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Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage – The Lancia Thema 8.32

Jim Brennan December 19, 2014 Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage 31 Comments

Lancia_Thema_8・32.jpg (3264×2448) - Google Chrome 12132014 110813 AM.bmp

Welcome to the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage, a regular feature which aims to expand the notion of what a muscle car is, and to see if there is any room for an Italian Saloon Car. This particular featured car should stir up a lot of debate, not only because this is the first Italian Car highlighted for this series, but it was created by stuffing a 32V Ferrari 3.0L V-8 under the bonnet while still driving the Front Wheels! So, without further delay, I present to you the Lancia Thema 8.32 (Powered by Ferrari).


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The Lancia Thema was introduced for the 1984 model year, and it was part of a quartet of similar sized automobiles known as the Tipo Quattro platform. The other three nameplates that used this platform were the Alfa Romeo 164, the Fiat Croma and the Saab 9000. According to sources, the Thema re-established Lancia as a maker of near luxury cars, and it has been said that the Lancias were better built than the Fiat version, on par with the Saab 9000. However, Lancia’s reputation actually hurt sales of this competent car, and the second hand values reflected this lack of enthusiasm. The Lancia competed in the near luxury arena, and it had proper luxury amenities such as a full leather interior, heated seats, sunroof, and air conditioning. Power initially came from a variety of naturally aspirated, turbo, and diesel Lancia specific engines.

Lancia_Thema_8・32_rear.jpg (3264×2448) - Google Chrome 12132014 110826 AM.bmp

However, things would get interesting for the 1986 model year, as Lancia decided to get back into the fast executive transport class with the Landia Thema 8.32. The car was introduced at the Turin Auto Show in 1986, with production cars assembled at Lancia’s S. Paolo plant in Turin. Besides a more refined interior, this Thema used a 2927 cc Ferrari V8 engine that was based on the unit installed within the Ferrari 308 Quattrovalvole and in the Ferrari Mondial Quattrovalvole. The engine differed from the Ferrari V8s installed on their sports cars of the time in that it was equipped with a cross-plane type crankshaft rather than the usual flat-plane crankshaft. The Lancia engine also had smaller valves and different firing order. None the less, power was sufficient at 215HP, with 209 pound-feet of torque at 4500 rpm.

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Performance was pretty good for what was essentially a Front Wheel Drive car (with a V8 under the hood) with 0-60 times well under seven seconds, and quarter-mile time in the mid 15s. Road tests of the time were remarkably complimentary about the car, praising it for its performance and comfort. Surprisingly torque steer wasn’t a prevalent problem but many found that if you pushed the Lancia hard it would understeer heavily. Top speed was said to be 150 MPH.

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The Thema 8.32 offered good performance and excellent refinement, including a luxurious hand made wood-and-leather interior by Poltrona Frau complete with the same exclusive luxury equipment as the competition. And speaking of competition, the Lancia Thems 8.32 competed with some remarkable European Saloons at the time including the Audi 100 Turbo Quattro, BMW M535i, Ford Sierra RS Cosworth and the Opel Lotus Omega/Vauxhall Lotus Carlton.

Lancia-Thema-832-Ferrari-7.jpg (1600×1200) - Google Chrome 12132014 115247 AM.bmp

Production was quite limited with less than 4000 units produced in two different series, with the Series I cars built between 1986 and 1988, with the Series II cars built between 1989 and 1992. The biggest difference between the two series is the front ends, with the Series II receiving a smaller profile headlamp, different grill texture, and the addition of Body Side Molding for the Series II. The last 32 ‘Limited Edition’ 8.32’s were built and finished in Ferrari Red with black leather trim and a small plaque close to the ashtray to indicate its production number.

1988_Lancia_Thema_8.32_(_powerd_by_Ferrari_)_006_2224.jpg (1600×1200) - Google Chrome 12132014 111333 AM.bmp

So, there you have it… An Italian Saloon with the heart of a Ferrari. It has the performance of a refined Italian Sports Car, with luxury touches you would expect in a European Sedan. It has one party trick as well… a disappearing rear spoiler! That only leaves this question to be answered… Do you consider the Lancia Thems 8.32 an Obscure Muscle Car, and does it belong within the Garage? Let me know what you think, and while you’re at it, why not suggest other cars that I can profile for this series…

Please Note: All Images are screen grabs from around the web. If you want credit for any image, please let me know in the comments section. Thank You!

So what would you think about admitting the Lancia Thema 8.32 into the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage?

