In 2016 - the B20 had a problem. The front suspension wasn't quite right. It had been rebuilt some years back, but the parts weren't available to do it right, and the suspension would "clunk" badly on one side with dips or holes. It made driving frustrating, as one had to steer around road conditions, and then brace for the inevitable which would only happen when least expected. On smooth roads it wasn't a problem. But I live in a city, and the roads are lousy.
The options were limited: the knowledge base on the suspensions is limited to a few people - and while the local mechanic (Gianni at Autosprint in Chicago) was fully capable - as there is little he can't do - what he didn't have was any knowledge of what parts might be available. It would be a first time effort, and the car would be laid up while the communication went back and forth to Italy. Who knows if all the right parts and pieces would come together? The suspension, while not too difficult, has bits and pieces.
One thought was to send it to Italy - but there would be little communication possible about what to do - they tend to do what they think is right, and it would be shipped back. A fair amount of risk there.
In the end, conversations with Simon Thornley and Wayne Kelham were quite useful. They were fully committed to doing a full rebuild, and had just completed two s.2 B20 front suspensions in the past year. The sliding pillar has some slight variations over its lifespan on the Aurelia, and so their experience with the s.2 was useful. So too, they had been in good communication with Italy, about what new parts were available.
So Gianni and I pulled the front axle out of the car in my garage, put the car up on stands, and the axle on a pallet. After about 20 pages (and endless phone calls) the axle was shipped to Thornley Kelham. They undertook a full rebuild, doing a crack test on the hubs, and finding one of the steering arms needing replacement. They went deep into the suspension, found the corroded tabs (not functioning very well, source of problem), plus a number of very worn out parts. They got new ones from Italy, cleaned it all up, and put it back together, rebuilding the brakes at the same time. And just to be sure, they put the axle on Simon's own B20 for a road test.
The axle came back about 2 months after I shipped it to them, and was fitted right to the car. And the transformation was total - the ride in the front is not only supple, but controlled. Its a level of finesse that is just lovely. I had thought the standard for a good front end was our Appia with 60k original miles, but this was even better. Its been now two years since the work was done, and all is good!
Many thanks to Simon, Wayne, and the team at their shop. Job well done!
A short video of the rally in 1953 in the Italian Alps. Notable is the scenery, the quality of the landscape, a number of Aurelias (and some Alfas too...) and a shot of Gianni waiting at the top. Great character, sent by Massimo Fila. Toward the end is some great footage of an Aurelia berlina bouncing along some rough roads.Other rally cars include a Porsche, several Alfa Romeos and Fiats, the roads and cities in 1950s Italy,. Thanks to Centro Storico Fiat.
Heading up to Wisconsin for the vintage car weekend, I was worried with a loud ticking from the engine. The local mechanic (Gianni) pulled the valve cover and checked the valve clearances - which should be done on a cold engine. This one was hot, so it not quite proper, but we found two loose rocker arms, and were able to get them back to the specifications shown by the other valves. (On an average, seems the valve lash was about .05mm tighter than when cold, but that is just a guess).
Here is a shot of the rocker arms and the pillow boxes that hold them. You can see the pushrods up top in pairs, coming from the cam in the valley of the "V". Then the clever rocker arms, in pillow boxes that are angled, so that the intake valve is rotated about 45 degrees closer to the intake, and the exhaust valves are on the bottom, close to the exhaust manifold. This way of rotating the valves was De Virgilio's clever improvement, first implemented in 1952 on the second series B20, and then used for all subsequent B20 and B24 engines. This car has the two single Webers as standard (the one for this bank is visible) and a special tubular exhaust.
Massimo Fila Robbatino sent two interesting items: first is a marked up early Aurelia brochure. Both weights (in kg) and costs (in lira and dollars) are noted for the different models. Good fun.
Max also sent in a video of his B20 running around the Peloponnese in Greece. The B20 was running well and being used as a modern car. And the roads - without traffic - looked great.....Thanks!
Took the B20 up to Elkhart Lake for the day last weekend. 350 miles, no problems. Was photographing a nice red car when found next to me an older race car driver - Mario Andretti! Clearly a very nice guy.... Good fun.
On May 19, two fervent Lancistas, Fabrizio Granaroli and Paolo Battistelli, organized a conference on the Lancia V4 in Sangemini, Italy, a small midieval town in the mountains outside Rome. Several people spoke, including Luigi De Virgilio, Gianni Tonti, Fabrizio and myself (via skype).
