Off radar

The Fallen Stars
Lancia Bertone Kayak

Betrayed by its name?

Photo credit: Lancia, FCA Heritage, Wheelsage

Sometimes, a project’s destiny is doomed simply by its name: over the years, Lancia, a historic Italian brand traditionally linked to the highest segments of the market, has proposed models with names linked to its noble past. It’s pretty easy to remember the glorious Aurelia, Flaminia, Appia models, not to mention Delta, Gamma, Thesis. 

The soft lines of the Kayak predated those that the other concept called Dialogos was to adopt a few years later, followed by the Thesis in 2002

It is therefore difficult to understand why Bertone, still under the guidance of its venerated and refined founder, chose to give the beautiful coupé designed to broaden Lancia’s appeal and its market, the name ‘Kayak’, a small boat that is as spartan as it is uncomfortable, and about as far away from the refined Lancia positioning as it’s possible to get.

Lancia’s design language in those years seeked to re-propose traditional elements of the brand, as illustrated by the rear-hinged “suicide” doors without the central pillar of the Dialogos, another step in Lancia’s creative research

In reality, the beautiful project was never really going to make it to production as the Fiat Group wasn’t in the position to finance it, as it was going through a few financial storms of its own in those years. A decision that weighed on the future of Lancia, which fell into a slow and unstoppable decline towards an ignominious disappearance. 

The elegance of the Kayak project was apparent even in the very early sketches: the harmoniously rounded rear uses the thin LED lights to underline the positioning of the model

Today, Stellantis Group, which owns Lancia, has announced a future for this important brand, which is cherished by collectors across the globe, with a model that aims to reposition it where it rightly belongs. Who knows if, during the creative process, the beautiful Kayak will be able to contribute in some way to the long-awaited return?

The prototype presented at the Geneva Motor Show in 1995 was almost identical to the first concepts and was very warmly received, not just by the supporters of the traditional Italian brand
Slender and harmonious, the first sketches of the Kayak confirm how its name was unsuitable for a line that couldn’t be further away from water sports
The Kayak was supposed to be the coupé version of the K. Lancia, however, decided to make this two-door version starting from the design of the four-door that hadn’t had much success. If they had chosen the Kayak, those numbers would have been very different.
The dashboard and steering wheel, taken from the K, are not at the same level of creative elegance as the seats designed for a sports version
The Thesis, presented in 2002, absorbed many of the ideas proposed by both the Kayak and the Dialogos. A model so refined and advanced it created doubts for traditional Lancia customers