Lancia Fulvia Coupe

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Lancia Fulvia Coupe

1965 - 1973
1216 cc / 1231 cc
80 bhp
4 spd. man
Top Speed:
100+ mph
Number Built:
3 star
Lancia Fulvia Coupe
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3


The Fulvia saloon had similar chunky lines to the Flavia, but in true Lancia tradition its engine was a narrow-angle vee-4, canted over at 45 degrees to the left and having an overhead camshaft for each set of valves. The engine was mounted ahead of the front wheels, which were driven through the same robust gearbox as was used on the 1,800 c.c. Flavia.

The coupe version of the Fulvia was 6in. shorter than the saloon and was built on a 5in. shorter wheelbase. It weighed 1½cwt less, but at 18·6cwt unladen it was no stripling; the cylinder bore of the coupe engine was 4mm larger, giving a capacity of 1,216 c.c, instead of 1091 c,c. Power output was 80 b.h.p. net at 6,000 r.p.m, (9 bhp more than the saloon) and peak torque came high in the rev range at 4,000 r.p.m.

Despite this high specific output and sporting engine characteristics, the coupe was as docile as you could wish for; yet when the driver wanted to hurry it sang up to peak revs with remarkable smoothness and a surprising turn of speed for such a small machine.

Two twin-choke Solex carburettors were fitted, and the best technique when starting from cold was to use full rich mixture and leave the accelerator alone. Owners have told us the engine will usually start on the first attempt (provided it is in top tune), however to the un-initiated the loud hiss from the strangled induction can cause unwaranted concern.

The engine would warm quickly so that almost immediately the choke lever could be pushed fully back, and it was not normally needed again throughout the day's use of the car. According to owners the oil pressure gauge would exceed 70 p.s.i. (top calibration) at all normal running speeds. Suddenly opening the throttles from really low engine speeds would cause a gulp and splutter, but at all other times pick-up was smooth and free from hesitation.

Owners have also told us that, to about 4,000 r.p.m., there is not a great deal of punch, but by 4,5OO r.p.m. the engine will begin to give of its best and from then on, to the red warning marked between 6,000 and 6,200 r.p.m., the slight exhaust and camshaft noise will rise in a smooth hum.

Reviewing acceleration tests performed by various motoring journals of the time, the consensus was that the Fulvia Coupe would go slightly beyond its limit to 6,5OO r.p.m. A typically "soft" Lancia clutch restricted full-throttle standing starts, most motoring scribes claiming times could have been easily improved with more positive "bite." During sprint getaways the clutch was known to slip up to 20 m.p.h., and full-throttle gear changes also caused some delay.

Thankfully on the road this behaviour was barely noticed, and the smooth take-up was a characteristic to be preferred on a touring car. Despite the difficulties of balancing a vee-4 engine, the power unit of the Fulvia was completely free from vibration periods and drivers were encouraged to use all the rev range regularly for maximum performance. Although there was a rather wide gap between 2nd and 3rd gears, the long, rigid gear lever sprouting out of the bulkhead directly behind the gearbox made changing very positive. Movements up and down between the gears were long, but the gate was narrow, with spring loading towards top and third. Some road testers reported that they occasionally had difficulty in selecting first at rest, but a second dab on the clutch would always settle any difficulty. Even though the gearbox and final drive were near the floorboards, and all gears were indirect, there was no noticeable transmission noise.

The Lancia Range Developed For Radial Ply Tyres

Fuel consumption figures recorded at steady speeds were excellent, with a surprising 58 m.p.g. at 30 m.p.h. Even at 70 m.p.h., 36·1 m.p.g. was measured, giving an estimated (DIN) overall consumption of nearly 33 m.p.g. The whole of the Lancia range had been developed around radial-ply tyres, and the Fulvia was shod with Michelin X. All aspects of the road behaviour reached a very high standard, and it is extremely difficult to fault the Fulvia in this respect. Most testers could not detect any front wheel drive effects at all, and there was no change in attitude between power-on and power-off in the middle of a corner.