Luigi spoke on some of the more unusual V4 engines designed by his father, Tonti on the racing developments of the Fulvia, Fabrizio on some balancing and engineering issues. I spoke on the history and development of the V4, in particular the design of the heads (intake passages), the blocks and the crankshafts.
The conference was well attended, with about 100 people in the audience. Several interesting Lancias were outside (including a Lambda), amid a festival celebration. A video of the talks is at www.SaveLancia.it, or youtu.be/P7z6NlPdhRQ
For those seeking a more in-depth understanding of the suspensions, there is now John Cundy's recent writeup on Lancias and handling. It was published in Viva Lancia, the magazine of the EnglishLancia Motor Club (England), and is an articulate explanation of the sliding pillar and IRS in both the Aprilia and Aurelia. It places these developments in historical context, and includes explanations of Olley, a famous supension designer at Rolls Royce and GM, and his understanding of the Lancia design. Also included is information from Rolls Royce's inspection of the Lambda, a little known fact from 1926. Read it here, found at the bottom of the page: Articles
Recently I was able to visit Nigel Trow, a long-time Lancia friend and historian in Wales. He convened a lunch of several friends, whom I call the "West of England/Wales Lancia Brain Trust" including John Cundy, Ron Francis, Paul Mayo, Roland Grazebrook and spouses, among others. Also finally met John Baker, the former owner of an s.2 B20 - we had been in touch many years ago, so it was good to see him in person.
It was rare to see everyone together - but having only known these folks for some 10-15 years, my experiences were decidedly junior to the rest of the table. Nigel and Roland have known each other since the mid-1960s, more than 50 years. The amount of Lancia knowledge at the table was daunting, rivaling other Lancia meetings in Italy.
The next day, Nigel and I drove up to see Ron Francis, who Nigel has said is "a Welsh farmer who grows Lancias", with parts tucked away here and there; the following day we went to see Roland Grazebrook, to learn about Thetas, massive bronze carburetors, and the intricacies of the early cars. All good fun.
New page on color information added under Reference, with paint codes from Max Meyer, Glasurit and Lechler. Not for the faint of heart. Its a confusing subject!
Took the B20 in for a few things. Exhaust gasket had let go, luckily had a spare, easy fix. brake adjustment, seems like it always wants this. A few cables to be tightened.
Most interesting was adjusting the rear shock absorbers. Thanks to William Corke's posting on the LMC site, we were able to find how to adjust the shocks. He showed where the little adjustment tab was on the shocks, under a little cover, and settings varied from fully closed to two turns open.
We tried one turn as a middle setting, and it was way too soft, so in the end, we settled for just 1/4 turn open on both sides (one had been fully closed, the other a bit open). The change was lovely - the car is back to its comfortable, but informed, ride and no more jarring over rough bumps.
Key to this is also setting the tire pressures. Too often people think firmer is better, and set them at 30psi. The real setting is 25psi, and the sidewalls at this setting provide part of ride comfort. Its important to those of us who live in cities, with our less-than-perfect roads. Set right, the ride is just right. One can always firm things up for the high speed runs on smooth country roads.
All good for now!
More from Massimo Fila, long-time Aurelia owner who helped with Enzo Russo's “Piloti Biellesi. Giovanni Bracco and Umberto Maglioli”. He writes: "This was a present from Lamberto Grolla to me, with his personal dedication “A Massimo, riesumatore di Aurelia - MM 1951". He was a friend of mine and my family. We all belong to the city of Biella." He also sent this image of Bracco's s.1 B20 1006, getting loaded on an airplane to the Carerra Panamerica. Notice the lowered roof.... Nice!
And then Massimo driving his B12 in the 1982 Targa Florio:
There are a few Chicago-area shops that work on Italian cars, but the Lancias tend to go to Autosprint - Gianni D'Avola has "magic fingers", a feel in his hands to solve those thorny Italian car problems. Maybe something to do with growing up in Sicily, but Gianni gets it done.
We were poking around in one of the back rooms one afternoon, and I was impressed by all the special tools. Internet chatter about hub pullers for Lancias (and other cars), never comes up with Gianni and now I know why - he's got a lot of pullers, for the the Lancias/Alfas/Ferraris he works on. And even for the Citroen Traction-Avant.
