Run by Martin Buckley
Owned since May 2014
Total mileage 27,401
Miles since June 2017
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.
Mike Conner at Purley Road Garage: 01285 221304
Custom Motor Bodies
Lancia Gamma Consortium: www.gammaconsortium.com
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.