The full Monte at forty


IT'S one of those cars that you’ve always fancied but were never quite brave enough, but the Lancia Montecarlo celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

First shown at the 1975 Geneva Motor Show, cars started arriving in dealer showrooms later that year.

A great-looking shape, the Montecarlo was first penned in 1969 by Paolo Martin at Pininfarina as a contender to replace the Fiat 124 Coupe. Bertone countered with a cheaper proposal which was adopted by Fiat and which became the wedgy X1/9. The first car to be built entirely in-house by Pininfarina, the Montecarlo suffered a number of teething issues that dented its popularity.

First Series Beta Montecarlo production ran from 1975 to 1978 whereupon production halted for two years. When the car reappeared, simply badged the Montecarlo, in 1980, the issue with locking front brakes had been sorted, but the car still rusted badly, affecting sales.

The Montecarlo’s finest moment? That’s easy. The middle part of the car was bequeathed to the Lancia Rally 037 rally car which went on to claim the 1983 WRC manufacturer’s championship, beating the Audi Quattro in the process and becoming the final rear-wheel drive car ever to do so.