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Opportunity Knocks!

August 4, 2016

On Aug 4, 2016, at 11:12 AM, Michael Baum <michaelabaum@gmail.com> wrote:
 

Friends,

 

As you know, I have bought three cars recently (Yes, another Lancia is among them ...). That does not really go well with my overarching goal of "downsizing" the fleet. So I have to start somewhere and that's always the hardest thing to do.

 

But I will be selling my 1953 Lancia Appia Berlina. The car has done for me what it was supposed to do - becoming an awesome events car - and then some. Most of you probably know the car well. It has a very interesting history, is event proven, was cherished and owned by a row of enthusiasts and is in ready-to-go condition.

 

 

 

I saw this car for the first time at Concorso Italiano in 2006 and then again in 2014 at the Quail Lodge. Being a Lancia fan, and this being a very rare series 1 Berlina, I stayed in touch with it's then Bay Area owner.

 

 

History of this Car

 

The car is #4150 of the ~98k built Berlinas. It is a very early car and to my knowledge the earliest Appia in the US and the only running or perhaps one of two running series 1 cars in the country. 

 

The car has full ownership documentation. It has it's Italian Libretto in original blue Lancia factory pouch as well as the official Lancia delivery paper which is exceedingly rare. it also comes with the 1954 Foglio from the Italian Automobile Club and all research papers from the history research I had done on the car in Italy.

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It left the factory on November 16, 1953 and was headed to Lancia dealer Riccardo (Ditta) De Martino in Alessandria. The car left the factory in Grigio (Gray) exterior over Grigio (Gray) interior, the colors it still wears today.

 

The Lancia dealership sold the car to a road construction company, called Soc. G. Baralis & C. on November 14, 1953 - Perhaps as a company car, perhaps for the owner? It then was quickly sold to Vittorio Nissano in Voghera on August 31st, 1954. After that, Aldo Marctesoni in Pancarana, near Pavia, became the third owner on February 14th, 1957.

 

He used the car up until 1982 when he put it into storage for unknown reasons. He then sold the car in 1995 to Giuseppe Tomasetti in Roccabianca.

 

 

The Abarth Connection

 

Giuseppe, a Maserati collector, made an interesting discovery at an Italian auto jumble: He found early Abarth parts - an intake manifold for two (Weber) carburetors and an exhaust manifold (He later also found an "original in the wrappers" Abarth exhaust). They appeared different from those that Abarth did in period for Fiat and he thought that that was a little strange. Giuseppe bought the pieces and soon found out that those fit perfectly the Appia engine. However, Abarth never offered his go-fast pieces for Appias. So where do those parts come from?

 

In 1953 Carlo Abarth was commissioned by Lancia to prepare half a dozen or so Appia Berlinas for the 1954 Mille Miglia. I believe that 3 or 4 of those ran the event. What happened to all of those cars is a mystery as none of them seemed to have survived but their participation is well documented. While not yet verified, it is entirely possible and, in the opinion of the last two owners very likely, that those Abarth pieces come from one of the Abarth-prepared cars for the 1954 Mille. Irrespective, those parts are rare as hen's teeth and they give the stock 38hp a good 25% power boost. Let alone an aural note from that rodded 1.1 liter engine that is more "angry lawn mower" than anything else and a pure pleasure to drive and listen to.

 

 

 

With all of this research, Giuseppe decided to build a Mille Miglia "tribute". He bought Appia #4150 as the early serial number and the color combination were appropriate to the Mille Miglia cars. He then  commissioned a restoration with the Abarth pieces fitted to the engine. He also fitted a Maserati 200S steering wheel (Which I believe is a replica but don't tell him as he believes it is a real one ...). And that's what the car still looks like today.

 

Giuseppe campaigned the car at the 2003 Madonna Di Campiglio Winter Marathon. He then sold the car in 2005 to an American Lancia collector in the Bay Area. And I finally talked him out of the car in 2014, 8 years after I first saw it in Monterey (The pic below is from that Concorso in 2006).

 

 

California Mille

 

I always loved the pure shape of the first Appias with the round fastback design and a resemblance of a shrunken Aurelia. It's the purest form of all Appias. I also loved the fact that these early cars in good condition are exceedingly rare. So my goal has always been to experience one of them. 

 

Then, I was also looking for an event-eligible car ... on a budget. And what better to fit my odd ball sensitivities than this Appia with this history? So the goal became to run an event and none better than the fabulous California Mille. Knowing the Swig brothers a little bit and being familiar with their love for all things Lancia, I had a suspicion that the Appia might be welcomed ... And it was.

 

Derek Boycks set out to prep the car for the 2015 event. Derek is one of the most talented and diligent Italian classic car specialists (or any classic car for that matter) on the West Coast. Approximately $13,000.00 have been invested to make sure that the car runs perfectly, including full rebuild of radiator and cooling system, carburetors, clutch, brakes, all needed electrical components, new tires and full balancing, water and fuel pumps, valve adjustments, reconditioning of shift linkages and steering system and many other things.

 

The car then was road tested for 500 miles in SoCal, including spirited chases up Mount Wilson, several Malibu Canyons and - likely the most stressful test of them all - several rush hour shopping trips in Los Angeles.

 

 

 

 

The car participated in the 2015 California Mille without a single issue. It was delightful to drive and we always managed to arrive mid-pack (Photos from the event below courtesy of Dennis Gray).

 

 

 

After the Mille, the car continued in heavy use in SoCal, including several Orange County-to- LA trips. I then drove it from Los Angeles to Carmel for the 2015 car festivities and it served as the daily driver up there (with many rowdy passengers on its back seat, chauffeured to the many fun events). 

 

 

 

The Quail accepted the car for 2015 and, due to the vague Mille Miglia connection, it was put (By them, not me) in the Post-War Racing class (!). 

 

 

 

The car then was driven back to Los Angeles in 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Did I mention that it did not miss a single beat?

 

 

 

Up until now, the car has been regularly exercised, including trips to the Best of France and Italy show and several Petersen Museum events. It is in drive-ready condition and comes with a full bag of event-relevant spares such as a spare fuel pump, water pump, fire extinguisher, any set of gaskets and rubber ever needed and God knows what else.

 

It is a good car and I will miss it dearly. It is a relevant car with a history that you will likely not find on another Appia anywhere in the world. And it is such a fun car. it will get you in any event and it will put a smile on your face whenever you start that little Abarth-rodded engine. While not a shiny, perfect car, it's condition is in-line with being a fun, reliable events car and it needs absolutely nothing (And if it does in the next week or so, I will take care of it prior to the sale).

 

For those of you that are fairly new to Lancia Appias, the series 1 (First series out of three) is characterized by the more fastback rear body treatment that looks like a shrunken Aurelia. Furthermore, the majority of those early cars up until 1955 are right-hand drivers. Lancia in these days still build their cars with the steering wheel on the right hand. And no, not because of racing pretensions: Lancia stuck onto an old tradition of RHD that allowed Italians to better inspect and see the curb for those dangerous mountain roads ...

 

 

 

For all of those reasons, the car will not be cheap but I will sell for far below what it cost me to acquire and prep into a highly reliable events car. As they say, find another in this condition and with this history that gets you into virtually any relevant driving event ...

 

 

 

 

Let me know if you or anybody you know is interested. The Appia has had three loving and caring owners that used this car as intended and I would like to continue that tradition. Full inspections, test drives, dinners, etc. are very welcome. 

 

Mike

 

You can contact Mike:

Phone: 949-338-4591

email: michaelabaum@gmail.com

 

 

 

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