1952 Lancia AureliaB20 GT Series 2
- Year of manufacture1952
- Car typeCoupé
- Chassis numberB20.1673
- Engine numberB20*1792
- Interior colourGrey
- Number of doors2
- Number of seats4
- Exterior colourGrey
- Fuel typePetrol
Vincenzo Lancia's forward-thinking Company was noted for designing and building innovative, refined and technically advanced motor cars and the Aurelia, the first production car in the world to sport a V6 engine, was no exception.
Designed by Vittorio Jano for Lancia & C. and launched at the 32nd Salone dell’Automobile in Turin in 1950, the Aurelia was arguably the most advanced production motor car on the market at the time. The following year saw Lancia launch the more sporting B20 GT Coupé with a larger displacement and more powerful engine installed in a shorter and lighter chassis and clothed in svelte, minimalist coachwork (originally penned by Boano and built by Carrozzerria Viotti and later built by Pinin Farina). The new model was pure Lancia and a pure GT with poise and purpose, destined for great success on the road and in competition. Not only was Lancia’s new model stylish and beautifully proportioned it was the result of close collaboration between two great engineers, Francesco de Virgilio and Vittorio Jano meaning that as well as having the all-aluminium 2.0 litre V6 motor up-front, it was as tight as a drum and handled predictably thanks to its unitary construction, transaxle and inboard brakes giving it evenly balanced weight distribution. The world’s first true Gran Turismo, production of the B20 GT lasted until the summer of 1958 by which time 6 Series had been developed and produced. 500 Aurelias were produced in the 1st Series followed by 731 of the 2nd Series of which this fine example is one. The 2nd Series B20 GT sported various upgrades; the 1,991cc V6 now produced 80bhp, the brakes were improved and several styling modifications were incorporated which included new chromed bumpers, a new dashboard with larger instruments, uniquely-shaped rear wings.
Opinions naturally vary as to which Series of B20 GT production was the best but according to the old school friend of Gianni Lancia and Lancia Factory driver, Gino Valenzano, the 2-liter engine installed in the first two series of B20 GT’s was sweeter and more willing to rev than the later 2.5-litre and the early cars handled better due to their independent rear suspension as opposed to the De Dion set-up on later B20s. He also noted that the 2-liter cars were lighter and more agile. Details such as the delicate and shapely lights and non-protruding door handles are also unique to the cars of the early Series. It was also the earlier B20 GT’s that had the most notable competition success and a superb second place finish for Giovanni Bracco and Umberto Maglioli on the 1951 Mille Miglia driving the new Lancia Aurelia B20 (B20s took three of the first seven places in 1951 four of the first eight places in 1952) was certainly a great start to the 1950’s for Lancia.
As per a letter from Francesco Gandolfi of the Lancia Aurelia Register dated February 1990, this 2nd Series Aurelia was built between April 29th, 1952 and May 29th, 1952 when records show that it was road-tested and approved. The letter also confirms the original colour combination of grey coachwork combined with grey, cloth upholstery, a colour combination that is elegantly understated and contrasts perfectly with the cream steering wheel, the painted dash, Bakelite switches and knobs and other refined details gracing the inviting interior. A further letter from the Aurelia Register details the first owner as a Mr Giovanni Zalti of Milan, Italy where it was registered on Milanese licence plate MI 193162. Mr Zalti kept the Aurelia for 4 years before selling it on to a Mr Guido Aniasi of Cagliari on the sunny Island of Sardinia. It then passed through the hands of a number of Italian owners before curiously being converted to run on methane gas in 1961. It was then sold to its first owner in the UK via Cranley Motors of London, SW7 and registered with the English licence plate 9 CLW. A copy of the original “buff” registration book on file shows that it passed through the hands of several custodians in the UK before being acquired by Mr Roger Bowen, to whom most of the correspondence with the Aurelia Register from the early 1990’s, is addressed.
Roll forward to 2013 when UK based Aurelia experts, Thornley Kelham, discovered the Aurelia in a garage in the UK in quite a sorry state. Having already received a request from the present owner of the car, an Austrian Gentleman, for a 2nd Series B20 GT to restore, this car fitted the bill perfectly, so it was bought and the next chapter in its life begun.
A full and comprehensive restoration to the very highest possible standard was undertaken maintaining originality wherever possible and sourcing period correct replacement components where required. Importantly, all of the major mechanical components were still with the car and therefore re-built and re-fitted. During the restoration the owner elected to have the aluminium cylinder heads replaced as the original items had become too porous for reliable repair. A Nardi carburettor was also fitted and the manual column change was moved to a more sporting floor-change position. Photos of the restoration are available for inspection. (The photos presenting the car here were taken soon after the restoration was completed in 2015 and the car has since been driven sparingly and carefully and remains in excellent all-round condition.)
Aurelia B20 GT’s are extremely pretty, refined, reliable and competitive motor cars from the early 1950’s as well as being highly eligible for a variety of events including, of course, the Mille Miglia, were they once competed with great aplomb. This particular B20 GT has a very well-documented history from new, has a FIVA passport and has been brought back to its former glory with a full, no-expense-spared expert restoration by the leading Lancia specialists at Thornley Kelham.
Beautifully presented, understated and definitely not to be under-rated, the B20 is a pure GT from Lancia.
Photos: Ashley Border, Lightflow