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    LANCIA GAMMA BERLINA 2500 / Patrick Hurst, NORTHERN IRELAND

    Zero mileage #1976-Lancia-Gamma / #1976 / #Lancia-Gamma / #Lancia-Gamma-2500-Berlina / #1976-Lancia-Gamma-2500-Berlina / #Lancia / #Lancia-Gamma-Berlina

    Yes indeed: this is the amazing story of an unregistered Lancia Gamma 2500 Berlina that was found in the back of a Turin Lancia garage, where it had sat unloved for 38 years.

    It was ordered back in 1976 by an Englishman working in Turin, who planned to return to England so he asked for RHD. But he’d ‘disappeared’ by the time of delivery so the dealer simply pushed the car to the back of his garage, where it sat for nearly 40 years. When the business was wound up in 2014, Patrick Hurst heard about the car and bought it blind – with a total of just 16 miles on the clock! “I thought, what could possibly go wrong?” laughs Patrick. “When it was shipped back to Northern Ireland, its condition left me in a dilemma. The engine wasn’t running right and the bodywork had picked up some bumps and scratches during its hibernation. Part of me thought, ‘leave it as it is’ but the more I looked at it, the more I thought it had to be brought back as new.

    “We decided to strip the car back to the shell and have it taken back to metal and repainted. I am glad it was stripped because I got to see it in its component parts and marvel at the engineering that went into the car. The new parts were mainly mechanical. It was a massive challenge but thank goodness for the Lancia Gamma Consortium.

    “I set myself a budget of £10,000 but three years later and £25,000 spent, it’s finally finished. Many would say it’s financially crazy but I don’t really care; madness is not a scientific barometer, it’s a measure of your soul.” There are some interesting features. For instance, the front scuttle has chrome blanks over where the wiper spindles on LHD cars would be. The car is set up for right-hand wipers, and the RHD holes suggest either that the wrong part was used in production or this was the first RHD model produced but Lancia didn’t have the RHD scuttle ready. Either way, it is an interesting and unique feature. Patrick concludes: “The Gamma represents freedom of design spirit, attention to detail and quality. The doors close with a beautiful clonk and the seats are super-comfortable. Then there is the driving, steering, handling and gearbox. Gammas are still so undervalued.”
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    CAR: #Lancia-Gamma-Berlina / #Lancia-Gamma / #Lancia /
    Run by Martin Buckley
    Owned since May 2014
    Total mileage 27,401
    Miles since June 2017
    report 774
    Latest costs c£400

    JUGGLING TURIN’S ICONIC MODELS

    Irked by a kink in the Gamma’s bonnet (the first thing that most people notice), I dropped off the car at Custom Motor Bodies in April for rectification. I wanted to tidy up a few other bits, too, such as the inside of the driver’s door aperture around the hinges.

    It came back looking great but, on the journey back along the M5, the steering felt odd – particularly under power. Charles Shelton diagnosed a wishbone bush, and this was confirmed by Mike Conner when I took the car in for him to sort a power-steering leak. The Gamma Consortium supplied the bush, but I never got it fitted.

    One of the first long trips in the Lancia was to Coventry University where, alongside Harris Mann and Paolo Martin, I was part of a show for the car design students. My presence was required because one of the subjects was the influence of the BMC 1800 Aerodynamica: the organisers had spotted my Backfire column on the car a few years ago, and asked me along. I parked next to Ian Brookes’ Fiat 130 Coupé; I suppose I should have brought my 130, but decided that the Gamma looked a bit like the Aerodynamica, so it was at least topical.

    I spent the latter half of last year trying to resist spending money on the Gamma because I was well and truly ‘out of bed’ with it in terms of what it owed me versus what it is worth. I was horrified to find that I’m into the Lancia for over £8k! What troubled me more is that it was soaking up time, money and energy that I could be spending on something else. In some ways it duplicates the appeal of the NSU, and I couldn’t get shot of that.

    The Lancia has caused minor domestic friction as well, and it didn’t do itself any favours in late July when it decided to blow a coolant hose. In fairness, I had been half ignoring minor evidence of steam emanating from the front of the car, believing it was just the overflow dripping onto the manifolds.

