Vincenzo Lancia had many noteworthy achievements during his three decades as the head of Fabrica Automobili Lancia, but the Lambda is generally regarded as the most significant. Offered in nine series, or generations, between 1923 and 1931, the Lambda was powered by an unusual narrow-angle (13-degree) V4 engine, anticipating Volkswagen's VR6 by almost 70 years. A single overhead camshaft operated valves on both cylinder banks, and the block was aluminum. Initial displacement was 2121cc, expanding to 2375 with the Series 7 car, and to 2,569 in Series 8 and 9. Engine output increased correspondingly, from 46 horsepower with the original version, then to 59, and to 69 in the final iteration.
Just as unusual, the Lambda's chassis and body shell were unitized. Although, Lancia later backed away from this innovation (which has long since become universal in contemporary passenger cars) because it created problems for custom coachbuilders. Other cutting edge features included fully independent suspension and four-wheel brakes.
The records are sketchy, but the original owner of this Lambda is thought to have been a navy man, a Commander Gage, whose home port was in the United Kingdom. The car began life as a sedan, with custom fabric-clad coachwork from Weymann, in Brussels, but in 1946 was re-bodied as a coupe by Airflow Streamline in Northampton, England. The current owner has campaigned his Lambda in Italy's modern Mille Miglia, and was the top Canadian finisher in 2010.
The Lancia Lambda was produced from 1922 through 1931. In 1919 the designing process begun and given a monocoque chassis, sliding pillar front suspension, four wheel brakes and a 'vee' four engine. The load-bearing monocoque body was an industry first, and would take the rest of the market thirty years to incorporate the design. Vincenzo Lancia had been inspired by ship designs and the load-bearing principles of the hull, which he incorporated into the vehicles design. The vehicles strength came from the driveshaft tunnel which formed the backbone of the car. This meant a heavy frame was not needed.
The Tipo 67 engine had overhead camshafts and displaced 2570cc's. With the help of Zenith Triple Diffuser carburetors, nearly 70 horsepower was ascertained. This was the most powerful engine to propel the Lambda, other options throughout the years included a 2119cc and 2370cc unit. The 2119cc engine had a 13-degree vee angle and produced about 50 horsepower. The 14-degree vee 2370cc unit improve horsepower by 10, to 59.
It only took a few years before Lancia was claiming to have 'The Best Medium Powered Car in the World.' They stated that this was accomplished because the cars were 'Not built to a price but as a masterpiece of advanced design and engineering skill - to satisfy the most discriminating Motorist who demands the utmost in quality, appearance and performance.'
The Lambda had a touring bodystyle but handling and performance characteristics of a sports car. To capitalize on the vehicles sporty characteristics, Lancia prepared a Mille Miglia (MM) version to race in the grueling Mille Miglia race. The company's efforts were rewarded with top ten finishes.
From 1922 through 1931, Lancia created over 11,000 examples of the Lambda in eight different series with three different iterations of the narrow V4 engine.
By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2007