Story

When the Lancia Aprilia was introduced, it was a car that was extremely popular among the public and among coachbuilders to show off their talents. From 1939 until the end of the Aprilia’s production in 1949, Lancia had upgraded the Aprilia calling it the Series 2 that was equipped with a 1482cc V4 engine making 48 horsepower. Special designs were built on these cars by great coachbuilders such as Zagato, Carrozzeria Touring, Bertone and Michelotti while he was at Vignale. But one special Aprilia that was most beautiful was the Pininfarina prototype.

This car is a unique model built just after the war by Gian Battista Pininfarina. At this time, most coachbuilders used the length of the engines to design cars with long bonnets where passengers ended up sitting almost on top of the rear axle. Contrary to the norm at this time, Pininfarina built a car with a shorter nose that enabled a more centrally positioned passenger compartment, and with a slender and elegant rear styling. He decided to exhibit the car together with a fantastic Alfa Romeo 2500 at the Paris Motor Show.

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However, Italian manufacturers had been barred because of Italy’s stance in WWII. With the focus being on reconstruction and recovery in the aftermath of the war, the organizers of the first Motor Show since 1938 restricted entry to manufacturers from countries on the right side of the fence. However, Pininfarina did not see the situation in the same way and, the great entrepreneur that he was, decided to drive his two creations to Paris in October 1946, to show off his talents. His son Sergio, aged 20, took the wheel of the Alfa Romeo, accompanied by a couple of family friends and Gian Battista drove the Lancia. He recounted the magic of this trip in his memoires, the first for his son, across Italy and into France, after the many horrible years of the war, and the people’s astonishment as these two outrageous and highly elegant prototypes passed by.

On arriving in Paris, he was barred from entering the Grand Palais, and so set up his own “salon” on the avenue Winston Churchill in front of the entrance to the Grand Palais and displayed his two cars in the street. The renowned magazine “L’Illustration” decided to produce its special first Motor Show edition, and to pay tribute to the talent and trial against adversity of this impetuous designer: the Lancia and the Alfa Romeo (in the background) were given pride of place on the cover.

The Motor Show was composed primarily of utilitarian and pre-war vehicles that were already known to the public. At this time, the exhibitors were searching for raw materials rather than clients and were obliged to export the majority of their production other than utility vehicles. So, imagine the spectacle caused by Pininfarina displaying these two stunning prototypes in front of the spectacular building housing the first international automobile and aviation show, in what he called in his memoires “my anti salon.”

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The Lancia remained in France and was registered in 1949 in the name of the company Roblou, 98 avenue Bourdon à Neuilly sur Seine, the headquarters of the Lancia importer until 1965. The vendor has told us that the car was also exhibited at the Geneva Motor Show, painted white. The well-known Belgian dealer Bernard Marreyt discovered the car in the north of France in 2010, and subsequently undertook a professional restoration of an extremely high standard in Pisa, Italy, keeping the original color combination. Following this exhaustive three-year project, the car was sold to the previous owner, and has run just 80 kilometers since. It was invited to be part of a special tribute to Pininfarina, held just outside London, England in July 2013. Sergio’s son, Paolo, took to the wheel of the “Speciale,” full of emotion.

The origins, extraordinary history and condition of this unique car make this an exceptional opportunity to acquire a landmark in the history of Italian post-war automobiles. This Aprilia, belonging to an enthusiast passionate about Italian engineering and Lancia in particular, is in excellent running condition. While it is relatively common to find automobiles that have been restored, it is rare that enough hours have been spent on every minute detail for the driver’s satisfaction.

Arrangements to purchase this vehicle can be made directly by contacting Mecum representative Rob Williams by phone or text at (262) 236-7705 or by email at rwilliams@mecum.com.

  • A 10% buyer premium applies
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