By on October 28, 2019

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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17 Comments on “Rare Rides: The Lancia Beta HPE, a Reliable Shooting Brake Dream From 1977...”

  • avatar

    I’m not up on these but I’m pretty sure the mismatched passenger seat is going to hurt its valuation for collectors.

  • avatar

    >>Maintain an image of quality while using as many Fiat parts as possible.

    outright laughter

  • avatar
    Thomas Kreutzer

    Dude, I hate to say it but someone smooshed your Dodge Omni.

  • avatar

    Check that profile…love it. But I can’t imagine how hard parts are to come by for this car, as exemplified by the mismatched front seats.

    And once again, I’ll pour one out for the Lancia brand – they went from making cool stuff like this, and the Delta Integrale and Thema, to laughable reworked 500s sold as rolling Fendi purses. Sad. FCA should be ashamed for letting this brand (and Chrysler) rot.

  • avatar

    The text is a little confusing in that you referred to the Scorpion/Monte Carlo as the coupe and then said the HPE took its doors from the coupe, when it took its doors from the Beta Coupe, which was a two-door FWD Beta variant while the mid-engine cars were Betas in name and marketing only.

    It was pretty bold of FIAT to keep this car in production so long, considering they aged like milk and there were as many in junkyards as on dealer lots by 1982. The HPE and Coupe were nice looking cars with European small bumpers. VX was a bold trim designation, derived from Volumex supercharging, but reminding of poison gas. “Modern Problems” with Chevy Chase is probably the definitive work on the Beta.

  • avatar

    Those back seats look like they were designed to put your legs to sleep in about 20 seconds.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

    • 0 avatar

      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.

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