    The coolant level seemed to be staying up and the temperature nicely controlled – until, approaching the M4 one morning, there was a sudden rise. Not keen to have more engine dramas, I turned around, swapped the Lancia for the Ro80 (what planet am I living on?) and continued my journey. The next day I topped up the coolant and all seemed well. Then, returning from Kemble with my son Sean, the hose let go. I spent the evening in the drizzle under the cursed vehicle trying to remove the remains of the hose – my wife Mia got it off in the end, having more patience and smaller hands.

    First thing Saturday morning I went over to Cotswold Motaquip for a replacement. It didn’t have the correct item, but came up with something near enough that I cut to size. I was determined to get the Gamma running so it could be at Andy Collins’ 50th-birthday party ‘Carbecue’. We made it, with four other saloons – including Andy’s injected 70-miler – plus a Coupé and one of two Trevis on the road in the UK. I had to have a quick sit in it to remind myself of the exquisite madness of its ‘Swiss cheese’ dash. Earlier that day, with the coolant issues fixed, the Gamma had briefly made it to a great little meet in my friend Fredrik’s field, were he and his DKWs were playing host to a Tatra Club event. What with the Auto Unions, Type 87s and Tatraplans, the Gamma looked almost embarrassingly normal.

    The next day, I decided to investigate the loss of the heater after the coolant disappeared, probably due to an airlock. It was an excuse to take the Gamma for a burn down the A435. If I used plenty of revs the heater seemed to kick back in but, in the meantime, my ambitious progress caught the attention of a man in an early-’90s Porsche 911 who kept closely in step, which was fun. Trouble is, these moments of satisfaction were beginning to seem few and far between in the Lancia and in August I decided it was time for a fresh pair of eyes on the car.

    I had been talking to Andy Heywood about a swap with his blue Series III Appia – we have been stitching each other up with old cars for years. He was fairly keen to have a change of scene, although there was an amusing misunderstanding about which way the cash adjustment would go!

    Meanwhile, a Gamma Coupé has turned up at my shed on a ‘protective custody’ basis. It’s an early car with the futuristic seats in dark brown, and it’s the same colour (ivory) as my first in c1988. There is a sad inevitability about the fact that I’m going to end up owning it.

    THANKS TO

    ­ Mike Conner at Purley Road Garage: 01285 221304
    ­ Custom Motor Bodies
    ­ Lancia Gamma Consortium: www.gammaconsortium.com
    ­ Andy Heywood

    Taking pride of place in the Gamma line-up at Andy Collins’ 50thbirthday ‘Carbecue’ bash, with 2-litre Gamma Coupé and four other saloons. Fredrik Folkestad’s typically esoteric set. Buckley has now waved goodbye to Gamma. Gorgeous Appia has replaced the Gamma… …but it may go to fund other projects.

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    Your cars, your stories – tales of Italian car ownership in the real world

    CAR: #Lancia-Gamma-Coupé-2500IE / #Lancia-Gamma / #Lancia / #1982 / #1982-Lancia-Gamma-Coupé-2500IE / #Lancia-Gamma-Coupé

    OWNER: Helmut Magyar, Belgium

    On a trip to the famous Oldtimer Museum Louwman in Holland last year, I seized the opportunity to pay a visit to the showroom of ERclassics.com where I saw a silver metallic 1982-Lancia-Gamma-Coupé-2500IE on sale.

    It wasn’t love at the first sight. The ground clearance looked very high, and I didn’t like the blue seats. Moreover, the black-on-black dashboard and two-spoke-steering wheel looked too simple. On the other hand, I was very charmed by the extremely sharp design – remarkably I had never seen one before in my (66-year) life.

    I learned from the internet that Gammas built before 1980 had poor quality steel and anti-rust protection, and the engine had some major failings. After 1980, though, they no longer had those faults. So I went back to Waalwijk and, after a test drive, I bought it.

    I thought that, mainly from the rear, the body looked as if it were standing on stilts and I wanted to lower it. I couldn’t find the right lowering springs, so I got Dalemansindustries.be to shorten the existing springs, lowering the ground clearance by 50mm at the front and 60mm at the rear.

    The perished dampers were restored by Autoammortizzatori.it. The car body had several rust spots, which were repaired, but during this process, the windscreen broke.

    Luckily Carglass.be was able to produce a small stock of Gamma Coupé windscreens, even though it took five months.

    The entire body was repainted in Arctic Silver Metallic, the same colour as my Porsche Cayman S, and a little brighter than the original silver. The black sills, front spoiler and under-bumper area at the back were also painted silver. To get a symmetrical look, I added an extra mirror to the right side of the car.