View Results

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Lancia-Thema-8.32-HQ-3.jpg (875×650) - Google Chrome 12132014 111303 AM.bmp

  • HSA❄

    It's awesome as it is but you can always add some vital parts that the factory forgot to install:
    <img src="http://i.imgur.com/uX3ZEkv.jpg&quot; title="source: imgur.com" />

    • JTuhka

      Best of all, It's (still) for sale!
      http://www.nettiauto.com/en/lancia/thema/6901342 12.000€

      "Factory crate engine with only 6000 km, standalone programmable fuel injection and ignition. 430 hp. Needs new clutch. On request the supercharger can be removed and engine turned back to naturally aspirated (250 hp). Cost for just the engine and supercharger over 20.000€, please make sensible offers."

  • mike

    A few 8.32 4WD prototypes were spotted, combining the Delta Integrale drivetrain (look at the wheels) with a tuned 8.32 engine. Then they realized that it would have competed with the "proper" Ferraris while also being cheaper, so the development was stopped.

    <img src="http://www.autopareri.com/forum/attachments/auto-d-epoca/1549d1352117392-1984-il-male-oscuro-della-thema-invidia-o-verita-4wd-1-.jpg&quot; width="600">

    And, as usual, Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli had a one-off wagon version made for him (the standard Thema was available as a wagon, but not the 8.32)

    <img src="http://p3.storage.canalblog.com/33/05/1216565/94488123_o.jpg&quot; width="600">
    <img src="http://p4.storage.canalblog.com/44/61/1216565/94488125_o.jpg&quot; width="600">

    • JTuhka

      Wow, never heard of the 4WD version before, but canceling it was just criminal. Thankfully the wagon was available eventually with the Alfa Romeo's legendary "Busso" V6 24V.

  • buzzboy7

    Sorry, I just can't. Not with all that latitudinal business going on.

  • skitter

    Yes.
    Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes.

  • Number_Six

    No no no no no.

    But yes.

  • Talk fancy all you want. You'll get me to kind of appreciate it but you'll never get me to accept it as a muscle car.

  • Sjalabais

    One of the craziest sedans ever made, especially for its time. What's Italian for "bonkers"?

    But…isn't part of the muscle car definition that it is relatively cheap, too? "Relatively" might carry a wide span, but with this also being a luxury sedan, I voted for option #2.

    Still an awesome machine.

    • Maxichamp

      Italian for bonkers? "Countach!"

  • CABEZAGRANDE

    I can accept sedans as muscle cars. And a glorious sounding V8 is a big part of the equation IMO. But a low torque, small displacement V8, FWD, and sedan? Nope, not a muscle car. Extremely cool super-sedan? Damn straight. But not a muscle car.

  • wunno sev

    um yes

    one beef i have, a cross-plane V8 made by ferrari gets me all "wtf" in the head. what's the point, then?

    but that is the only beef. yes, it's in!

  • I'm starting to wonder about this obsession you have…

    <img src="http://www.cowboysindians.com/images/cache/cache_3/cache_e/cache_7/Neeson-main-cfca17e3.jpeg"&gt;
    "I must expand the notion of what a muscle car is. I WILL expand the notion of what a muscle car is. And none ah' you hog-swaddlers better try to stop me…"

    • skitter

      You think…
      ….you can just slap a V8…
      . ….into any old car….

      …and make it into muscle?

      I don't know. I don't. But I have to try.

  • Slow_Joe_Crow

    I think the 8.32 is worthy for the sheer chutzpah of stuffing a V8, fI think the 8.32 is worthy for the sheer chutzpah of stuffing a V8, from a Ferrari no less into a FWD sedan.
    On a related note, have you done an Obscure Muscle Car Garage feature on the Vauxhall Lotus Carlton yet? No V8 but it was the fastest factory built 4 seater in the world back in the day, based on a vehicle normally powered by 1.8L 4 and driven by a sales rep. rom a Ferrari no less into a FWD sedan.

    • Manic_King

      Opel Omega (Vauxhall Carlton in the UK) is a big car in Euro-scale so it had to be quite an successful sales rep, more like a sales manager/director level guy who couldn't buy MB-E/BMW 5 with co. money as these were allowed for their bosses only.
      But yeah, Lotus is a crazy version. Also Omega 3000 and Omega Evolution 500 builyt for DTM with Irmscher (photo) could be muscle cars.
      <img src="http://veteran.auto.cz/wp-content/gallery/opel_omega_2dil2/1991_20.jpg&quot; width="666">

  • Jofes01

    I really can't imagine the driving position looking at those interior pictures.

    • Manic_King

      Doors are interchangeable with Saab 9000, which makes me think that maybe other hard points are at similar places. 9000 was/is known as great long distance cruiser, with ergonomically near perfect interior. I owned Lancia Prisma once, it was smaller, purely Italian car and had awfully Italian driving position, made for long arm, short leg body type.