Beppe was a special person. A dignified gentleman, long active in the Registro, he had a deep relation with and love for Aurelias, going back to seeing the Aurelia Corsas at the Mille Miglia in 1952. He said that he had driven more than 1,000,000 kilometers in Aurelias, but its likely the truth was at least double that.
He was a good friend, sadly we were separated by distance. We first met in 2000 at the Aurelia rally in the south of France, which he attended in a berlina with his family. A few years later, I visited his mechanic in Como, and Beppe drove up from Milano to join us for an afternoon and discuss camshafts. My son and I had the pleasure of joining him and his lovely wife, Chiara, with Anthony and Lorna Hussey near Siena for a few days; they came to Chicago once on their way back from Alaska.
At an Aurelia dinner in Padova in 2015, each of us spoke briefly of our experiences. Beppe stood up, shucked off any time limits, and movingly spoke from the heart, passionately embracing the car in our lives. We were all captivated.
Beppe was close to his cars. His s.3 B20 was one of the very few seen with an original Nardi kit, fitted with Solex carbs, perfectly tuned, sweet and tractable. He enjoyed overhauling and tuning Aurelia carburetors. His B20 was fitted with wood knobs, new from Pinin Farina. His B50 cabriolet was an Aurelia without any vibration. Once asked how this was done, he went into detail about how one had to match up the driveshaft parts carefully and do the work oneself. This was from a man familiar with the banking industry, at one time active in Modena supplying interiors for Maserati.
And his knowledge was impeccable: who else knew that early B22s had been supplied with B21 engines as the new engines weren’t ready? And could provide the 8 page Lancia advisory issued months later instructing on how update your engine to the new specifications (change the camshaft, change the manifolds, etc.).
He and his friend Francesco Gandolfi tended to the Registro for all of us, no easy task in the details. He helped guide the forming of the De Virgilio book, At the Center, advising on how to navigate the complexities of the Italian landscape. He urged the book be in English, recognizing the tradeoffs - that a bilingual edition would have less content, and that it was important to deepen the understanding of the Aurelia for a broader audience. It was a gutsy call from this thoughtful man, one who was comfortable making good and firm decisions.
He and his elegant wife, Chiara, represented the depth of character that we so often find around these cars and this marque. He will be sorely missed. We have lost another giant. Our condolences go out to his family.
Every once in a while, its time to look at something different. Here is the bottom of an 8C Alfa, taken at Jim Stokes Workshops in England. Lovely.
A post on the LMC website reminded me of a strange day from a few years back. I was driving the B24 (owned at the time) from Chicago to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, for a vintage race weekend, a 3 hour drive on main roads,
I was about halfway early one afternoon a few years back, when I noticed the car was running out of gas. Luckily this happened close to a gas station, so I glided in on a "dead stick", without problem.
After filling up, it was easy to see that the car now had a flat tire. Everything had to come out of the trunk, to get the spare. So the tire was changed. OK.... things happen.
Now, it got even more peculiar - as the car wouldn't start, as the battery (happy up until then) decided to quit. With a push start later, down the road to the autoparts store, which luckily had the right battery in stock. When I went to pull the battery from the car, the heavens opened up and it started to rain heavily. Very heavily. And I had left the battery pulling strap at home.
Put the top up, although everything got soaked. Got a strap from the store, pulled the battery, and dripping wet, back on the road to the races, shaking the head in disbelief. What had angered the gods so? Was there more to come?
Luckily not. But sometimes, you can be either very lucky or not at all. It was both this time!
Massimo Fila in Italy provided the following report of his autumn adventure:
"During the first week end of September, a group of Italian friends, including myself, went to Goodwood to attend the famous Revival. Five beautiful old cars were easily driven from Italy to England on this exciting journey. One of the cars was an Aurelia B12 of Mr and Mrs Bertin from Padova." (ed: Mrs. Bertin took these lovely photos)
From time to time, friends send in information on Lancia events that may be of interest to other Lancistas. Two are in hand:
First, from Jan Van Hoorick - a show on American cars in Brussels through Jan. 28: www.americandreamcars.be/home-en
And from Niels Jonassen -
Nordic Lancia Meeting 2018
The 15th Nordic Lancia Meeting will take place from 8th to 10th June 2018 near Vejle on the east coast of the Danish mainland. We have booked the Munkebjerg Hotel situated in a beech forest with fine views of the Vejle Fjord. The hotel is an architectural gem offering very good service and high quality furnishings. It lies at the top of a hill which once a year is used for a historic hill climb. The surrounding countryside is undulating with many quaint, hidden roads and sights. Ideal for Lancia driving. More info below.
