1958 Lancia Aurelia
March 16, 2009 12:27 PM
Shortly after Vincenzo Lancia was born in 1881, his father chose his future, deciding that his son would become a lawyer. Sadly, Vincenzo proved inattentive at his studies, so papa Giuseppe reformulated his plan, sending his son to college at age 12 with the goal of becoming an accountant. It was about that time that Vincenzo started hanging out at the local bike shop, and soon demonstrated talent as a mechanic. When the bike-building brothers Ceirano began tinkering with cars, Vincenzo secured his father's permission to join the company, with the promise that he would work as its accountant. The Ceirano brothers met with early success when they started building cars in 1899, and it wasn't long until they sold out to Giovanni Agnelli of Fiat. At the age of 18, Vincenzo joined Fiat as a test driver and chief inspector. Impressed by young Vincenzo's driving style, Fiat soon invited him to race their cars.
But Vincenzo wasn't satisfied with merely driving, and began working on an automobile of his own design. In 1906, he started his own company with a friend, and one of Italy's most innovative marques was in business. Although it took a while to establish his reputation for elegance and innovation, Lancia's very first car, the Alpha had not only great speed and power but a revolutionary tubular front axle. 1913's Theta was the first European car with a complete electrical system, and 1922's Lambda was the first car with a monocoque body and independent front suspension.
When Vincenzo died of a sudden heart attack in 1937, his son Gianni stepped into his shoes. Passionate about motorsport, Gianni began focusing on the creation of a high-performance luxury automobile. In 1950, Lancia introduced the Aurelia, considered by many to the first true GT. Designed by engineer Vittorio Jano, formerly of Alpha Romeo, the Aurelia featured the world's first production V6 engine, balanced to 60° by engineer Francesco De Virgilio. Clutch, gearbox and differential were mounted to the rear axle and brakes were of the inboard drum variety. Jay's B24 convertible hails from the sixth iteration of the Aurelia, and includes a few modifications for the American market, including roll-up side windows, more comfortable seats and single as opposed to split front bumper. In testament to its magnificent build quality, Jay merely replaced the bearings and the brakes and got right back on the road, where the elegant Aurelia never fails to turn heads.