That Time Ferrari Let Lancia Borrow a V8 Engine and It Ended up in a Boxy 80s Sedan

by Gabrielle DeSantis

Intake manifold on a Ferrari engine | Giuseppe Cacace/AFP via Getty Images

Ferrari is legendary around the globe for high-performance engines, which are typically reserved for its own luxury GTs and supercars. In the 1980s, however, some of its 3.0-liter V8s actually ended up in a bunch of front-wheel-drive Italian family cars. The resulting vehicle was called the Lancia Thema 8.32. Say what?!?

Thickening the plot, Ferrari didn’t even build the motors; they apparently outsourced engine assembly to Ducati. That’s right, the motorcycle firm generally known for Moto GP, lusty V-twins, and trellis frames. We’re not sure who came up with the idea for this odd duck of a car, but it sounds phenomenal!

Hold on, hold on. Who or what is a Lancia?

1953 Lancia Aurelia
1953 Lancia Aurelia | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images

You’re forgiven for asking (just this once though), since they’ve been laying low for decades now. Lancia is a once-famous Italian automaker and former motorsports powerhouse. It was the company responsible for the first unibody (also known as monocoque) chassis, all the way back in 1922. So unless you drive a pickup truck (that’s not a Ridgeline), you can thank Lancia for the idea behind your car, SUV, or van’s lovely ride quality. Oh, and that 1922 Lancia Lambda also had the first independent front suspension.

That wasn’t the end of their innovative thinking, however. Those sly geniuses in Turin also came up with the first production five-speed transmission. And they made the first balanced V6 engine in the 1950 Aurelia model, by angling the cylinder banks at 60 degrees. Lancia had been experiencing bad vibes, literally, while trying to develop V4 engines. Thankfully, designer Francesco De Virgilio devised the first solution to that inherent problem. And it would benefit Ferrari later on.

Alright…what else did Lancia do?

Lancia Delta Integrale Rally Car
Carlos Sainz driving the Lancia Delta Integrale in the Monte Carlo Rally | Pascal Rondeau /Allsport via Getty Images

Funny you should ask. Lancia holds more manufacturer’s titles in the World Rally Championship than any other automaker. That sounds mildly impressive, until you consider that they haven’t competed in WRC since the 1990s. And it’s 2021 now. Ironically, given its pioneering of the V6 in the ’50s, one of Lancia’s best-known rally cars used a V6 engine from Ferrari’s Dino product line. The mid-engined Stratos brought edgy Bertone design to the rally stage and solidified Lancia’s clear aptitude for motorsports.

The Stratos’ three-year dominance was only a prelude to Lancia’s run in the 1980s, however.

So, back to the Thema 8.32 with the Ferrari V8 engine

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