Back in the 1950s, several large American corporations brought in Aurelias to study. Ford tested a B24 Spider, and some of their photos of the engine are in the De Virgilio book. It is rumored that GM had a car as well as Alcoa.
Steve Katzman uncovered this detailed review of the B10 engine in Michigan Technic, from 1956. The study is about the use of aluminum in the engine, likely from the B10 sedan that was owned by Bill Stebbins for many years. Note the detailed test info on pg. 3, although its curious they used an Ardea engine drawing, and not the Aurelia!
Few things are more interesting than a B24 Spider in service... here it is working as a chase car for the Motogiro d'Italia 1955, sponsored with involvement by Tariff, who might have been flying the airplane. The images are priceless, the film wonderful with riders hopping on and off their 175cc racing bikes, the Lancia-film platform in the background. Someone had a lot of fun with this idea, as can be seen from the snap shots from the video.
A group of B20s taking off at the start of a race Le Mans style - looks like 8 in total. Does anyone know what race this was?
One of the joys of going to Padova is seeing suppliers of parts for our old Lancias. A number of vendors have their wares on display. Davide Rubino has a large number of parts for the Aurelia and other Lancias at: www.rubinoclassiccars.com/ricambi/ricambi-lancia
Giolitti from Rome sells a large range of Lancia parts as well, at: www.giolittiricambiautodepoca.com
Guido Rosani recently passed away in Torino during the night of October 14-15. While unexpected, he had been in poor health for some time and died from complications.
Rosani was well known in the Lancia world as a designer and fabricator and was a key fixture in the older Lancia community. Largely known for his work on the D24 and D50 recreations, cars he built over the past decades, he was most recently working on a recreation of a D20, the Lancia sports-racing coupe from the 1950s.
He was widely respected for his intimate and accurate knowledge of the Lancia company, and was, in many ways, the last voice of the 1950s company. His father, Nino Rosani, had been the factory architect from the 1940s, and designed the Lancia tower among other buildings. Young Guido had grown up around the factory, and recalled running through the racing department in 1953. Trained as a designer, he was intimately familiar with the company drawings and understood first hand Lancia’s notions of meticulous execution.
In the 1970s, he managed motorcycle racing teams and was briefly Ferrari F1 Team manager in 1976. His Lancia recreations were begun in the 1980s first with the Lancia Corsas, lightweight racing cars based on the B20, with Basso in Torino. From there, Rosani went on to build D24 recreations, superbly documented in his book, D24 e Le Lancia Sport, from 1991. His last major effort was the D50 recreation, fabricated in Torino then fettled by Jim Stokes Group in England. Both the D24s and D50s are familiar to automotive fans today, seen at Laguna Seca, Goodwood, and other notable events.
An acute historian, Rosani had intimate knowledge of the details of Lancia history. He was a major contributor to Storia della Lancia, the extensive company history published in 1992, and was working on a book on the D50 at the time of his decease. Anthony MacLean, Guido's partner in the D50 project, will endeavor to complete the projects which Guido and he started together.
On a more personal note, Guido was especially helpful to my efforts to record 1950s Lancia history. In our many meetings, he shared details of the factory and the family in those years. He and Manfredi Lancia restored the 538 motor, and Guido was intimately familiar with all the nuances of the D series cars. He was a keeper of the spirit of Lancia. For all who appreciate Lancias, especially their racing cars, he will be sorely missed.
There were some very nice Aurelias in Padova this year. I hadn't been since 2014, and enjoyed it immensely. Also ran into Wayne Kelham, Chris Gawne, and Ron Francis, for a serious English Lancia Club branch meeting.
Of the interesting Aurelias, there was this lovely model of a berlina, which was luckily avoided as it was not cheap - but it was sold in the first day. Also at the fair were several niceBs0s, an s.1, s.2 and s.6. And the interesting Fiat Balilla Aerodinamico, and a few other cars of interest.
What does it mean when Lancia's Aurelia becomes the poster child for the Padova Fiera? Acceptance - the car has arrived.