1980s / Italian / Lancia / Sunday classic

Sunday classic: Lancia Beta Hi-Fi

Plagued with allegations of terminal rust issues due to cheap Russian steal, Lancia saw its U.K sales slump in the late 1970s. Regardless of how heavily discounted the cars were dealers had a hard time getting them out the door, leaving brand new Betas sitting half abandoned in the open air for what sometimes amounted to years.

The cars were all right-hand drive so Lancia couldn’t easily sell them elsewhere in Europe. Shipping them to Japan was briefly considered but deemed too costly so Lancia had no choice but to sell the cars in the U.K.  Since buyers weren’t interested in the cars as-is, the automaker drummed up the public’s enthusiasm by creating a limited edition.

The Betas were sent to Aston Martin Tickford, the famed automaker’s then-new engineering arm, where they underwent a series of minor model-specific modifications. Tickford added a black lip spoiler up front, a massive trunk-mounted spoiler out back and painted the stock eight-spoke wheels in black with gold trim. Pirelli P6 tires were fitted, presumably because the stock tires were too dry-rotted to keep.

The Beta Hi-Fi was only offered in wine red with contrasting gold stripes, though some of the remaining ones have been painted in blue or black over the years. Visually, the finishing touch was a Hi-Fi badge and the car’s serial number affixed above the rocker panel on both sides.

The interior stayed mostly stock with one exception that gave the car its name: Tickford added a Voxson Indianapolis stereo setup with a graphic equalizer and an electric antenna, a very big deal in the early 1980s.

Nothing in the engine bay was touched and the Hi-Fi retained the stock Beta’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Linked to a five-speed manual transmission, it sent 115 horsepower and 130 lb-ft. of torque to the front wheels.

Period literature indicates that the Beta Hi-Fi carried a base price of £6,187 when it was new. To help justify the increase in price, all Hi-Fi models came standard with a sunroof, four headrests and tinted windows.

At the time Lancia advertised the car as a limited edition of just 300 cars; the car was a flop and whether or not 300 were actually built is a topic of debate, however. Historians estimate that only about 150 were built in 1981 before Lancia pulled the plug on the project.

3 thoughts on “Sunday classic: Lancia Beta Hi-Fi

  1. Pingback: Sunday classic recap | Ran When Parked

  2. Not true that they were only offered in a wine colour, I had a white one, it was purchased from the Lancia dealer in St Ives Cambs & it had the number 001 written in the gold writing on the side as well as gold coloured alloys with as you say Pirelli P6 tyres.
    The registration number was PEG510X, I remember it as it read Peg Sue.
    It had the most unreliable tilt & slide sunroof ever & as you say a better radio cassette to the stock model. Last seen in a quite sorry state some 20+years ago in Cambridge.
    I’ll always remember it as I had some great times in that car.

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