car was clean and well-equipped. Working with him to get the car through smog was a bit of a hassle, but all in all my first major eBay purchase went smoothly.

Work done so far:

  • New alternator.
  • New timing and water pump belts.
  • Check ignition system, set points gap and timing.
  • New rubber fuel lines.
  • New Carter P60504 fuel pump.
  • New Sumitomo HTR200 175/70HR14 tires.

So far, this car has been on but one tour with me – the Berlina tour run by Andrew Watry. Unfortunately, it is not so trusty just yet, which has led to many of the posts here. A picture from its day out:

1978 Lancia Beta Berlina

This picture is from Shaun Pond’s Fulvia cam – I hope you don’t mind me stealing the only decent picture of my car that’s out there!

Update, 2/10/10: Since I last wrote about this car, I’ve done some more work on it to be able to drive it more frequently:

  • New exhaust system from the cat back
  • New smog pump belt
  • New stock-spec strut inserts
  • Final tuning/set-up by Jaan Hjorth at EddinsMoto, since I wasn’t able to figure it out myself. He installed flexible fuel lines running through the interior of the car, rejetted the carb, verified the cam timing, and set ignition timing.
  • New interior sound insulation, since the old stuff got soaked in the fuel leaking from the old rusty fuel line.

At this point, the car starts and runs fairly reliably. Cold starting is a bit of a challenge, so that’ll be one of the immediate things to take care of, but otherwise it’s a pretty good car. Roadholding is good, the brakes are strong, and once you dip into the secondary it pulls pretty well. It’s also pretty willing to rev. Recent action includes an outing with the Pedal Pushers, and driving down to Monterey to participate in the 2009 Concours d’Lemons.

My list (dreaming and reality) still includes the following, in no particular order:

  • Fix cold starting issue.
  • Pass smog.
  • Replace oil seal on forward cam box.
  • Replace flexible brake lines.
  • Replace steering rack boots.
  • Rebuild shift linkage with Montgomery kit.
  • Replace trunk support struts.
  • Soften & restitch or replace leather on front seats.
  • Source & install rear seatbelts.
  • Replace shock absorber engine mounts.
  • Replace power steering hoses.
  • Replace dried out fuel tank vapor lines.
  • Sort the column switch. PO replaced with a Scorpion switch, which works for the lights but not the wipers.
  • Do something about the rough/mismatched paint on the hood, and tidy up the minor surface rust on the car.

While I derive a lot of satisfaction from driving a really rare car with that great Lampredi twincam four, and from having something beyond Alfas, I’m thinking having at least one truly older car might be nice. If someone were to turn up with $2500 for this car, I’d want to talk.

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12 Responses to “1978 Lancia Beta Berlina”

  1. Garry Regan Says:

    Cool car. My Beta has been ultra reliable and powers on like a train. I love them. This is my third Beta Berlina. Just as quick and much more comfortable than a coupe’ or HPE. IMO.

    • Joe Milani Says:

      Hi Gary,
      Joe here we also have a series 2 sedan in everyday use..haveing some fuse problems and wondering have you awiring diagram handy you cam email me for the auto elec…

      Car is in Thornbury melbourne.

      Cheers,
      Joe

  2. Chris Keen Says:

    If we weren’t burdened by late-70s smog rules, I’m sure this car would be a lot more fun.. at the moment I’m working on getting it running within those parameters, and may consider modifying from there. 2.0FI might also be a better option given our laws.

  3. Erik Says:

    Hello. I am a Norwegian Beta fan. I have had 4 different Beta Saloons. Now I have a 1979 Beta 2000 Berlina. I love this car, and it’s very solid and reliable. I have on question: Where did you get the strut inserts. My car need new struts in front and rear suspension, but I cannot find any struts or shock absorbers. Please let me know what make and number your struts have.
    I wish you all the best with your fantastic Beta.
    Erik from Norway

    • Chris Keen Says:

      Hi Erik – thanks for the comment. I got my strut inserts on eBay from a guy in England – not sure what make they were anymore. That said, I’ve done some searching around the internet with US and British vendors, and did find some other ones after I’d found mine. Koni also made some, and there’s a seller on eBay (wayassauto, i think) who has (at least) rear struts. You might also try http://www.lancisti.org – they’re very helpful.

    • Jon Says:

      Hi Erik !
      I’m another norw. Beta-fan/man. I’m a member of the norwq. Lancisti Norvegesi. There you can find a contacperson for requests regarding parts an so on

  4. Baron Says:

    I miss mine!!! Had a 1978 Beta 1800 Saloon in brown…My first car, paid a friend of the family $2k for it in 1985, when I was 16 years of age…This pic of yours above brings back memories, as did the discussion about the replacement of the fuel lines…I remember when mine blew inside the car, and fuel leaked all over, and the smell!? Haha…The tranny blew after the third shift-linkage repair, and my dad made me get rid of the car. I always regret that.

  5. oldcarjunkie Says:

    Nice car. I love the oddball stuff. I’ve only ever seen one and it was in the scrapyard.

    1978 Lancia Beta Berlina

  6. Stv Jen Says:

    Need a windshield for a friends Beta Berlina located in Los Angeles, CA. Any leads from anyone?
    Thanks,

    Steve J
    stvdino at yahoo dot com

  7. Jimmyspirits Says:

    Hey Chris, how did you go about changing the alternator on that sedan? I am diving into mine and it seems that without removing the adjusting bracket for the alternator, and then pulling it straight up is the only way. The manual says to remove the radiator grill and do it that way but they fail to mention that if you have a/c, that way is impossible. So to remove the adjusting bracket means removal of tire, wheel well, timing cover, egr valve and lines etc….. Is crazy or am I crazy?? Appreciate your feedback on this. Now if only that guy who just won this dam car came through with the payment, this would be a non issue except now I’m motivated to finish this never ending project!!!!!(25years)Yikes:(

    • Chris Keen Says:

      Hi Jimmy – I don’t remember changing the alternator being that involved – I think I had to pull the air filter, the right-side shock-tower-to-front-bulkhead bracket, and then loosen the alternator brackets to remove it. In my car, the alternator was on top, above the a/c compressor and power steering pump if I recall correctly. If that doesn’t help, let me know and I’ll try and find a pic to clarify.

  8. Jimmyspirits Says:

    Thanks Chris for your imput. all I have to do is remove the alternator bracket but the two bolts that hold it down are tucked behind the timing belt cover which will have to be removed. The bracket also holds down the egr valve and tubing..Just a pain in the ass that’s all. Thanks. You are right about the location. Without the ac it would be a piece of cake.

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