By on February 14, 2011

The turnover of inventory at self-service junkyards near major West Coast ports is extremely quick, what with the hunger of Chinese industry for scrap steel; some yards keep vehicles for just a month or two before crushing them. This steel-company-owned yard in Oakland, California, gets some interesting machinery, but a Lancia Beta? I can’t recall the last time I saw a Beta in any condition, but Volvo parts hunter David ran across this ’78 while seeking parts for his 240.

What would have led an American car buyer in 1978 to pay $8,803, about a grand more than a new Datsun 280Z and 500 bucks less than a new BMW 320i, for a notoriously rust-prone Italian orphan with just 86 horsepower and front-wheel-drive?

Speaking of rust, you don’t often see this sort of thing on California cars (unless they live within salt-spray range of the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco). According to David, who shot these photos for us, “The A pillars are shot through so badly that the windshield popped.”

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24 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1978 Lancia Beta...”

  • avatar

    Man, does this bring back bad memories.  During 1978-80, I worked in the parts room of my local Volvo-Fiat-Lancia dealership.  Lancia was conducting a fuel tank recall at the time.  When we received the replacement tanks, they were no good.  They had already begun to rust where the part number had been stamped into them.  I remember thanking God I drove a Chevrolet.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Didn’t Jezza drive one of these across Africa on Top Gear?

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    I saw one of these in running condition on the street here a couple of years ago, and I’m still looking for it:

  • avatar

    I wasn’t aware these cars were ever allowed to be imported in the first place! I was in San Fran with my buddies in 1970 when I saw my first Ciroen 2CV. We all marvelled over that!

  • avatar

    “What would have led an American car buyer in 1978 to pay $8,803, about a grand more than a new Datsun 280Z and 500 bucks less than a new BMW 320i, for a notoriously rust-prone Italian orphan with just 86 horsepower and front-wheel-drive?”
    Street Creds!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • avatar

    Good start for a Lemons competition vehicle!

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Wasn’t a Beta the car driven by Chevy Chase’s character in the Modern Problems movie? If so, that would be the only time I ever saw one running, as I can’t remember ever encountering a working example up close.

  • avatar

    One of these was moldering in a driveway in my hometown when I was a kid. I was fascinated by it due to its rarity and mystery. To date, it’s the only Lancia I have seen in the metal.

  • avatar

    When I lived in Cocoa Beach, FL in the late ’70s, there was a Beta coupe I’d see around town. It couldn’t have been more than a couple of years old, yet it was already a victim of rampant rust. The car looked like it had been sitting in the bottom of a vat of acid. Granted, salt air wasn’t good for any car, but even my Duster fared better than this poor Lancia.

  • avatar

    What is it with Italian cars and A pillar rust ? I stumbled on a Maserati Biturbo a couple of months back (in the hills of East Tennessee,of all places), and  the car looked GREAT…From about 75 feet away. When I got close enough to do a thorough exam, the “A”‘s were soft enough to put your finger through in places . The car was shot and there were less than 78,000 miles on the clock.At one time,it had been a sharp car. Now its just another victim of Italian Tinworm.

  • avatar

    Loved my Dad’s 76 Beta sedan.  We had it until I left for college 12 years later.  Great leather seats, 1.8L twin cam engine that loved to rev, if not actually move you too fast, and a Blaupaukt with tape deck!  Decent traction in snow (but a pain to chain up due to the tight wheelwells).  But it was the thing to drive when compared to my other option at home, a 71 Squareback (which was my Mom’s daily driver through my college years).  The Lancia only stranded me once when the fuel pump died.  But it did have many visits to Metro Imports (Seattle) for window motors, window switches, AC issues.  Say what you will – I will always think fondly of that Lancia.

    • 0 avatar

      I had three Betas: 1976 Scorpion, and two 1981 Beta Coupes.   By 1981 the Betas had Bosch fuel injection (110 HP) and Bosch electronics.  The body work had been improved.  Cars came fully equipped with leather seats, power steering, sun roof and metallic paint.  I had no rust problems with either Coupe.  Drove both cars well past 100K miles before selling them in the late 1990’s.  Cars drove  and handled well and were good in the snow. Assembled well (much better than the 1976).  Problems noted: 1) weak A/C and 2) cotton stitching on leather seats failed causing seat splits. Otherwise cars were very good- better than Alfa’s of the same era.   I miss these cars too.  Fiat has destroyed what was left at Lancia- the cars offered today are pathetic.

  • avatar
    Tommy Boy

    Lancias were like a hot chick that was pretty and willing, but had multiple STD’s.

  • avatar

    @ eggsalad

    This was at Mooers Motor Car Company in Richmond, Virginia.

  • avatar

    Wow, don’t see Lancias much anymore indeed.
    I had the pleasure of seeing,not once, but twice a white Lancia Zagato targa, I’m guess either an 81 or an 82 in great shape last summer, July in fact here in Seattle where cars just don’t rust like they do elsewhere and it was stock and complete except for a missing left rear amber turn signal lens and the first time, it was parked on the street, top open as the owner was visiting friends on a warm summer day. This time I got to see the owner get in, start it up and hear it run with a deep growl of the exhaust, such an Italian sound too!
    Then about a week later, I spotted the car again and got this photo via cell phone. This time, it was obviously parked for a while as it was locked up.
    <img src=””>
    Not seen it since however

  • avatar

    I live in New Hampshire, so I’ve never seen one of these. Like, ever.

  • avatar

    In the ’80s, if you had a Beta HPE, you were my absolute hero.

    I’m better now.

  • avatar

    I wonder if those A-pillars can be fixed. If the body shell, window glass and related accessories were salvageable, could this be turned into a tuner car?

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