REVIEW:// Lancia Fulvia Zagato 1.3S

I'm a fourpot guy. And not because I've only owned fourpot cars. There's something about that compact bit of engineering that - once setup properly - can deliver massive performance and favourite soundbytes. With aural excellence a whining six, thundering eight and majestic twelve can't equal. Errr, I'm thinking other cars than in my current profile right now. Think 80s M3, 70s 131 MiraFiori and 60s Alfa TZ to name just a few. From the boasting in your face Alfa-yell to the impressive revving Honda units, the addictive hipo Ford rally blocks to the roaring 70s Renaults it's the fourpot that convinces in supplying character to any metal or plastic box on wheels. Also with this featured gorgeous Lancia, Italian compacts are best remembered and recognised by their distinctive bark. Without exception they never fail to impress sounding naughty, challenging or sexy. It could well be their voice convincing the chauffeur to neglect rusty bodyparts or poor electrics or just pay for the garagebills he'd never seen if he were in a duller and more sound kinda car. Well whatever, the Italian lover may cross the doorstep with that loose button on his sophisticated suit, leaving the boring but reliable neighbour in the cold. This isn't a Fulvia . . . Speaking of which, yours truly just found himself a car he'd never thought to really like. More of that one in a minute. With a soft spot for everything Italian the longtime favourite Alfa Junior was kicked from my top three by a specced-up 2002 Beemer at the '06 edition of Spa 6 Heures. Just by seeing it go better and that addictive roar did the rest was quite a shock to be honest. Having been a thorough and critic guest in quite a handfull of cars it is sometimes rather difficult to write down the proper words to describe a car and give my honest and personal view of the often overwhelming experiences. Setting aside the grown prefs - most of the times gathered from impressions other than actually driving the thingies - is not difficult but can offer painful confrontations, as was the case with the Junior. The Fulvia however ticked a box I'd never found myself before. This is one. Here at the 2006 edition of the Winterswijk Klassiekerrally. I always thought this Zagato was nothing more special than a stylish bodied rallycar. I proved to be thoroughly wrong. I'd misjudged this beauty in every way. IMO the swooping lines are original and timeless, making it a small car class-favourite at today's classic car events. With a typical style and loads of shiny bits best matched with bigger period GT's the Zag omits the playboys attitude and has even found her own place in the Lancia bloodline. Which is an impressive longlist of outstanding characters by the way. Diving into Lancia's history made me explore the stories behind the scene's. The Torino based factory is best described as an engineering driven company with a soft spot for cars that stand out in ways most temporary carmanufacturers or designers simply don't have within their frames of mind. Today is another matter I'm afraid. Struck not only by the magnificent typography or the decent red of this little wonder, Zag makes an impact everywhere she goes. I just can't understand why folks overlook this miracle and choose less value for money and garage something else. But then these cars are merely for purists and connaisseurs I reckon. What an engine With the hood up the Zaccone Mina designed 13 narrow angle and at a 45 angle forward mounted V4 is a feast to explore about. The V4 is a typical Lancia feature and was previously used in the Lambda, Artena, Augusta, Aprilia, Ardea and Appia-models and found his final incarnation in the '63 Fulvia. Accurate double overhead cams operate the 8 valves of this 1.3S and make her spit out 93 horses. Fed by four single Solex carbs the sound and powerdelivery is just glorious. And not only that, it feels quite up to date as well. On testing it in 1967, Road & Track summed up the Fulvia as "a precision motorcar, an engineering tour de force". And I guess it is as it tickled all my senses. It is sophisticated but doesn't feel distant, if you know what I mean. The engine is a delight to explore. Go open your Eurobox's boot now and shock horror at the plastic. Is it a blokes car I hear you ask? Well of course not if you're into raw power delivery and raw exhaust notes, drifting around sideways and locking up at every occasion. Like I said, no hints of rally heritage here. It's precise and delicate, with enough 'naughty' in the soundbyte. Like Marcello Mastroani didn't need muscle to get the best girl in town. He used his charm. So it's a charming car. But by no means panzy. As I opened the door and sat down in the leather-looking but skai seats, a luxourious and Mediterranean air fills the inside. I could well imagine Sophia Loren going to Tesco's in one of these. A good afternoons drive A year after the introduction of the Fulvia, Lancia comissioned Zagato to design a coupe. In 1965 they rolled out this beauty and in '67 the shown 1.3S got the 93 horses. Three years later the Fulvia Sport was slightly restyled and a 115 bhp 1.6 litre engine was added to the line-up. Just look at it being utterly pretty. Does it need that extra beef? I'd say no, but I'd say yes if it had. Inside it's all grandeur without any overstatement. Seats are comfy, interior is spacious, the windows are down and off we go. Down the lanes of the Dutch Betuwe. And remember this you Brit chaps: the famous Lekdijk is a joy to drive. Perfect for the Lancia to demonstrate her lightness and eagerness to go, this mini-GT showed her class. When things got rough the rally-heritage showed, inspite of the leafsprings (!) handling is 90s really. Discs all round are up to their task and steering has that contact modern cars lack. Oh yes, I long for the old days when cars sounded right and smelled right. Where on earth did this go wrong? A funny odd detail is the rear hatch could be opened slightly electrically to improve ventilation. All while driving! It works and without the odeur d'petrol it adds a little extra glorious sound to our outing. Owner Dutch Lancia club prezidente Joop van Veldhuizen uses his cars and racked up pretty much miles when he took Zag for a spin to Torino to meet more of those nice ones. You just feel that's the right way to treat 'ole cars. Lots of chrome bits don't spoil Zag's face. How do those little Italians do that? Magic. Bonnet opens like it should. All engineering beauty underneath. It's good to be inside. Van Veldhuizen has some more rather special wheels at hand. Besides a carefully garaged Flaminia there's a bold white 'n black FIAT Spider in rally outfit, a HPE shooting brake and a self built Fulvia Zag spider. And yes, it won't stay THAT colour. Yup, go Google and you'll find nothing like it. The original thingy was built in 1968, a bit expensive so why not slice two Fulvia's in two and connect 'em. A bit of welding and there you go! This summer I will pay him a visit and post some pics. This guy is a craftsman who knows his Lancia's.