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Remembering the 1976 Lancia Scorpion

I was waiting for my Fiat 128 to be serviced… again. If that car was my girlfriend, I’d be jealous of the mechanic for spending more time with her than I did. Then, a flame red Italian caught my eye. There she was, sitting on the showroom floor, just yards away from where the Fiat was sitting in pieces. A 1976 Lancia Scorpion had grabbed my heart.

By jeff mason

March 9, 2021

Put the Car on My Card

The car wasn’t just new because of the date of manufacture. I was going to tick off several firsts with this machine. I’d just received my new AMEX credit card and, like any car that I wanted to drive, was wondering how to test the limits of this new toy. Up to that point in my life, I’d paid cash for the cars I purchased. Financing my ride was new to me. Would AMEX allow the charge for a car?

1976 Lancia Scorpion looks good.

I whipped out the card to charge approximately $8,000. The dealer had never heard of such a thing! He was on the phone with AMEX. He questioned me. He went through a lot of inner turmoil before he was convinced that this deal was a good idea. To be fair, I was riding my own emotional roller coaster despite my cool attitude toward the financial portion of the deal. I’d fallen in love with the little sports car.

You Never Forget Your First Lancia Scorpion

Odd thing is, I almost forgot about this car as I was pulling together my stories for the Piston Foundation’s blog. Which is odd. You’d think I’d remember the first time I drove a mid-engine car. Or, enjoyed the Targa convertible top. I had a blast with both.

1976 Lancia Scorpion engine bay and spare tire.

I get asked all the time, “Which car was the most fun to drive?” My Ferrari Daytona was impossible to drive and no fun unless the speedometer read 100 mph. My first Porsche Turbo was a death trap thanks to the positioning of the engine and all that oversteer.

I could max out the 4-cylinder Scorpion while not going really fast so the scare I got from that was different from the other cars. It was a good scary and all about balance. Lancia made a car that was revolutionary in the mid-70s, especially compared to all the big American cars around me on the road.

I think I should have remembered the little car. Then again, not a lot of people remember the marque. Lancia as a brand would wax and wane in the U.S. repeatedly. Less than 2,000 Scorpions came here, named that because Chevy had the rights to the name Monte Carlo, which is what this little car was called back in Europe. I wouldn’t expect to see a 1976 Lancia Scorpion at a car show today.

The Flame That Burns Twice as Bright, Burns Half as Long

The fun of a car comes from driving it. The Lancia badge sat over a Fiat engine and I found myself back in the shop, waiting for the car to make time with the mechanic on my dime.

1976 Lancia Scorpion rear engine.

Good news was that I had good taste in vehicles and didn’t lose money when I resold the cars. The Lancia Scorpion was no exception: the low-cost mid-engine sports car was designed and built by Pininfarina and light years ahead of MGs and Triumphs it was up against.

I am glad to remember the car now. It was a good ride then and now just the name gives me a cheap thrill. I say it and the response is, “Get out of here. What’s that?” If you’re going to be sitting in a waiting room for a car, it had better offer some good conversation starters to share with the people waiting with you.

Robert P. Minnick is founder and CEO of the Piston Foundation. The cars in his life and the people he calls friends because of those cars inspired him to create a national fundraising platform to preserve car culture. He’d like nothing better than to know future generations can have car experiences as memorable as his own.

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