Perhaps the really outstanding feature of the Fulvia Coupe was its ultra-light and positive steering. From lock to lock, 4·2 turns were needed on a 35ft turning circle, but there was no impression of low gearing and the little car always followed the chosen line perfectly and with fine, quick response. Somehow Lancia had practically eliminated the characteristic front wheel drive under steer (decades before others could make such a claim) and the cornering of the Fulvia was as near neutral as made no difference. At high cornering speeds there was some roll, but the tyres would stay firmly stuck to the road, regardless.

Like other Lancias, the Fulvia had an excellent main road ride, gliding smoothly and quietly over minor bumps; ridges and waves. Road testers all noted the car felt impressively solid. Corrugations were completely smoothed out at about 60 m.p.h., but long-pitch waves on a test circuit caused the front suspension to bottom at only 40 m.p.h. The shorter-wheelbase of the coupe lost something to the saloon in this respect. Really the Fulvia coupe was little more than a 2+2, the back seat was small with restricted headroom. When tall people moved their front seats back, the rear legroom practically disappeared, so for family motoring it was a matter of compromising on the space available.

At the price at which the Fulvia was sold, we think many buyers of the time probably expected leather seats and a carpeted floor, but instead the coupe had pvc seats and moulded rubber mats - at least the tools were neatly stowed inside the spare wheel. And there was no compromise in a French-polished wooden panel containing a large circular speedometer and rev counter with fuel level, oil pressure and temperature gauges between them. A red warning lamp was built into the fuel gauge to warn when the level was getting low.

The Lancia Fulvia Coupe
The Lancia Fulvia Coupe...

Stopping Power Unrivalled By Any Other Production Car Of The Era

In the Italian fashion, the steering wheel boss incorporated a centre button to flash the lamps, ringed by another one to sound the horns. The Fulvia was generously equipped with Dunlop disc brakes on all four wheels with the pads rubbing no less than 380 sq. in. of disc for every laden ton. We have checked through our records here at Unique Cars and Parts, and we believe such stopping power was probably unrivalled by any other production car of the era, and naturally the brakes were impeccable. Of course, if you disagree, there is a comments section at the end of the article. With servo assistance, pedal pressures were light, progressive and always reassuring. There was negligible fade during severe testing, and and several road testers noted there was no loss of efficiency at any time.

Surprisingly for a car with rear discs and 64 per cent of its weight on the front wheels, the handbrake recorded 0·34g when used on its own from 30 m.p.h. It only just held the laden Fulvia on a 1-in-3 test hill and a restart was not possible because of the clutch slip mentioned earlier in this article. The position behind the wheel was typically "arm-stretch-Italian," but there was ample fore and aft seat adjustment for all shapes and sizes of driver and the backrest could be set at different angles as well. There were twin ventilation slits in each backrest, and a quick-release catch for tipping it forward. Headlamp dipping and the indicators were controlled by a single stalk on the steering column. Two un-labelled rocker switches in the centre of the panel operated single-speed wipers and the heater fan which we have found, on owners prepared to demonstrate, to be extremely noisy but vigorous.

Ventilation and heating on the Fulvia were disappointing. Two round handwheels below the facia controlled the air flow and temperature, while a separate lever regulated the rate of hot water circulation in the matrix. However, owners have told us there never seems to be enough air of any sort, even when the rear quarterlights are opened as extractors. Window misting is accordingly difficult to prevent in heavy rain; and the blower. Tiny cool-air nozzles at each end of the facia dont produce any noticeable breeze.

There was not much space to store oddments in the Lancia. Only a small glove locker could hide valuables, and there were a couple of open boxes alongside the foot wells on each side of the car. The boot was large for such a small car and its floor was covered with rubber matting. The spare wheel was shielded to protect delicate luggage. Another traditional Lancia feature was a red warning lamp let into the trailing edge of each door; common today but 40+ years ago was very rare even on the prestige marques.

