‘The B20 represented the birth and the realisation of the “Gran Turismo” concept – that is, an elegant comfortable sports car. The contemporary slogan was right on target: “A sports car in Tails” and Pininfarina’s bodywork remains a masterpiece of formal beauty.’ – Manganaro and Vinai ‘Lancia Corse’, 1988.
Introduced in 1907, the Vincenzo Lancia’s first car showed an independence of thought and defiance of convention that would remain associated with the marque well into the modern era. After WW2 Lancia had recommenced production with the Aprilia and its smaller cousin the Ardea but waiting in the wings was yet another groundbreaking design: the Aurelia. Lancia’s classic Aurelia, the first car ever to employ a V6 engine, was launched at the 1950 Turin Motor Show.
Designed in wartime by Francesco de Virgilio, the 1,754cc 60-degree V6 was of all-aluminium construction and used overhead valves operated via short pushrods instead of Lancia’s traditional overhead camshafts. An advanced unitary construction design, the Aurelia retained Lancia’s ‘sliding pillar’ independent front suspension, first seen on the Lambda, but used a novel semi-trailing-arm layout at the rear, another world first. The transmission too, was unusual, comprising a two-piece prop-shaft and combined gearbox/rear transaxle on which were mounted the inboard brakes, though for once this was not an entirely new departure.
The B10 saloon was joined the following year by the Pinin Farina-styled B20 Coupé, a fastback ‘2+2’ on a shortened wheelbase which, with its combination of sports car performance and saloon car practicality, can be said to have introduced the Gran Turismo concept to the world. The Aurelia engine had been increased to 1,991cc in 1951 and it was this unit in up-rated form that went into the B20. Lighter and higher geared than the saloon, the B20 was good for a top speed of over 160km/h.