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Lot 552: Lancia Astura 4th Series Cabriolet

Grand Palais Sale, Bonhams (7 February 2013)

Having established itself in the front rank of the world's finest cars with the Dilambda, Lancia further enhanced its exalted position with a succession of fabulous coachbuilt models on the Astura chassis in the 1930s. One of the most gifted automobile engineers of all time, Vincenzo Lancia founded his own company in 1906, having previously been in FIAT's employ as 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 'V'-configuration power plants. Lancia's first V-engined model - the V8 Trikappa sports car - appeared in 1922 but it was the Lambda, launched soon after, that would prove to be of even greater significance. A milestone in automotive history, the revolutionary Lambda was the world's first car to have a stress-bearing body and the first to be powered by a V4 engine. The absence of a separate chassis meant the driver could sit lower, enabling a low aerodynamic body line to be achieved, while Lancia's patented sliding-pillar independent front suspension endowed the Lambda with ride and handling qualities unmatched by anything in its class. Unlike its revolutionary Lambda predecessor, the Dilambda did not use a stress-bearing body but reverted to a separate chassis, a factor that facilitated the manufacture of special coachbuilt variants. A new design, the Dilambda chassis possessed exceptional torsional rigidity, a virtue necessitated by its independent front suspension. Narrow-angle V-configuration engines were by now a Lancia speciality, the Dilambda's 3,960cc unit having cylinder banks disposed at 24 degrees. The introduction of the Astura and Artena in 1931 marked a switch from a system of model designation that used letters of the Greek alphabet in favour of one using Italian place names, a move in keeping with the nationalistic spirit of the age. Delivering sports car performance and roadholding yet in a quite, effortless manner, the luxurious Astura was a 'Gran Turismo' before the term was invented. One of Lancia's most important models, the Astura was powered by a new version of the familiar narrow-angle V8 engine. The latter was enlarged from 2.6 to 3.0 litres on the Astura Series III in 1934 when the model also gained hydraulic brakes and became available in both short and long-chassis forms. The Series IV featured a platform chassis of longer wheelbase, attracting some of the finest coachwork of the period, and was used extensively as official transportation by Italian government departments. In addition to the longer wheelbase, an electric hood mechanism was developed and Bijur centralised chassis lubrication adopted. This particular car is the sole survivor of only three 4th-Series Asturas bodied in this style by Carrozzeria Boneschi of Milan, a company that had enjoyed close links with Lancia since its foundation by Giovanni Boneschi immediately after WWI. Chassis number '41-3215' features spectacular, aerodynamic cabriolet coachwork, which is complemented by an avant-garde radiator grille design, fold flat windscreen and rear wheel spats. The result is a beautiful motor car that looks like it is in graceful motion even when parked. Originally owned by a Belgium coal-mining magnate, the Lancia was laid up throughout WW2 and kept in safe long-term storage by the owner's widow during the 1950s. Apart from a repaint in the original dark grey colour, the Astura is still totally original, including the wonderful black leather upholstery and grey convertible hood. It is presented in running order and is described as in generally very good condition. The car is offered with FIVA passport and old Belgian registration document. A typically graceful and elegant example of Carrozzeria Boneschi's work on one of the most desirable chassis of its day, this unique and historic motor car is ready to enhance any collection.

Lot Details
Auction Grand Palais Sale
Bonhams, Paris, France
TypeCar
Lot Number552
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price€580000
Hammer Price (inc premium)€667000
Year1938
Condition rating
Registration number
Mileage-
Chassis number41-3125
Engine number41-240
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors