Vincenzo Lancia was a test driver and successful racer for Fiat before he began building his own cars in 1908. His cars were an immediate success and Lancia quickly developed a reputation for technological innovation. The small Augusta was introduced in 1933, becoming a favorite of racing drivers, including the great Tazio Nuvolari. It became so popular in France that Lancia set up a French subsidiary to produce cars for the local market in Bonneuil, simultaneously avoiding a tax on imported cars. Renamed the Belna, some 326 are credited to Pourtout Carrossier.
In the late 1920s, Georges Paulin, a dental technician living in Paris, invented a retractable hardtop. He patented the design and sold it to a French coachbuilder, Marcel Pourtout. This firm built several cars on the chassis of a French-built Lancia - a Belna, very similar to the Italian-built Lancia Augusta.
This model, the Belna Eclipse, has a hand-operated hard top, counter balanced by bungee cords, that disappears into the trunk. Later, when Pourtout built Eclipse models on Peugeot chassis, these tops were operated electronically. The car is powered by a water-cooled, overhead cam, narrow V4, 1,196 cc (1.20L), 35 horsepower engine coupled to a 4-speed manual transmission equipped with free-wheeling. It is said that it has the best tires you could get on a car from the 1930's, greatly enhancing the handling characteristics.
This Lancia Belna is one of just two known surviving Pourtet Belna's. The Lancia Belna was built at Lancia's first non-Italian plant that was located in France. They opened this factory in 1931 and began producing the Lancia Augusta there in 1934. All of the French-built Augustas would be called 'Belna' which translates from Hungarian to 'gut.'
French coachbuilder Marcel Pourtout procured just a few bare chassis Belnas and would go on to build a truly distinctive and prestigious automobile. The 'Eclipse' car features a fully retractable hardtop that was designed by automotive designer and French resistance fighter Georges Paulin.
This prime example of a true French classic has graced the covers of several prominent classic car magazines and has garnered numerous prestigious awards throughout the United States. It is believed that approximately 3,000 Belnas were originally produced before production stopped in 1938. Of these, about 500 of them left the French factory as a bare chassis, and only two Pourtout Eclipse Belnas are known. This example is currently the only complete and road-worthy example in existence.