Mirror, mirror, on the wall – 1977 & 1979 Lancia Beta Berlinas

I suppose this is what happens when you think you drive a rare car, and you snapped up the first one that showed up because you didn’t think you’d get another chance. Right now, on two different craigslist sites, are *two* different Beta berlinas. While one is more suitable for parts, a dedicated Lancia fan might want to give it a chance at a new life, without expecting to see actual money back out of it. Even though this is a post-Fiat Lancia, I’ve been learning the Lancia engineers still managed to pack some oddball features and impressive handling into these cars. And the Fiat-derived twincam is pretty revvable, even though you do need to turn 4000rpm to maintain 70mph. In any case, with their unique style (along with the fact that mine’s now driveable), I’m starting to appreciate mine more and more. To start us off, check out this 1979 example in Highland Park, CA (near LA).

1979 Lancia Beta berlina side

Check this beauty out… color scheme kind of reminds me of a stick of butter, but it’s in better condition than any other berlina I’ve seen, barring the dark blue/black one floating around the interwebs that’s been modified and cared for since new. From what I’ve read, the exterior styling of these cars was actually handled by Fiat, while Lancia retained creative control over the rest of the Beta line. The aftermarket wheels don’t really fit the car’s style too well – some original Lancia alloys, oddball period alloys, or widened Lancia steel wheels would improve the look.

1979 Lancia Beta berlina rear

Okay, so it’s not so beautiful, but the fastback body line is kind of neat, if you ignore the fact that this car doesn’t actually have a hatchback opening. Unfortunately, the photo is not high-res enough for me to see if this is an 1800 or 2000, of which only 310 were imported. Sizing up to two liters could certainly improve the freeway driveability of this car – the catch with having a 1979 model is there are certain unique smog-related parts.

1979 Lancia Beta berlina interior

Interior is in far better shape than mine, although no longer original. The condition of the dash top is not visible, but the front, center console, and steering wheel look good. You can see the displacement badge between the radio and vent on the center console, but this one is not legible either. Interesting that a car with tan seats got black carpeting – on mine, the carpet & seats roughly match.

1979 Lancia Beta berlina seats

Seats are in great shape, having been recently redone, and the original pattern has been retained. These cars have a comfortable interior and a great ride, thanks to a long wheelbase, good insulation, double door seals (unusual for then), and large, supportive chairs. You can also see the door paneling has been redone in leather, which is unfortunate, since the original material is a funky woven cloth. Also, lack of window cranks suggests electric windows, which may or may not work.

Since the seller says they’d like to sell ASAP, and are open to offers, I would imagine you can get a deal on this. However, even at $2500 you’d be paying top dollar for one of these, so make sure to see what recent mechanical maintenance has been done.

As if that’s not enough, another one has been up for sale for the last week or so. It’s probably most suited for use as a parts car, or maybe the 24 Hours d’Lemons companion to the one above. It’s listed on craigslist for $500 in Los Lunas, NM (near Albuquerque).

1977 Lancia Beta berlina side

Check out the “texture” on the exterior surfaces. Raised white lettering on the tires means you should probably consider a screaming chicken for the hood. It’ll help cover up the surface rust!

1977 Lancia Beta berlina engine

Nice layer of dust coating the engine. Since smog systems were continuously evolving in the late 70s, this has some slight differences with my car. The Fiat on which the Lancia’s engine was based is a pretty sturdy unit, though, so there’s no a chance it could be revived.


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One Response to “Mirror, mirror, on the wall – 1977 & 1979 Lancia Beta Berlinas”

  1. Christopher Judd Says:

    Good afternoon –

    It’s good to see some Berlinas still running around! If you’re interested, I have some taillight lenses for your car that are NOS that you’re welcome to for the cost of shipping. Drop a note if you’re interested. If not, they’re going to the great parts store in the sky…Bst of luck!


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