Lancia is not what it used to be. Outside of Italy the average European citizen (so one that doesn’t harbor a chronic obsession with cars) can’t tell you whether or not Lancia is still operating. Mention the name to an American and people will think you’ve got a funny way of pronouncing the name of a little Mitsubishi four-door sedan. Lancia suffers from a completely unknown lineup that gets lost in the fray of the new car market; as a result it has virtually no brand recognition anywhere outside of its home country, where its cars enjoy steady sales thanks to a handful of brand loyalists that includes the Italian government.
A car that illustrates the earliest traits of invisibility in Lancia’s lineup is the Lancia Beta Trevi, a Beta sedan with a conventional trunk built from 1980 to early 1985. Contrary to popular belief the name Trevi isn’t a reference to the famous Roman fountain but is a reference to the car’s body: “tre volumi” is three volumes in Italian, hence Trevi.
By the early 1980s hatchbacks started losing ground and three-box sedans were making a comeback: almost every manufacturer had one in their lineup. Lancia had nothing to offer so they designed one using the Beta as a starting point. On the outside the Beta Trevi’s connection with the Beta five-door hatch was clear and the two cars share a windshield and both front doors. Overall the Beta Trevi wore a discrete, austere design; one could even draw a stylistic parallel between it and the Peugeot 305. More flattering observers compared the Trevi’s rear to that of a Mercedes w123.
On the inside the Beta Trevi was less austere. The dashboard was drawn when the person in charge of ergonomics was on vacation and had a record-breaking 29 holes of various sizes that housed switches, warning lights and gauges, all of them angled towards the driver. It left no one without an opinion about it, be it positive or negative.
In its first years of production the Beta Trevi was offered with three different engines: a carbureted 100hp 1,585cc, a carbureted 115hp 1,995cc and an injected 122hp 1,995cc. Nothing particularly new, these were essentially the same engines that powered the existing Beta line. Things changed in 1982 when Lancia bolted a Roots supercharger to the carbureted 1,995cc, bumping the engine’s power output to 135hp and giving it an exceptional amount of low end torque. Beta Trevis equipped with this engine were dubbed Beta Trevi VX (for Volumex) and had specific rims, a little spoiler on the trunk and a “VX” emblem on the grille.
In 1983 Lancia updated the Beta Trevi line, which from this point on was called simply the Lancia Trevi. In an effort to give the car a sportier appearance the rear spoiler that was previously reserved to VX versions was made standard across the entire lineup. The interior got minor changes like new door handles and slightly redesigned seats.
That same year Lancia had to make some modifications under the hood in order to comply with upcoming fuel regulations. The differential ratio was changed to achieve better fuel mileage and a Marelli Digiplex electronic ignition system replaced the good ol’ points. Lancia also nixed the non-supercharged carbureted 1,995cc.
In 1984 Giorgio Pianta, an ex-race car driver, and ex-engineer at Abarth, designed a Trevi with two engines, the Trevi Bimotore. At the UK’s Lancia Motor Club National Rally (July 15th-17th, 2005) Pianta explained that car was built “to test the principles of four wheel drive technology whilst developing the Delta S4.” The Bimotore had a 1995cc Volumex engine in the front and a second one mounted in the back. Through various modifications both were pushed to 150hp, making the entire car good for 300hp. Only one was built.
The Trevi had an attractive price, fantastic handling and was quite a lot of fun to drive, especially with the Volumex engine, but it was too little, too late, and a little too bland. The lack of interest in the Trevi cut its career short and it disappeared from showroom floors in early 1985 after 36,784 units were sold.
Below, a post-1983 Trevi:
The Beta Trevi’s dash: