Lancia gave its chief designer, Vittorio Jano, a clean sheet of paper when it replaced the Aprilia which had been the company’s mainstay since 1937. Jano, the man responsible for most pre-war Alfa Romeos, worked with a brilliant young engineer named Francesco de Virgilio. The result of their partnership, the Aurelia, was one of those rare cars which owed nothing to its predecessor.
When the Aurelia was unveiled it was, by common consent, the most superbly engineered saloon car there had ever been. A short wheelbase version, the B20, was third in the 1951 Mille Miglia and another was second in the 1952 event, splitting two Mercedes-Benz 300SL ‘gullwing’ coupes. Later that year, the Aurelia finished 1-2-3 in the Targa Florio, a remarkable achievement for a production saloon car.
With such a record in racing, the Aurelia cried out to have an open sports version in the catalogue and, in 1955, Lancia duly obliged. Pinin Farina styled a sleek two-seater, baptised ‘Spyder America’ in deference to its main target market, which was a triumph of simplicity and elegance characterised by its distinctive panoramic windscreen and stylish quarter bumpers. Since the Aurelia had unitary construction, Pinin Farina made the entire body/ chassis unit which was one of the first jobs awarded to their new manufacturing plant.
The Aurelia underwent constant development and there were six distinct series. From the fourth series on, a de Dion rear axle replaced the original trailing arms. All B24 Spyders had the de Dion layout and the 2541cc version of the engine which was tuned to give 118 bhp. Top speed was estimated to be 115 mph (184 kph), but more important was its superb handling and road holding which made it unbeatable on country roads.
A mere 240 examples of the two-seat Aurelia B24 Spyder America were made (in both left and right-hand drive forms) as production was limited by the capacity of the Pinin Farina factory – and fewer still exist today. The combination of rarity, engineering excellence and Pinin Farina’s gorgeous body makes this superb car a blue chip investment.
This example was tracked down by Silvano Cima in America 20 years ago and imported to Italy, where it underwent a total, no expense spared restoration by KCA of Milan. Strikingly finished in its original metallic green with natural leather upholstery, its appearance enhanced by polished Borrani wire wheels, the car also boasts the high performance Nardi kit. Italian registered and ASI homologated, this is probably the finest Spyder America we have offered to date.
At their Les Grandes Marques a Monaco in 2005, Bonhams sold #1156. The top bid was 210 000 EU ($264 000 USD).