  • craigsu

    So you could have the Lancia with the 215HP Ferrari V8 or the Saab 9000 Aero with the 225HP turbo 4? That would make the answer to your question NO!

  • Rover_1

    I love these cars and plan to own one in the (near) future.

    But they are not muscle cars. Maybe with AWD but it's still only 3.0 litres, so even then, maybe not.

    The engines are tuned for a very flat torque curve though and these cars have noticeably less torque steer than their platform partners, the high power versions of the Saab 9000 and Alfa 164. Considering that the Alfa was the last to come out, I always found this hard to understand. Though, of course that was available later still with 4WD – probably the same system developed by Lancia. Torque-steer on the Alfa 164 24 valve, I found more than a little troubling on a wet road, to the extent that I swapped the car with a Twinspark 4 cylinder. ( I did notice that the tyres weren't quite new, some, but by no means all, of it may have been due to that.)

    But those engines are definitely quite 'cammy' , (and, of course Alfa-like,) where-as the Lancia/Ferrari V8 power delivery was much more linear.

    Note: I discovered that the Lancia versions of the engines were made, under license for Ferrari, by Ducati who had spare capacity at the time, not something that would happen now that Audi owns Ducati.

  • labcoatguy

    It's still less powerful than its (admittedly later) platform-mate, the Saab 9000 Aero, which still had to make do with an inline-4. That car is more of a muscle-car than this evolutionary dead-end.

  • zetep

    Horrible badly made cars, and the Ferrari V8, or better, it's remains, didn't make it any better.
    Compared to this, Lucas made the best electric parts ever.
    Rare for sure, but not a muscle car.

    • Rover_1

      Maybe not up to current build standards but better than the average Euro-sedan at the time. And the quality of materials used in the interior is truly top class. Bentley and Rolls Royce quality easily.

      • Manic_King

        Nope. Sorry to disappoint you. 8.32 has special dash which looks times better than normal Thema's but the rest of interior is same which is…well, eighties' Italian quality, flimsy everything, cheap feeling when trying to operate it. Looks good but really isn't better than main Thema's competitors like Opel Omega, Ford Scorpio, Saab 9000, Audi 100.

        • Rover_1

          Despite all that Alacantra,real wood, and leather covering everything? I was impressed by the ones that I've sat in.

          But I must admit a bias as the owner of a Gamma Coupe so perhaps my perceptions are skewed. I'm conditioned to thinking that cars from this era are always better when carefully re-assembled. 🙂

  • Jay_Ramey

    People keep losing their sh!t over this car, at the same time I don't see them being paraded at classic meets back in their home country or being brought anywhere.

    • Manic_King

      There's at least 25 of these for sale, from 2900- 24000 eur, exotic Swiss place has 3: http://home.mobile.de/MAECHLER#ses

      When looking for V8 Themas found 2 of 2? stretch versions of Thema, ex. car of Fiat, Alitalia etc. boss Romiti for sale: http://suchen.mobile.de/auto-inserat/lancia-thema
      <img src="http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/NDgwWDY0MA==/z/2K8AAOSwofxUgF00/$_1.JPG"&gt;

      • Rover_1

        So that's where they used up the remaining Gamma 15" wheels.

        And cars from the late eighties are probably still near the bottom of their depreciation curves.

        And still too common to be really valued. Despite being clearly better cars, in almost all cases, than their predecessors in dynamics, features, crashability, aerodynamics and general design quality. Cf W123 to 124, E12 /E28 to E34, Rekord to Omega, SD1 to XX, E21 to E30 to E36 Golf 2 to 3 to 4 Escort mk2 to mk3 Cortina to Sierra etc .

        Even the first M3s, M5s, M6s, 500Es Safrane Bitrurbos, Mk3 Quattroportes and CX Turbo2s are still cheap.

  • Alff

    I was unaware but am not surprised that Ferrari's flat plane crank wasn't used in these. I'd be disappointed, if I had any reasonable expectation of seeing one of these in the flesh.

  • Jonathan

    As a past owner of an aftermarket turbo lancia scorpion for about 15 years and a couple of hundred thousand miles….I can honestly say I wish who ever owns this car the best of luck…

    Having a 215 hp Ferrari v8 lancia could be a nightmare with repairs…at least the turbo 4 lancia cars were inexpensive to fix….this thing scares the crap out of me …with it's Ferrari power plant….

    Great article though…..and for those with deep pockets…the v8 lancia powered by Ferrari is cool…

    I'd still pass,…

  • neight428

    If this is a muscle car, then anything with a gasoline powered V8 is a muscle car.