By on September 21, 2017

Image: 1991 Lancia Thema 8.32, via seller

It would be understandable if the Lancia Thema you see above put you immediately in mind of a Rare Ride from a few days ago, the gold-plated DeLorean DMC-12. While that car had an entirely different purpose from the Lancia you see before you, the two did have a couple of things in common. Both were designed by Italian legend Giorgetto Giugiaro. And like the DeLorean, the Lancia also suffered (in normal trims) with the same Peugeot-Renault-Volvo V6 engine that made Eagle Premier owners miserable.

But that’s where the similarities end. Because today’s Thema sheds its multinational, mediocre V6 power for some purebred Ferrari horses. And you don’t even have to do the import paperwork.

Image: 1991 Lancia Thema 8.32, via sellerLike all good things, the story starts back in the 1980s. Lancia, Fiat, and Ferrari were all under the Fiat S.p.A umbrella, while Saab was still an independent. All players were interested in a new midsize executive sedan, and agreed cost-sharing was in their mutual interest. Thus, the Type Four platform was developed.

Four cars came from this collaboration, two of which we received in the United States. Most well-known of the lot is the Saab 9000 (a beauty) large sedan. A little less known, the Alfa Romeo 164 was the final Alfa sedan product offered on North American shores; the brand bailed after 1995. The other two obscurities were the Fiat Croma (meh) and the Lancia Thema (sweet).

Before we continue, watch one of my favorite presenters, Chris Goffey, review the 164, Thema, and 9000 on old old Top Gear.

Image: 1991 Lancia Thema 8.32, via sellerMost versions were rather mundane, with standard small European gasoline and diesel engines. Except for one. Lancia decided it would build a range-topping sports sedan, and endowed the Thema with a modified 2.9-liter V8 from the Mondial. It used a cross-plane crankshaft rather than a flat-plane, and was built at the Ducati factory instead of at Ferrari. A number of horses between 200 and 250 (it’s unclear) raced to the front wheels through the five-speed manual.

The nomenclature 8.32 stands for the average number of times it would be in the shop each month number of cylinders, plus the number of valves in the engine.

Image: 1991 Lancia Thema 8.32, via seller

The car started at £40,000 in Great Britain circa 1987, or £107,600 in today’s money ($145,147 USD). Because of the astronomical price, just nine were sold in the UK. There were two model versions of the Thema 8.32 — Series 1 from 1986 to 1988 (2,370 produced) and Series 2 from 1989 to 1992 (1,601 produced).

Image: 1991 Lancia Thema 8.32, via sellerToday’s example is a Series 2 imported by a brave owner to the small town of Seattle, which is somewhere north of downtown Los Angeles.

Image: 1991 Lancia Thema 8.32, via seller

The seller indicates a recent engine overhaul, and otherwise excellent condition, aside from some sun damage to the leather dash and unfaithful front power windows. The leather interior was a seriously costly additional extra, even at this level.

Image: 1991 Lancia Thema 8.32, via seller

With low miles and high rarity, the asking price of $15,000 seems reasonable for a chunk of Italian unobtanium. You can have it serviced at your local unicorn store.

[Images via seller]

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29 Comments on “Rare Rides: Ferrari-Powered 1991 Lancia Thema 8.32, the Superior Sister of Saab and Alfa Romeo...”

  • avatar

    Let’s place bets on how quickly it becomes a very expensive paperweight.

  • avatar

    They made so much noise over in Europe in the mid-70’s when they released that lesser PRV-6. I recall it initially went out in the pug 604, Renault 30 and Volvo 264. All of em new, hot off the stamp and it now seems – with a dicey motor. Those models weren’t cheap either.

  • avatar

    Extremely cool find. Torque steer must have added to excitement.

  • avatar

    I bet it’s pretty reliable.

  • avatar

    All you need is a Maserati Biturbo and an Alfa 164 to complete your own personal Holy Trinity of Italian Performance Sedans That Sound Mad Sexy For The 43.7% Of The Time They’re Running.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Ferrari upkeep costs, and Lancia, um … prestige? Win!

    Check out the seats in this Bluebird:

  • avatar

    Thema only used PRV engine earlier on. It was later replaced with a much sweeter engine in the form of Alfa Romeo’s Busso V6.

  • avatar

    Maybe the bumpkins at the local small-town Ferrari dealership could service the engine. (For the rest, yer on yer own.)

    I expect it would be a multi-continent, multi-hundred-dollar odyssey to replace that broken foglight lens.

