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Lot 696: 1930 Lancia Dilambda Tourer

Collectors' Motor Cars and Motorcycles, Bonhams (3 December 2007)

One of the most gifted automobile engineers of all time, Vincenzo Lancia founded his own company in 1906, having previously been FIAT’s chief test driver. Introduced in 1907, the first Lancia car showed an independence of thought and defiance of convention that would remain associated with the marque well into the modern era. Military vehicles, lorries, vans and aero engines followed, the latter enabling Lancia to accrue valuable expertise in the design and construction of vee-configuration engines. Lancia’s first vee-engined model - the V8 Trikappa sportscar - appeared in 1922 and his third, the Dilambda, in 1929.
Unlike its revolutionary Lambda V4 predecessor, the Dilambda did not use a stress-bearing body but reverted to a separate chassis. A new design, the latter possessed exceptional torsional rigidity, a virtue necessitated by its independent front suspension. Narrow-angle vee-configuration engines were a Lancia speciality, the Dilambda’s 3,960cc overhead-valve unit having cylinder banks disposed at only 24 degrees. With 100bhp on tap, the Dilambda in its short-chassis form was capable of 85mph, an exceptional performance at the time.
This example’s accompanying old-style continuation logbook (issued 1958) records its date of first registration as 11th November 1930. ‘HX 1897’ comes with correspondence from the grandson of its original owner, Andrew Gilmour McMeekin, who recalls that his grandfather had ordered the Dilambda in 1929 from the UK importers, Lancia (England) of Alperton. The car was delivered late in 1929, in chassis form, and sent to H J Mulliner for bodying as a Weymann close-coupled saloon. Between 1930 and 1954, ‘HX 1897’ was returned to Alperton for annual servicing and every five years for a more extensive overhaul.
The aforementioned continuation logbook records the owner at time of issue as one Roger M Muirhead, of Gairloch, Ross and Cromarty and, later, Gloucester. In 1996 the Lancia was purchased by well known collector and Vintage car connoisseur, Victor H Lane, accompanying correspondence from whom reveals that the coachwork and interior were in excellent condition. The mechanicals however, required much work, and so the brakes, clutch, engine and front suspension were completely overhauled. The original body had deteriorated badly and been replaced in the mid-1980s, the coachwork aft of the cowl (except the wings) being completely stripped off, and a new open two-seater body constructed of wood (ash) and aluminium, following an original H J Mulliner design for a Dilambda. Mr Lane had new doors made to replace the Weymann saloon originals, as these were deemed unsuitable for a car with an opening roof.
His remarks about the Dilambda’s performance are illuminating: ‘Having owned some very fine vintage touring cars including Bugattis, Hotchkiss, Packard and Bentley, I am not easily dazzled, but in my view this Dilambda is fully the equal of any of them. The engine is powerful, as one would expect a 4-litre V8 to be, but it is also very punchy, with stunning accelerator response, and yet with outstanding torque. It can be started comfortably in second gear, and shifted almost at once into fourth, without a bit of snatch or hesitation, or run right up through the gears, when it is as quick as any sports touring car of the period that I know. It has terrific heart. The gearbox ratios seem to be just right for the car. It rides very well too (thanks to the excellent sliding pillar front suspension), and also holds the road uncommonly well.
‘It is a very reliable car, as well. Although we have taken it on several Continental rallies - one in Switzerland included a number of steep mountain passes - the car has never failed us on the road, starts easily (although it likes to be primed after a long rest) and is unusually comfortable, even under strenuous conditions. It does not tend to overheat, has good oil pressure, does not smoke, and generally gets 14 or 15 miles from a gallon of petrol - not bad for a heavy 4-litre V8 on a 137-inch wheelbase!’
Presented in very good condition throughout, this handsome Vintage tourer is offered with VSCC Eligibility Document (issued 2001), sundry invoices, current MoT/road fund licence and Swansea V5C registration document.

Lot Details
Auction Collectors' Motor Cars and Motorcycles
Bonhams, Olympia, London,
Lot Number696
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£36000
Hammer Price (inc premium)£41100
Condition rating
Registration numberHX 1897
Chassis number27-483
Engine number81-557
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors