Wild Beasts

The space of a morning

The magnificent Lancia D 24 Sport defeated by money

Photo credit: Wheelsage, Lancia

It’s 1953, that moment in history when the ‘Barchetta’ open top sports cars competed in everything, including beauty. When the news came out that Gianni Lancia, the young CEO of the most aristocratic Italian car manufacturer (Lancia was famous for the refined elegance of its cars) had decided to take on Ferrari, Maserati, Jaguar and Aston Martin, everyone wondered what his car would look like, in addition to the performance, of course. 

Mille Miglia 1954, with the arrival in Brescia of Ascari victorious. Just enthusiasm for the victory of a virtually new car

And the shape, masterfully designed by the hand of Pininfarina, was magnificent. The mechanics were magnificent too but suffered from problems of its youth. Oil cooling difficulties forced them to create additional air intakes including one on the front fender, characteristic and so beautiful it increased the charm of the car.

Pininfarina’s magnificent line on the Lancia D24, which it finds in the air intakes for oil supply and cooling, elements that strengthen its aggressiveness

The results didn’t arrive straight out of the gate but everyone could see that the car was a peach. Very soon the D24, as it was now called, began to win, conquering the most gruelling race in the world: the 1953 Carrera Panamericana. Its 3,300cc V6 engine produced 270 horsepower and the multi-tubular frame chassis that also housed the gearbox-differential and the rear De Dion suspension, was perfect. 

World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio brings the first major success of the Lancia D24 to the 1953 Carrera Panamericana. For lancia the joy of victory was saddened by the death of the Italian Felice Bonetto

If you consider that alongside the development of the D24, Lancia also decided to compete on track in Formula 1, it’s easy to imagine the scale – and costs – of the project. Costs that were further increased by getting two World Champion drivers behind the wheel: Manuel Fangio, winner of the Carrera, and Alberto Ascari of the 1000 Miglia in 1954. But Italy, which dominated the international racing scene with Ferrari, Maserati and Lancia, would soon lose its latest arrival: the young Gianni Lancia had invested more than he could afford. 

In this transparency you can see the perfect distribution of the weights of the Lancia D24: the compact V6 engine transmits the power with the transaxle system to the rear clutch/gearbox/differential block. The large drum brakes are inboard both front and rear

He was just 31 years old and his family blamed him for his unsustainable management. In Formula 1 Ascari started being competitive but the accident in Monte Carlo in which he ended up in the sea, and his death a few days later at Monza behind the wheel of a Ferrari, along with Mercedes which had just arrived and proved to be a formidable opponent, lead to Lancia’s decision to retire from racing. Gianni made a noble gesture and donated all his Formula 1 material, including his cars, to Enzo Ferrari who was in difficulty against the Germans. 

In this image Piero Taruffi who brings the Lancia D24 to success in the Targa Florio. Note how narrow the road is and how in those days it ran without any security

The Lancia family left the company which changed ownership. Just 24 Lancia D24s remain in private hands or were modified. The magnificent story of the D24 ended sadly. However, the Lancia name found itself in a leading role in 1956: Fangio, driving the Lancia Formula 1 that raced under the Ferrari name, won the World Title.

The beautiful V-engine, as per Lancia tradition, with three double body carburetors that power the six cylinders of the Italian Sport. The engine was with double spark gap and double ignition as can be seen from the candles of the right bank