Rare Rides: The Lancia Beta HPE, a Reliable Shooting Brake Dream From 1977

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the lancia beta hpe a reliable shooting brake dream from 1977
Imagine you desire the sporting characteristics of a coupe, with the practicality of something larger like a sedan. Now imagine you opted for neither of those things, and instead bought an eccentric shooting brake. A fevered dream of polyester malaise and Italian electrics await; it’s the 1977 Lancia Beta HPE.
There were many different versions of Lancia’s Beta, and we’ve featured the coupe (linked above) which the rest of the world called Montecarlo, but North Americans knew as Scorpion. Today’s Beta is perhaps the most unique looking of the Beta range.
The basic Beta entered production in 1972, as an entry-level lineup to replace the Fulvia range (d. 1976) which had grown dated and awkward during its long run. Since it developed its Fulvia offerings, Lancia had fallen under Fiat ownership, as the giant gobbled up the smaller Italian in 1969.
But the takeover was not a pleasant one, and Lancia lost much of its important staff leading up to the change in hands. A new technical director was brought on board, and he pulled together the brand’s best engineers to come up with their new volume model. Instructions were clear: Maintain an image of quality while using as many Fiat parts as possible.
Fiat concentrated on its core sedan models, and didn’t get to the HPE until early in 1975. The name meant High Performance Estate, but that sounded a bit pleb so it was renamed after a while to High Performance Executive. A briefcase and pocket calculator come to mind.HPE used the longer wheelbase from the Berlina five-door, and borrowed doors from the lovely coupe. Saving more money, the HPE was styled internally without any assistance from an ocular specialist.
Lancia fitted the HPE with 1.6- or 1.8-liter engines, but late in the first model year swapped them for new 1.6- and 2-liter versions. Like the rest of the Beta line outside the Montecarlo, the HPE was front-wheel drive. A manual transmission was the only option in the beginning, but an automatic transmission was added to the Beta lineup in 1978. Fuel injection arrived late in 1981, and by that time it was called Lancia HPE. For its final hurrah, an upmarket engine option appeared for 1984 only: a 2-liter supercharged VX.By then the Beta line was 13 years old, and overdue for a replacement. Signifying the direction in which Lancia was headed, the Beta lineup was replaced by a single car ⁠— the Prisma.Today’s Rare Ride is located in Oregon, away from the tin worms. With a 1.6 and a manual transmission, it “deives” great, and asks for $4,500 of your dollars.[Images: seller]
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  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Oct 28, 2019

    I remember seeing the Beta line at the auto show when they were new, and picking up brochures. Will we see a Beta sedan (Berline) featured here? I'm guessing that decent examples are extremely rare.

  • ThomasSchiffer ThomasSchiffer on Oct 28, 2019

    I have never seen these in Europe. Lancia was never a big seller in my country, but in the late 1970s and early 1980s they had horrific rust issues and the few that were sold probably did not survive long enough to experience their first winter.

    • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Oct 29, 2019

      Were they using Soviet steel, like Fiats? I've heard that was part of the "pay" to Fiat by the Soviets, for building the Togliatti (Tolyatti) auto plant.

  • MaintenanceCosts We hear endlessly from the usual suspects about the scenarios where EVs don't work as well as gas cars. We never hear the opposite side of the coin. From an EV owner (since 2019) who has a second EV reserved, here are a few points the "I road trip 1000 miles every day" crowd won't tell you about:[list][*]When you have a convenient charging situation, EV fueling is more convenient than a gas car. There is no stopping at gas stations and you start every day with a full tank.[/*][*]Where there are no-idling rules (school pickup/dropoff, lines for ferries or services, city loading, whatever else) you can keep warm or cool to your heart's content in your EV.[/*][*]In the cold, EVs will give you heat from the second you turn them on.[/*][*]EVs don't care one bit if you use them for tons of very short trips. Their mechanicals don't need to boil off condensation. (Just tonight, I used my EV to drive six blocks, because it was 31 degrees and raining, and walking would have been unpleasant.)[/*][*]EVs don't stink and don't make you breathe carcinogens on cold start.[/*][*]EV maintenance is much less frequent and much cheaper, eliminating almost all items having to do with engine, transmission, or brakes in a gas car. In most EVs the maintenance schedule consists of battery coolant changes and tire maintenance.[/*][*]You can accelerate fast in EVs without noisily attracting the attention of the cops and every passerby on the street.[/*][/list]
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