Hi there, and welcome to part thirteen of the series that gets more hits than a drunken cheerleader at a frat party.
Today we’re trading Germanic Efficiency for a little bit of Latin Brio, and heading to rather more temperate European climes. We’re going to see a car that caused me instances of delirium whenever I would see one as a kid.
Pack up your Dinitrol, it’s the Lancia HPE.
A mysterious strap-line, and one that I don’t wholly understand. Not to worry, the HPE was definitely:
“For people of our time….”.
So that’s nice and clear, then.
“….. who ask for performance, comfort and advanced functional design”.
I shouldn’t have rushed you. Sorry.
As it goes the HPE is, I reckon, one of the sexiest non-exotic cars to have issued from between Turinese factory gates. The name HPE stood for High-Performance Estate, or Executive depending on Lancias mood at the time. It was a three-door station wagon (one for you, perhaps, Longroofian) based on the same chassis and structure as the Beta Berlina, with the forward styling of the Coupe and Spyder. It was beautiful, but it had some pretty high-falutin’ claims to live up to, if the brochure was anything to go by:
“….Exceptional for a car as functional and of such standing as the Lancia HPE to offer performance figures which put to shame many recognised ‘Sports Cars'”.
Yeah, they really did say “of such standing” as if the car were derived from nobility. In reality the Beta chassis, though a fine one, was as conventional as any other front-wheel-drive car of the time. Engines were the well proven Fiat Twin-Cam type, very nice but only becoming exciting when the Volumex supercharged units came online in 1983. That’s outside the scope of this brochure, though, which dates from ’79.
“HPE… rationality, elegance and so much space”
Here, I have to agree. Unnecessarily verbose they may be, but the sentiment is accurate. During that period All Lancia interiors were terrifically stylish. See how that rear bench flows into the quarter panels, and everything is clean and unfussy. It looks like an executive office, and far too nice to be carrying kids or other family paraphernalia around in. But hey, this was Italy, where school uniforms are probably made by Versace.
“For performance, a look at the figures for acceleration, pickup and maximum speed suffices to show that the HPE is an expression of unquestioned excellence.”
Well, maybe, though the quoted ten-second launch- to-sixty time doesn’t reek of excitement. Indeed, Road and Track didn’t fall about in a haze of adrenaline fumes, stating that:
“..it’s major attraction is its incredible versatility within the sleek, stylish package, and its thoroughly refined ride and handling qualities. Its quiet running is a revelation and the well appointed interior is a joy for driver and passengers.”
Well whatever. I like the HPE and think it’s a shame that there’s never really been anything quite like it since, apart maybe from the Honda Aerodeck. And if one day these things become historically significant, then At Least I Own The Brochure.
<Disclaimer:- All photos were taken by the author on his (clean) bathroom floor and are of genuine original manufacturer publicity material. All copyright rights remain in the possession of the manufacturer, who now just stick Lancia decals on Chryslers. And vice-versa>