    The UK club, Gammaconsortium.com, was very helpful here, pointing me to find a brand new one from South Africa. Both black mirrors were then painted silver. And to make the car look even longer, the original black grid between the bonnet and windscreen was also painted silver. The faded bumpers were repainted in black satin.

    The original Gamma Coupé had 15-inch wheels but I’ve fitted 17-inch alloys. My choice was very limited because of the restricted space between the rear dampers and bodywork, and even then we had to roll the wheelarches to make the Alutec Monster Silver 17x6.5s fit (shod with Pirelli 205/45 R17 tyres).

    Inside, I gave the black dash panel a new fresh alloy satin look, while a new Nardi steering wheel recalls 1960s styles. The backs of the seats were reupholstered in black leather, too.

    I love the Gamma Coupé. It’s not a sports car but a most elegant cruiser. The roadholding is better than before because of the lowered suspension – it rolls less but ride comfort is retained. Although it’s no longer original, I think it’s more in accordance with glamorous Lancias of the 1960s.
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    CAR: #Lancia-Gamma-Berlina / #Lancia-Gamma / #Lancia /
    Run by Martin Buckley
    Owned since May 2014
    Total mileage 27,401
    Miles since September
    2016 report 1994
    Latest costs £500 approx

    HIDE AND SLEEK WITH MAKEOVER

    I made a speculative attempt to sell the Lancia a bit before Christmas, mainly to maintain domestic bliss in the Buckley household. It has not gone unnoticed that money spent on the Berlina well exceeds its value. I know that we are all enthusiasts, but no one wants to feel that they’ve spent a load of money on something that doesn’t warrant it. Still, we’ve all done it and, if I’m honest with myself, I get as much pleasure out of this car as any of my others.

    If you have been following the adventures of the Gamma, you will be aware that it is on its third engine and there’s hardly any part that has not had some attention during my three years of ownership. This is the longest that I’ve kept a Gamma in the 30 years I have been driving them, on and off. It’s had tyres, boot carpet, a ’screen, struts, paint and a dozen other things. Plus, it had lots of use while the Range Rover was off the road – and I was one of just two people who turned up in a Gamma to the Consortium’s winter lunchtime meeting in January.

    Last November the car almost had its moment in the limelight when Charles Shelton mentioned the possibility of having it on the Lancia Motor Club stand at the NEC show for its Gamma 40th themed display. But I was ousted in favour of a much cleaner example.

    Where JYP 205W would have held its head high, however, was in terms of interior condition. The cream hide has always been fairly good but Ian Sealy at UK Detailing convinced me that he could make it look even better after a re-colouring job that involved removing all of the seats and the door panels. The results are great: it feels like driving a different car. It even smells better. At the same time I got Ian to clean up the miserable engine bay – one of those jobs I think that I can tackle myself, but I somehow lose the will to live about five minutes after I have opened the bonnet. Again, it’s a total transformation. In September last year, Shelton popped over to fit the new thermostat that had arrived from Italy.

    I had been ignoring a slight whirr from the front of the engine for a while and Charles confirmed that it was the water-pump bearing.

    The good news was that he just happened to have a reconditioned pump in the boot of his car, so what was going to be an hour’s job ended up taking all afternoon. Thanks again for that Charles. There are no funny noises and the thermostat seems to work in as much as there is some warmth coming out of the heater, although it still takes ages to come out of the ‘stone cold’ section of the temperature gauge.
    I was becoming concerned that the oil pressure was looking limp, not unusual for a Gamma to be honest but disconcerting anyway. I was fairly certain that it was an issue with the sender, and so it proved. Mike Conner fitted a new one and the oil pressure is now epic by Gamma standards, hot or cold.

    Mike also sorted a power steering leak and I (yes, ME) replaced a narrow-bore return pipe that goes from the expansion tank back to the water pump. It had worn through because it was touching the top of the alternator. My father-in-law John Stewart revived the nearside rear electric window by rewiring the switch. Something had gone amiss because pressing the button made the interior light come on. Not even the Italians were that bad at electrics in the ’70s, surely?

    At the same time, we gave the whole body a good seeing to with the Waxoyl. By then, the Gamma was beginning to look so smart that the slightly bent bonnet (someone keeps forgetting that you lift it slightly to release the strut rather than heave down on it), the damage to the spoiler and the rusty hole inside the fuel filler cap were starting to annoy me. So I booked it in with James Russell at Custom Motor Bodies again.

