Tuesday, November 16, 2010

1979 Lancia Beta Sedan - The Nicest I've Seen

When was the last time you saw one of these?

The Lancia Beta line of cars were Fiat's "upscale" cars in the US during the mid-late seventies. Not econo-boxes meant to compete with VW and the Japanese brands, the Beta was positioned to compete with Alfa Romeo, Saab, Volvo, BMW and Audi. It failed miserably.

On paper the Beta line was brilliant. But they were sold at Fiat dealerships and with each passing year, Fiat's reputation in the US was getting worse and worse. People just weren't going to the showrooms. To make matters worse, the early Beta sedans rusted like few other cars (except for maybe Fiats) rusted. There were stories of cars showing serious rust 6 months after purchase! (Later cars, like this one, were much improved.)

That's too bad, because these were neat little cars. The Fiat based / Lancia tweaked 2.0 liter engine is a gem. It revs like crazy, has plenty of power and, contrary to popular belief, is durable. The Beta came standard with a 5 speed transmission when many cars were still using 4 speeds. The MacPherson strut suspension was not exotic, but it worked well. The Beta had 4 wheel disc brakes.

The body looked like a hatchback, but was not. It was a fastback with a standard trunk. (Looking like a hatchback probably didn't help sales here in the US, as we used to have the opinion that hatches only belonged on cheap cars.) Betas sold in the US had government mandated diving board bumpers and sealed beam headlights, both of which did nothing for the looks of the car.

This car is an absolutely amazing survivor. It has just 42,505 miles on it and looks like new. The seller writes that the car has "never (been) driven in the winter and always stored inside (wood floor). Never hit or damaged. Glass is all clear, no fogging. Exterior paint and trim are as good as the day I bought it (I did find stone chip and a ding). Interior upholstery and carpeting is undamaged (always had covers and mats)." All of that looks to be 100% true.

The seller is the original owner and has the original window sticker, title, purchase paperwork and service history to go with the car.

The Beta sedan is an under-appreciated Italian car. Unless name recognition is important to you (because, except for car geeks, most people will have no clue as to what you're driving), a Beta sedan is a cool alternative to an Alfetta sedan, Audi 4000, Saab 900 4-door, etc.

Located in Hibbing, MN, click here to see the eBay listing.

Rusty But Trusty, a very cool car blog, has a Beta Sedan registry on the site. (Chris, who writes and publishes RbT, owns a Beta Sedan.) You can find it here.


Jon said...

What a fine looking vehicle. I never knew they were sold stateside.

Many years ago, I used to see quite a few of these back in the old country. Most of them were painted in a dark navy blue color. The competition in the supermarket parking lots, were the 1308 four door sedan made by the Chrysler/Simca/Talbot group, and the VW Passat. Citroen had a GS which had a similar shape, but it appeared smaller and somehow less sophisticated than the Lancia. It always sounded like a 2CV.

At the time, the Beta appeared somehow bulkier than either the Simca or the VW. However now, the latter appear a bit too "70's" in their design. Maybe it's because I'm used to seeing taller greenhouses in bodywork these days, I really don't know.

What I can say for sure is that I now prefer the design in the Beta sedan to the others. It certainly has aged well. The car in this listing looks fantastic.

Also, hats off to Rusty But Trusty for the Beta registry.

Anonymous said...


An interesting news story about the unoffical recall in Britain.

Chris Keen said...

This car is pretty amazing. What's more amazing is that it's hit $3600 and hasn't passed the reserve. Maybe my car was more blue-chip than I thought!

rrshadow2 said...

I had Two of these, a 77 and then picked up a 79 Automatic parts car with Cloth interior. That car was amazing in that first off I wasn't aware Any Beta was available with an Automatic And that you could get one with anything other than a leather interior. One odd duck, didn't matter as I used it for parts anyways

Justin L. Brown said...

Volvo and Ford will be expanding their presence in India. Volvo will be focusing on the higher end of the market while Ford will be targeting the midsize car market segment. Upscale auto