1951 Lancia Aurelia B20GT Coupé Coachwork by Da Corsa (lightweight aluminium competition) Chassis no. B20 1082
Introduced in 1907, the Vincenzo Lancia's first car showed an independence of thought and defiance of convention that would remain associated with the marque well into the modern era. Lancia recommenced production after WW2 with the Aprilia and its smaller cousin the Ardea, but waiting in the wings was yet another groundbreaking design: the Aurelia. Lancia's classic Aurelia, the first car ever to employ a V6 engine, was launched at the 1950 Turin Motor Show. Designed in wartime by Francesco de Virgilio, the 1,754cc 60-degree V6 was of all-aluminium construction and used overhead valves operated via short pushrods instead of Lancia's traditional overhead camshafts. An advanced unitary construction design, the Aurelia retained Lancia's 'sliding pillar' independent front suspension, first seen on the Lambda, but used a novel semi-trailing-arm layout at the rear, another world first. The transmission too, was unusual, comprising a two-piece prop-shaft and combined gearbox/rear transaxle on which were mounted the inboard brakes, though for once this was not an entirely new departure.
The B10 saloon was joined the following year by the Pinin Farina-styled B20 Coupé, a fastback '2+2' on a shortened wheelbase which, with its combination of sports car performance and saloon car practicality, can be said to have introduced the Gran Turismo concept to the world. The Aurelia engine had been increased to 1,991cc in 1951 and it was this unit in up-rated form that went into the B20. Lighter and higher geared than the saloon, the B20 was good for a top speed of over 100mph. Stunning the motor racing world, a mildly race-developed B20 driven by chain-smoking, brandy-swigging Giovanni Bracco finished 2nd in the 1951 Mille Miglia, beaten only by Luigi Villoresi's 4.1-litre works Ferrari! It is worth noting that the nimble Aurelia was actually faster than the Ferrari over the mountain passes north of Florence.
Right from the start, Lancia planned a very special limited series of lightweight competition cars radically different from the standard B20GT. They featured completely new, lightweight, all-aluminium bodywork with a lowered roof, no boot and a strengthened centre section to compensate for reduced rigidity. Boasting sliding Perspex side windows, a Perspex rear screen and stripped out interior, the cars weighed less than 900kg (1,980lb) while the lower centre of gravity further improved the already excellent handling and balance. The special Nardi tuned engines produced around 110bhp, while other noteworthy features included a floor-mounted Nardi gear change, lowered suspension and a limited-slip differential.
In 1952 the lightweight B20GT coupés established their giant-killing reputation, finishing 3rd, 5th and 6th overall in the Mille Miglia, winning their class at Le Mans and achieving a 1st, 2nd and 3rd overall 'grand slam' at the Targa Florio. Only seven of these special lightweight cars were made and they were entered in the names of their gentleman drivers (personal friends of Gianni Lancia) rather than by the Lancia factory. One such driver was Salvatore Ammendola, who entered numerous events in chassis number '1508', which was painted a distinctive celeste (pale blue). All of the lightweight Aurelias were broken up by the factory when the Lancia D50 Grand Prix cars were handed over to Ferrari in 1955. Many years later Luciano Basso, the Lancia Museum's official restorer, undertook an ambitious project to build five lightweight aluminium Aurelia coupés, correct down to the smallest detail, using original B20GT chassis and the factory competitions department's original body buck. The example offered here, chassis number '1082', was built by Luciano Basso for Luciano Ammendola, Salvatore's son, and painted in the same pale blue as his father's car. Meticulously prepared for competition, the car features a tuned 2.0-litre engine with Nardi modifications, a Nardi floor change and the same lowered suspension and limited slip-differential as the original factory-built cars. Luciano Ammendola campaigned his Aurelia in historic events in Italy for many years with great success and complete reliability, demonstrating yet again the B20GT's legendary handling by beating some well-known Ferrari 250GT SWBs in the rain on twisty sections of the Targa Florio!
The current owner purchased '1082' at Bonhams' Goodwood Festival of Speed sale in June 2007 (Lot 372). Described by the vendor as in generally excellent condition, this ultra-rare B20GT variant is offered with FIA Historic Technical Passport (Class: GTS4). Well developed, it is ideally suited to competitive driving on either race circuits or rallies, and is eligible for many of the most prestigious historic motoring events, including the Mille Miglia and Tour Auto.