1953 Lancia Aurelia
Original Owner, Belgium (acquired new in 1953)
Current Owner, Italy (acquired in 2007)
Brussels Motor Show, Brussels, Belgium, January 1955
Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, Cernobbio, Italy, May 2016 (Second in Class)
John de Boer, , chassis no. is listed
Aldo Zanellato Vignale, , model discussed
In 1950, Lancia introduced the Aurelia, which was immediately recognized for its advanced technology and exceptional build quality. The Aurelia sported the first V-6 engine manufactured in large numbers and installed in a production car. It was made available in the B50 version, a rolling chassis delivered to coachbuilders to create one-off or limited-production series. The B50 was relatively heavy and offered limited performance from its early 1.7-liter engine, so in 1952, Lancia debuted a lighter chassis equipped with the more powerful two-liter engine. Named B52, this greatly improved chassis was intended for more sporting cars. In 1952, Lancia built just 86 B52 chassis, followed by 12 additional units in 1953.
One of the most admired models built on these chassis is this one-off Aurelia B52 Cabriolet, designed by the legendary stylist Giovanni Michelotti and constructed in aluminum by Carrozzeria Vignale in Torino. In its overall design and detailing, it closely resembles the acclaimed Vignale Coupe, of which just six were built, but its handsome open coachwork makes it all the more interesting and desirable.
According to the Lancia Club register, this Aurelia, chassis B52-1097, was assembled between January 28 and February 6, 1953, and was paired with engine no. B21-4775. After the chassis was completed and tested, it was put into storage until it could be delivered to a coachbuilder. Its first known appearance was in January 1955, when it was displayed on the Lancia stand at the Brussels Motor Show in Belgium wearing its distinctive Vignale coachwork, painted in (Metallic Lake Green) with a Bordeaux leather interior.
Little is known of the Aurelia Cabriolet’s earliest years, but it remained in Belgium until 2007, when the current owner acquired it and imported it to Italy. By this time, the color and interior had been changed and the Lancia was in need of refurbishment, but the car was still found to be complete. In 2010, the owner decided to commission a restoration, but when his first attempt stalled, he enlisted the renowned firm Carrozzeria Quality Cars of Vigonza, Italy, to complete the task.
“In 2012 we were asked to finish the job,” says Luigino Tommasin of Carrozzeria Quality Cars, “but the truth is that we had to go back to the start…. It has been more difficult and challenging than starting a project from scratch.” Still, Tommasin said the car had been well cared-for and retained important components that otherwise would have been very difficult to acquire. The restoration team found small sections of original paint and leather and used them to bring the car back to its correct as-built finish. The soft top was fashioned using the same fabric as used in period, and the correct front lights were acquired and installed after a lengthy search. The original matching-numbers engine and period-installed Nardi twin-carburetor intake remained with the car and were rebuilt as needed.
The specialists at Carrozzeria Quality Cars spent approximately 2,000 hours bringing the body back to its gleaming appearance and an additional 450 hours inspecting, overhauling, and restoring the Lancia’s complex mechanical systems. Today, the car’s only deviation in appearance from the pictures taken at the 1955 Brussels Motor Show are the optional Borrani wire wheels, which were added at some point in the car’s life. When the work was completed, this Vignale-bodied Aurelia was shown at the 2016 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, where it finished Second in Class in the category “The Golden Era of Sports Car Design.”
Accompanied by its original jack, tool kit, FIVA passport, and historical photographs, this coachbuilt Lancia Aurelia is a fine representative of one of the most beautiful and exciting periods of Italian Style. Combining one-ofa- kind Michellotti-styled Vignale coachwork with the rare and sophisticated B52 chassis, of which only 98 examples were built, this Cabriolet embodies the finest qualities of the revered Lancia marque during its zenith in the early 1950s. This singular car, with its period motor show pedigree and exquisite restoration, is an Aurelia truly fit for the connoisseur.