  • avatar

    These were crazy cars. And yes, it’s supposed to legendary for its torque steer (from what I remember reading about it when it first launched).

  • avatar

    I like it, but not for the price. I’d just find a 164 for 1/10th the price. But an Alfa V-6 instead of a Ferrari engine? That’s an upgrade in my eyes.

    Further evidence that the west coast is inundated with unique old forgotten cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Damn it Corey, now you got me looking for 164s again.

      Such Italian sweetness. Sure, it’ll break down twice on the test drive, but please, somebody find me a sexy Italian that doesn’t have faults as big as the Grand Canyon. That’s just how they come.

      P.s. why do people take pics of cars without getting the entire car in the picture? Its really not that hard. Its like, here are some doors, oh and a bumper, and why not, I can show em part of a fender. That’s good.

  • avatar

    On Top Gear, old and new- I like these older cars better than the unattainables they review now, but there’s sure been plenty of progress in production values! Check out the beginning of the Alfa driving segment. Looks like the car has the auto-door closing option, a rare feature then or now. When the car drives off, we see a figure – or a body? – crumpled up on on the pavement. What gives? A cameraman, perhaps, but it’s a useless camera position, for a shot that never appears.

    • 0 avatar

      Ha, I can clarify here.

      For the door, a production person closed it for him so he could drive off. No auto door thing here. And the body on the gravel looks to me like a German Shepherd or other dog. They wouldn’t let you see a camera man THAT blatantly, even on old Top Gear.

  • avatar

    That’s pretty brave to import one of these. These cars are unsuited to American driving conditions. The timing chain for example needs to be changed every 12,500 miles! Now that’s what I call high maintenance.

    • 0 avatar

      Is it an engine-out service?

      I do feel like for what this car offered at the time (and at a lesser price even), there were a number of other, equally or more prestigious vehicles offering more power, and rear-drive.

      • 0 avatar

        Hi Corey,

        Yes I believe so. The big transversely-mounted V8 barely fits into the small engine bay. In order for the timing chain to be accessed the motor must be removed, I suspect.

        I found this on a Ferrari forum.

        “Hi Waldo,

        I’ve been driving an 8.32 for the last 3 years – and although
        I’ve put 40,000 kms on it in that time, it hasn’t been ‘day to
        day’. I use it for long trips – England two or three times, Holland
        twice, Portugal and Italy. To really appreciate the car, keep it off
        the motorways, and stick to the old ‘Route Nationals’, the roads it
        was designed for. Look, I don’t want to be a wet blanket, particularly
        since this is a magnificent car to own ( I shall never sell mine) – but
        there is a downside. It uses a LOT of fuel, particularly sitting in
        traffic, and messing about in first and second gear. It HAS to be
        looked after properly – I do a timing belt change every 25000 kms,
        oil and filters every 8000. They are all at least 11 years old now – things
        wear out, and break. Not just that, but because of it’s age, parts can
        sometimes be difficult to find and/or take ages to obtain. My last
        service took almost three months to complete because we couldn’t
        locate a few seals, gaskets, and tensioner bearings.

        What am I saying? – if the car turns you on, buy it. But, follow the
        excellent advice in Peter’s (another one) previous post. To this I would
        only add – join the appropriate clubs, and (unfortunately) buy a cheap
        set of wheels to drive around in as well.

        Best of luck


        Here is the source:

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    I’d daily it.

  • avatar

    This car has been in my head all day. I can’t stop thinking about the idea of how a 32V Dino V8 with a cross-plane crank would sound. If it were $5000, I’d probably be calling the dude up.

  • avatar

    I was just reminiscing about this chassis with a guy who along with his brother and started by their father run a shop in New Franken WI that specializes in Alfa’s and Volvo’s. This article reminded me of the Lancia version I read about in the British CAR magazine back in the day (still have). Interesting Ferrari engine with a convention V8 crank and a dual plenum intake manifold. Wiki stats this as based on the Dino family (V6).

  • avatar

    There were actually plans for another V8 tipo 4 car as well, a saab 9000 with basically just two saab 2,0 I4s put together to make a V8. That was logical since the saab engine was “originally” a half of a triumph V8. Naturally GM is at least partially responsible for that V8 never being produced. One driveable car and two engines still exist.

  • avatar

    that platform was quite rubbish, it lack stiffness.
    base models sold quite well because were reasonably priced well equiped and fast (because of lightness). but thema ferrari was known for being unreliable and unbalanced. rumor was that the standard turbo (1/2 the price) was faster on very real road.

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