Another nice touch were the automatic inspection lamps under the bonnet and in the boot; these worked only in conjunction with the master lighting switch. Twin Siem headlamps had a sharp cut-off when dipped, but a really long range and wide spread on full beams. Lancia built their cars to run well and to be easy to maintain. Under the bonnet the layout was delightfully clean and accessible; there were a lot of shiny aluminium castings and all parts needing attention were at the top and easy to reach. The four plugs were in the top of the cylinder head, while the carburettors dominated the middle of the bonnet opening. The distributor was above and behind the carburettors and the long flexible dipstick was between the carburettors and the offset radiator. The battery was well placed alongside the engine, but the oil filter was tucked away. All the electric fuses and control boxes were grouped together in a tray under the facia which could be slid out.

Summing up, yes there were a few minor niggles, but these were trifling when you consider what you were getting. The mid 1960's was an era when small nearly always meant austere, cheap and slow. There were plenty that lusted after a small car that raised the bar in quality and road manners. The Fulvia was that car. Remember when we mentioned the clutch slip at the top of the article? (you may need to scroll up to refresh your memory), what we did not mention was that adjusting clutch free play could be done via a release lever reached from above the engine and it did not even need a spanner; literally a 2min. job. Look under the bonnet and you would see where the money went. In many aspects of the car's character, the Fulvia coupe could be likened to a precision watch. The exclusive styling attracted a lot of attention and the practical package size made it a terrific car around town. But out on the open road, its true breeding would begin to show and the coupe would become a fast touring car with few rivals.

Quick Specifications:

    • ENGINE Cylinders 4. narrow-vee, Designed by Zaccone Mina
      • Cooling system: Water, pump, fan and thermostat
      • Bore 76mm (2·99in.) Stroke 67mm (2·64in.) Displacement 1,216 c,c, (74·2 cu, in.)
      • Overhead camshaft, needle tappets, rockers
      • Compression ratio: 9·0 to-1
      • Carburettors: Two twin-choke Solex C32PHH
      • Fuel pump: Fispa mechanical
      • Oil filter: Carello, full flow, renewable element
      • Max. power: 80 b.h.p. (net) at 6,000 r.p.m
      • Max. torque:76·6 Ib ft (net) at 4,000 r.p.m
      • Clutch: Fichtel & 5achs, single-dry-plate
      • Gearbox: 4-speed, all-synchromesh
      • Gear ratios: Top 1·00, Third 1·42, Second 2·18, First 3·69, Reverse 4·1
      • Final drive Hypoid bevel, 3·91
    • Construction: Integral, with all-steel body
      • Front: Independent, wishbones, transverse leaf spring, anti-roll bar, telescopic dampers
      • Rear: Dead axle, half-elliptic leaf springs, Pan hard rod, anti-roll bar, telescopic dampers
      • Tyres: Michelin X tubed. Size 145-14in.
      • Type: Worm and roller.
      • Wheel dia. 14 in.
    • BRAKES
      • Make and type: Dunlop, disc front and rear
      • Dimensions: F, 10·15in. dia. discs; R, 10·5in. dia. discs
      • Swept area: F, 205 sq. in.; R, 205 sq. in. Total 410 sq. in, (380 sq. in. per ton laden)
    • WHEELS
      • Type Pressed steel disc, 4-5in. wide. rim
      • Battery: 12-volt 42-amp. hr
      • Generator: Bosch, 360-watt
      • Headlamps: Siem 45/1O-watt
      • Reversing lamp, Electric fuses, Screen wipers, Screen washer, Interior heater, Safety belts
    • Interior trim
      • Pvc seats, pvc headlining
      • Floor covering: Rubber mats
      • Starting handle, Jack
      • Jacking points: under body sills
    • Maintenance
      • Fuel tank: 8·5 Imp, gallons (no reserve) (38 litres)
      • Cooling system: 11·2 pints (including heater) (6,3 litres)
      • Engine sump: 7 pints (4 litres) 5AE IOW·30.
      • Change oil every 4,300 miles.
      • Change filter element every 4,300 miles
      • Gearbox and Final drive: 4,5 pints SAE EP·90. Change oil every 8,600 miles
      • Grease 6 points every 2,000 miles, 5 points every 4,000 miles
      • Tyre pressures: F, 26; R, 26 p.s.i.(normal driving)

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Also see:

Lancia History
Lancia Fulvia Coupe 1300 S3
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