    Just don’t tell the wife.

    THANKS TO / Charles Shelton / John Stewart / Mike Conner: 01285 652365 / UK Detailing: 01285 770090

    Cracked side bolster required attention Ian Sealy recolours the front seat squab.
    The finished article: the Lancia’s immaculate leather upholstery is now better than new.
    Shelton came over to replace thermostat and ended up fitting a rebuilt water pump, too.
    He’s also neatly spruced up the engine bay.
    Masked-off vent has been tidied up, too.
    Rewired switch rectified the window fault.

    ‘Something had clearly gone amiss because pressing the electric window button made the interior light come on’
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    CAR #Lancia-Gamma-Berlina / #Lancia-Gamma / #Lancia /
    Run by Martin Buckley
    Owned since May 2014
    Total mileage 25,407
    Miles since February report 1485
    Latest costs £1200

    ENGINE SWAP CHANGES PLANS

    The Gamma is now back on the road and has been in pretty much everyday use since late May, having had an engine transplant from the blue coupé. That is what I really should have done the first time around, but we live and learn. The car now runs beautifully, although very cool so I suspect that the thermostat is not doing its thing. I have my name down for one of the type being reproduced in Italy, which Charles Shelton at the Gamma Consortium is acquiring for me.

    Obviously the engine problem rather put paid to any hope of taking the Lancia to Turin for the model’s 40th-anniversary event. Instead, I flew out and used a friend’s Gamma 2000 coupé, which was something of a revelation. I will tell you more about that in due course.

    Some of you may have noticed that JYP 205W was due to appear at the Classics Central Auction in May. Sadly the engine swap was not completed in time, so my apologies to any potential bidders who were disappointed on the day of the sale.

    Prior to all this transpiring, James Russell at Custom Motor Bodies in Birmingham fitted a new door skin on the nearside, plus a better rear door on the other. As a result, the Gamma is looking really sharp now. Annoyingly, though, somebody scratched it down one flank the other day. An attempt to polish out the damage resulted in it looking a lot worse, so that is going to need attention shortly.

    Having run the Lancia for a few weeks it began to get under my skin again, so I suppose I’m sort of glad that it didn’t make the sale. The engine is amazingly smooth for a four-cylinder unit and the torque really is fabulous. When the gearbox oil is cold I tend to go straight from first to third in the morning; from tickover it just pulls like a little train (I do hope that I don’t have to eat these words).With the correct tyre pressures – not the 40psi that for some reason it had all round – the Lancia also rides beautifully, but does suffer from the traditional Gamma scuttle-shake.

    Getting enthusiastic all over again, I started to make a list of problems, then ran it over to Mike Connor. He sorted out the stiff driver’s door, the nearside brake light and set up the exhaust rear silencer so that it doesn’t rattle with passengers in the back. I had noticed this last niggle when I was summoned over to Avebury to rescue my daughter Caitlin and her friends after the summer solstice.
    The only other longish runs that I’ve done recently were to Filton (see Backfire, August) and Birmingham, where I was investigating another Riley Two-Point-Six. I must have been bored, because I decided to do a fuel-consumption check. That’s always ill-advised with the sort of dinosaurs that I drive, but I was intrigued to discover that the Gamma is returning 20mpg. Given its cool running and the fact that I tend to use it for short trips, the figure isn’t all that bad in my admittedly unrealistic terms.


    I’d started to wonder why the boot was always wet and discovered that the little ‘reversing window’ concealed in the bootlid had come adrift. It was easily sorted. Funnily enough, I only realised that the slats hinged up to give access to the glass when I was watching some old footage of the ’1976 Frankfurt Show on YouTube. My hours spent on the sofa are not entirely misspent.

    THANKS TO
    James Russell: 0121 475 8989
    Charles Shelton
    John Stewart
    Mike Connor

    James Russell stands guard over the Gamma. Unfortunately, he was not around to fend off whoever later damaged the Lancia’s flank.

    “The Lancia began to get under my skin again, so I suppose I’m sort of glad that it didn’t make the auction”

    ‘Reversing window’ seal had come adrift
    Caitlin and friends piled into the Gamma for a lift back from Avebury after the solstice
    Lancia basks alongside a Rosenthal at Prescott’s La Vie en Bleu/La Vita Rossa meeting
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