The Salon Privé Sale 2017

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1963 Lancia Flavia Vignale Convertible

Lot No.: 239

Registration: XSJ 116
Chassis Number: 815.135.1315
Engine Number: 3338
Number of cylinders: 4
CC: 1500cc
Year of Manufacture: 1963
Sold for (£): 34,875

Coachbuilder Alfredo Vignale in Turin built 1,601 four-seater convertibles on the Lancia Flavia platform between 1962 and 1967. This car is one of approximately 40 right-hand drive, UK examples and was sold new to the architect Sir Basil Spence (1907-76) in April 1963, priced at £2,350 which was a considerable sum at the time as, for £300, you could have bought a four-seat convertible Citroen DS.

Probably Britain's most celebrated post war modern architect - best known for Coventry Cathedral - Scottish born Spence was also a great car enthusiast who bought the Lancia as an appropriate gesture whilst he was working on his design for the British Embassy in Rome. However, difficulties with the Italian planning authorities caused Sir Basil to dispose of the Lancia 'in protest' and replace it with a Jaguar, although exactly when is not clear.

In the car's extensive history file, there is the original Lancia Guarantee in Spence's name (with his Canonbury Place London N1 address) and more recent correspondence with the current Spence family. During Spence's ownership the Flavia, finished in Newmarket Grey, wore his private BS 1066 number plate which was apparently the architects typically patriotic response to General De Gaulle's block on allowing Britain into the EEC.

The Spence country retreat was in the New Forest and the Flavia seems to have stayed in that general area throughout the nineteen seventies and into the eighties. It was during the mid-eighties that the car became the subject of an 18-month court battle after a bill for the car's restoration, estimated at £5,000, was invoiced to the (understandably) upset then owner at £37,000! Interestingly, however, the court found in favour of the restorers.

Also in the history file, a number of older MOT Certificates going back to the late seventies appear to back up the recorded mileage of 51,604. The 1500cc, 90bhp, all alloy flat-four engine with its twin Solex carburettors was rebuilt five years ago by a well-known specialist and is effectively still running in, and the brakes, clutch and wheel bearings have all been replaced within the last two or three thousand miles. 

Our vendor bought the Flavia from a prominent member of the Maserati Owners Club, and impressed by the very good structural condition and the extensive recent mechanical refurbishment not to mention its interesting history, immediately decided that the Lancia deserved to be returned its original hue of Newmarket Grey.

A full bare-metal respray (photographs available) was carried out by Custom Motor Bodies of Birmingham to a very high standard during the latter half of 2016 and into 2017. At the same time new front and rear bumpers were fitted and the luggage area retrimmed. The Flavia comes with a particularly pretty factory hardtop that was restored and repainted at the same time as the rest of the car. The easily retracted and well fitting hood is in excellent condition as is the biscuit leather interior with matching Wilton carpets, handsome wood rimmed steering wheel and original Motorola push button radio.

This little Flavia presents beautifully and must be one of the finest examples of these underrated sixties Lancias currently available. It's a refined and practical four seater with a large boot, thoroughbred road manners, traditional Lancia quality and an exotic presence normally associated with much more highly strung and expensive Italian sports cars.

With prices of Aurelia and Flaminia dropheads now so strong, it's hard to see why the Flavia Convertible won't be heading the same way in the near future.