Sleeping Beauty Nº15: Lancia Thema 8.32

A dark blue Lancia Thema was a favourite of Italian businessmen in the 80s and 90s. At a time when a Ferrari on the Autostrada was a rarity, the sober three-box saloon said little about its owner. And then Lancia shoe-horned a 3.0-litre Ferrari V8 under the bonnet...

How did that reflect on the driver? Well, that he had the equivalent of around £40,000 to spend, for a start, and that he or she really did want ‘something different’.

The Thema was Lancia’s version of the ‘Type Four’ chassis, jointly developed with Alfa Romeo (164), Fiat (Croma) and Saab (9000). It was available in saloon and estate bodywork, powered primarily by the Fiat Group’s most powerful four-cylinder turbodiesel to make the most of Italian tax rules.

The Ferrari-powered version appeared mid-way in the Thema’s lifespan (1986) and can best be compared with some of the early big-engined Mercedes. It could only ever appeal to a certain sort of owner; one who could afford a Ferrari but wanted a four-door for family, or business, reasons. In fact, exactly the market served by the Maserati Quattroporte, Porsche Panamera and Aston Martin Rapide today.

A big BMW or Mercedes saloon misses the point in a market where exclusivity and luxury are all. From a performance point of view, despite its transplanted engine, the Thema 8.32 in catalyst form could just be bested by a turbocharged petrol four-cylinder Thema from 0-62mph. But you wouldn’t get the Poltrona Frau leather and fine wood interior - nor the wailing sound that only a Ferrari motor can produce. And top speed was an impressive 149mph.

All cars were left-hand drive, although despite that a few did find their way into the UK. At that time, a BMW M5 would have made a much more sensible purchase but buying Lancias has never been a matter of logic or common sense.

Feeling adventurous? Have a look for a Lancia Thema 8.32 in the Classic Driver car database.

Text: Classic Driver
Photo: Classic Driver

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