One of the more compelling parts of the Aurelia experience is the build quality of the cars. People who are not familiar with Lancias are amazed to see the sheer excellence in the manufacture of the cars. This excellence is seen and experienced often first through the doors - the gentle snick of the later B20’s with that lovely door handle, and that very sophisticated sound of closing precisely. no shake, no rattle, just perfect. For years, I was mesmerized by that very experience.

From there, the eye often is drawn to the interior - and the detailing inside a B20. If its a later one, the big gauges, the rubber mats, the careful headliner and seat detailing. Its like the Ferrari that you might have known, but somehow, here, the image is a bit more relaxed. Its not like luxury and detailing to show you how special the car is - rather there is the impression that every decision made is made to serve you. That is, its designed for you, not to make you fit it. And in a nutshell, that is what Lancias are all about.

There are the little details in the B20 that capture the attention. The door handle that folds out the way of your leg, the self-cleaning ashtrays, the unmarked knobs, and the way windows wind so carefully up and down. As you learn about the car, more comes to light about how it all works. You are constantly pulled into an understanding with the car. Its not a quick date, and then as you become more familiar, you are slightly disappointed. Rather, its one of those relationships that the more you know, the more you appreciate the decisions that were made.

The choice of materials is done for the long haul: the fine wool on the seats, the headliner is well detailed, the rubber mats (original ones) fit precisely. Metal dash (alum) tucked back and carefully shaped. Nothing is out of place. Everything does its job well.

Next - go to the body of the car - and be it the B20, the B24 or even the Berlina, the modesty of trim and the elegance of shape captures the imagination. The detailing is again suppressed, for elegance. Nothing jumps out, everything is in proportion and well balanced. If it took 100 panels to make the body, well, you won’t know any of that - because there are no joint lines to be seen. The chrome is not too bright, there isn’t too much of it. Proportion rules. A careful and long look at the front of a B20 reveals that there are many different views of the car available - from stately to sporty. It shifts as you move around it. Someone was thinking here.

Inside the engine bay, there is the same aesthetic balance, tempered with choice materials well laid out. Without getting into the mechanical excellence, everything seems to have a place, and be well considered. Systems are clear, they are well orchestrated. This was assembled not casually, but thoughtfully. You are participating in something that has been thought through. A friend of mine looked at an Appia, and said that it was not a car, but rather a piece of machinery. These were designed to last for 20-30 years.

This sense of thoughtful determined, proportioned and well assembled character exists throughout the car. Get one up in the air, and it is all laid out clearly. Take apart the pieces, be it the front suspension, the brakes, the engines or a trans, and it is the same: nothing was let out of the factory half done; indeed, there must have been a careful “guard at the door”, for nothing got out without being right.

This happens in several ways: first, the parts work and are serviceable. The clutch and emergency brakes have careful hand adjusters, which you can tighten on your own. The front suspension is adjustable too. Kind of nice having that kind of control (a Lancia legacy since the Lambda).

They were well laid out. The mechanical solutions (in some cases) are complex, but the solutions were durable and worked well. All the pieces fall to hand once you work on them. It speaks to the tactile quality of the designers, that they thought through how it was going to work, how it was going to be assembled. They might have a different sense than we have now, but it was thought through. You just have to get in their head, in their frame of mind. Once you have the pieces in your hands, they make sense. Reading about them is less important. They have to be held to be understood. And.... reading about this on the web is almost absurb! These cars are about using them, owning them, working on them, building them.  

Things are well made - the materials are of the highest quality, the aluminum castings are dense, and without air holes. The machined bits of brass are cut with fine threads, there are adjusters everywhere. Someone once said an Alfa Guilietta  had about 2000 pieces, and an Aurelia 4,000. I wouldn’t doubt it. If a custom casting will do the trick, there it is. Never a bent piece of sheet metal to do a real job.

Things were built solidly. Rubber mountings, careful joinery, material expansion consider. The 51 year old Appia sedan I have has no rattles in it. We look for railroad tracks to go over, to have a good laugh. The Aurelia has no scuttle flex, no body flex. Chassis were well figured out by then.

Finally, things were designed and drawn. Everything was. That’s why things fit the way they do, that proportion is as elegant as it is, and that things were resolved. They were not done, ever done, by acident on the workshop floor. The whole operation was managed and controlled. That is the joy of a family owned company, especially one that cared so much for excellence.

And that is why they are the definitive line on quality in that time. Very little if anything else was made that well and worked that well. Follow Fangio, Hawthorne and the others. They knew where the quality was. And we just keep learning.


Build Quality

door latches on Appia - made for servicing. 50 years later you can get new pins for them.

Appia interior - simple but with the highest level of detailing. The door panels have no exposed screws. 

Rear suspension on early Aurelias - designed with an eye on classical balance and simplicity.

clean detailing of B20 door handle and window

well detailed engine bay. Tight but organized.

cloth interior of B12 wears well for long life.

Aurelia B20 dash - aluminum shape not often noticed.

Aurelia head design - carefully considered and ordered.