How many Italian car companies can you name? To the average American, Lancia probably doesn’t come to mind, despite their presence in the U.S. market until the early 1980’s. Enthusiasts know and cherish the brand’s famous models; the charming Fulvia, exotic Stratos and rally-dominating Delta Integrale are oft-cited high points for the marque (although the downright bizarre Thema 8.32 deserves some recognition as well). Like most manufacturers though, their bread-and-butter offerings don’t command the same zealotry. Enter the Lancia Beta, offered in a number of configurations: a basic coupe, the racy mid-engine Montecarlo (known as the Scorpion in the U.S. thanks to General Motors), the bizarre HPE (for High Performance Estate, an odd Lotus Éclat-like mishmash of ideas) and finally the Zagato Spyder, one of which is offered here on AutoTrader for an exorbitant $2999.
Like the average Craigslist seller who cannot comprehend that “rare” does not necessarily equal “valuable,” the seller of this Zagato-styled targa convertible is more than a little bit out of touch. It’s not too hard to find an example that doesn’t look like a total basket case for similar money or less. Even ones that accomplish amazing feats such as “starting” and “driving” typically trade hands for what this seller is asking. “But wait,” you say. “The seller lists no information at all in the listing, how do you know that it doesn’t run?” Well, these weren’t exactly known for stellar build quality or bulletproof reliability when they were brand new. Most of them succumbed to the extraordinary rust that plagued most Italian vehicles of this era, and the ones that didn’t typically went to the junkyard after their timing belts snapped somewhere around 50k miles (timing belts were still a relatively new concept, and hamfisted American mechanics rarely understood the necessity of their replacement). Plus, look at the cosmetics of the thing! That punched-out back window and the huge sections of peeling paint don’t inspire much confidence. Then take into account its rust-breeding Canadian location along with the minimal photos and information…yeah, this one’s basically yard art.
Part of the reason these are so obscure is that there isn’t a whole lot to recommend them. Sure, the Lancia twin-cam is a great little engine, but outside of the mid-engine Montecarlo that formed the basis of Lancia’s famed 037 rally car, the Beta line was really just a bunch of sporty front-wheel-drive economy cars. And the styling? Well, beauty is subjective, but park one of these next to an Alfa Duetto and tell me which is the prettier car. The Zagato Spyider is high in novelty value, absolutely, but the Fiat and Alfa Spiders were honestly just better vehicles with more exciting driving dynamics. Hell, I’m even a huge fan of Zagato’s work (Alfa SZ, anyone?) but their contribution to the Beta line leaves me cold. Add in parts scarcity much more severe than the aforementioned Alfas and Fiats and a general lack of enthusiasm for these cars, and you probably understand why nobody ever talks about them much. Admittedly, they are weird and interesting enough that I would own a decent one if the price was right, but this one is neither decent nor priced for its condition. Original text below: