The Carchive: The Lancia Trevi

Trevi1

It’s time for our third weekly delve into The Carchive, the Hooniverse series devoted to the rhetoric, hyperbole and outright lies perpetrated by automotive marketeers.

There’s an awful lot of Lancia Love in the Hooniverse, and before we killed it off, the late and unlamented R.A-S.H series had visited a Fulvia, an HPE and I touched on the Gamma a long, long time ago. Today it’s the turn of another spin-off from the wide-ranging Beta platform.

The 1981 Lancia Trevi.

“It is possible to define the Lancia Trevi quite simply as a luxury saloon car but such a definition does it less than justice”

In terms of size, the Trevi hit the market bang in the middle of what we would today call the “small executive” sector. In 1981 it was priced well above the Fiat Mirafiori and represented a more luxurious proposition than the Alfa Romeo Giuilietta. It was, broadly, gunning in what we commonly see these days as The Three-Series sector.

So what could the Trevi possibly offer that its capable competition couldn’t?

Well, for starters the front cover of the brochure is black, but it had a blue grid. Blue grid designs were ever so space-age, very Tron. Star Wars was still only in the recent past, and the Trevi brochure did have an agreeably cutting-edge feel.

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“….the specifics of the car are no less remarkable than its pedigree”

The first double spread of the brochure doesn’t really offer many clues. The three-view of the car is nicely illustrative, but merely shows the car for what it was; ergo not the most sexily styled car ever built. It was certainly different in its proportions, though, with a high roofline, formally slanted rear windscreen and horizontal shoulderline. There was nothing very seductive about it, although some of the details (those slotted alloys, for example) do cause my mouth to water.

Maybe the Trevi wasn’t equipped for visual drama, I think it has aged rather well and has accrued a generous helping of curiosity factor. I’d certainly rock one now. But we haven’t checked out the oily bits yet.

“You can feel it the very first time you start the twin overhead cam engine: there’s a liveliness rarely found in other cars”

Aside from a few quibbles that seemed to vary wildly from one magazine review to the next, broadly speaking the handling was deemed to be superb, the engine was seen as unobtrusive and powerful, although there doesn’t seem to have been much talk of character. This was a little worrying, really, as Italian twin-cam four-cylinder engines are traditionally regarded as rather charismatic. Not outrageously fast, either; slightly longer than ten seconds to sixty and a top whack just over 110mph.

So the looks, nor the engineering were quite enough to deem the Trevi a runaway success. What Lancia needed was something truly unique to help sell their car.

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“The Lancia Trevi has great dash.”

In hindsight, though, the Lancia Trevi didn’t have such a great dash. It was fascinating and exciting to behold, but was it just style over substance?

“The Trevi’s fascia has been designed by Bellini, one of the foremost industrial designers of our time, taking into account the most advanced studies in ergonomics”

Based on the above information, you would expect every dashboard since that in the Trevi to follow a broadly similar design, yet somehow this hasn’t been the case. Explain yourself, Mario….:

“…the instrument panel has been divided into two sections. The controls and warning lights, grouped radially in individual non-reflecting cells, are located in the central section….While the main instruments are arranged directly in front of the driver”.

This does not sound like good ergonomic practice. It’s silly. Especially the instrument binnacle itself, which has a good eight inches beetween speedo and tachometer, the two most oft-referenced gauges.

All in all, the dashboard which was variously described as Gaudi-esque or resembling Gruyere cheese, has gone down in history as one of the most stupid dashboard designs of all time, and definitely not a strong selling point for the Trevi. Reviews at the time unanimously condemned the design, pronouncing it as diabolical to actually use effectively. Ergonomic? Forget it. Bellini must have spent much of the early Eighties laughing to himself heartily.

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Of course, the final page speaks at great length about the various anti-corrosion measures employed to prevent the Trevi’s bodywork accumulating more holes than that dashboard,

“The treatment comes from Cryla-Gard, one of the worlds leading anti corrosion specialist(s)”

This was a damning reminder of the rust-related horror stories that Lancia were keen to put behind them; the buying public having become accustomed to talk of virtually brand new Betas being consigned to the crusher due to premature corrosion in important and hard to heal locations. By this point, you were really very unlucky for rust to be a serious issue on your new Lancia, and the people of Cryla-Gard must have made a good few quid thanks to the debacle.

Today the Trevi is extremely rare in Europe, let-alone the UK; but not because of rust, more because of general unpopularity and market indifference. A big bag of Hoon points goes to the first person, anywhere in the world, who V.I.S.I.Ts one and sends it in to the Hooniverse Tips line.

(Disclaimer: All images are of original manufacturer publicity material. Copyright belongs to Lancia, or Chrysler as they’re otherwise called)

About RoadworkUK

RoadworkUK is the online persona of Gianni Hirsch, a tall, awkward gentleman with a home office full of gently decomposing paper and a garage full of worthless scrap metal. He lives in the village of Moistly, which is a safe distance from London and is surrounded by enough water and scenery to be interesting. In another life, he has designed, sold, worked on and written about cars in exchange for small quantities of money.

11 Comments

  1. The contrast between the staid exterior and the bizarre dashboard is amazing. With something like a Citroen BX, the exterior tips you off that the dashboard will be something out of Sci Fi but the Trevi just sneaks up on you. Sadly that seems to be the only significant aspect ofthe Trevi, unlike the attractive and dynamic Beta, the rally hoon Delta, and the heartbreaking Gamma.

  2. Based on the Beta platform. New body and interior (the Beta was updated with the Trevi grill)

  3. It was a warmover of the 7 year old Beta with all the Beta's foibles especially a diabolically rubbery gearchange – I know, it was the first manual car I drove after I passed my test. The Dedra couldn't come soon enough…

  4. All part of the story of how they stuffed up Lancia -despite all the WRC wins and some good cars,(some even with Ferrari engines. )
    I'll do my bit to keep the memory alive my Gamma Coupe will never be sold – it's too good to drive, and to look at. Although if that engine gives me any more trouble, my Pininfarina masterpiece will end up Subaru Boxer powered.
    I'm hoping something good comes from the Mopar connection, but I'm not holding my breath.

  5. The dashboard is a wonderful piece of design – it looks fantastic, even if that comes at the expense of useful communication and operability. Thinking about it, having all the warning lights smack in the center of your vision is much more practical that whatever the speedo or tach might be saying. This is a Lancia, after all.

  6. This name conjures such a clear mental picture, I'm sure I must have known this person. Trevi is a young lad, either the first generation born in this country, or the family immigrated when he was only a few years old. He is cripplingly embarrassed by his eastern European parents, and tries desperately to fit in. Some inherited habits and social mores leak out though. He is not ostracized, but he is pushed more toward the 'weird kid' end of the elementary school social spectrum then he feels he deserves. This makes him sort of bratty on occasion, but he is really quite personable. If only the other kids could overcome their reflexive prepubescent xenophobia.
    Drawing parallels to the car is an exercise left to the reader.

  7. I have indeed driven one. First, the dashboard works as designed. It’s not as well assembled as the concept required (the technology was lacking). But it’s fabulous to behold, like a Citroen in its strange correctness. The ride is excellent and the controls generally first rate. It’s quite the best old car I’ve driven or at least the equal of the CX.

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