Entered into this year's virtual Concours, our 1955 Lancia Aurelia B20 Series 4 GT has won 3rd in class. Taking part in the Post War Grand Tourers 1945-59, it was up against some tough competition including a Bentley R-Type Fastback, Ferrari 195 Inter Coupe by Touring as well as a host of other marques.
Manufactured on March 5, 1954, this Lancia Aurelia B20 has undergone what is believed to be one of the first-ever nut-and-bolt restorations carried out by motor-engineering apprentices anywhere in the world. The apprentices – at CMC, Classic Motor Cars, in Bridgnorth, Shropshire – spent four years taking the car apart and rebuilding it bit by bit in order to learn the restoration process. Six apprentices initially worked on the vehicle. Doubters said it couldn’t be done and that the youngsters wouldn’t have enough experience, but with help from CMC as well as additional companies in the UK and around the world, they completed a stunning restoration.
In the 1950s the Aurelia was hailed as a revolutionary combination of luxury and performance. The B20 GT two-passenger coupé, which was introduced in 1951, was mechanically the same as the B10 model, but boasted a more powerful 2-litre engine. The car bristled with innovation; it had the first production V6, a rear-mounted transaxle, inboard rear brakes, and a monocoque body.
The Lancia achieved major competition successes around the world, starting with a second place in the 1951 Mille Miglia in virtually standard form. The model went on to be developed over almost eight years and six distinct series.
Lancias were expensive cars in period. They were loved by racing drivers, many of whom owned Aurelias as their everyday cars. Today these machines are increasingly sought after as perhaps the definitive 1950s GT.
At the rear, the Aurelia sported that innovative combination transaxle with gearbox, clutch, differential, and inboard-mounted drum brakes. The front suspension was a sliding-pillar design, with rear semi-trailing arms replaced by a de Dion tube in the Fourth Series. The Aurelia was also one of the first cars to be fitted with radial tyres. The Fourth Series cars are generally considered to be the ultimate Aurelias, and with their more powerful 2451cc V6 engine, they are eligible for many major rallies and events.
This particular, very early, Fourth Series Aurelia is one of the first seven manufactured. The early history of model no. 2956 is not known, but interestingly chassis nos. 2955 and 2957 went on to become promotional show cars for Lancia. Because B20-2956 is unlikely to have been in the UK until 1960, if it was a show car or demonstrator, this was probably in Italy.
The car was first registered in the UK on May 13, 1960, by Gloucestershire County Council, having probably been imported from Italy earlier that year. Details of its early time in the UK are not known, but nine years later it turned up in west London. Then, in 1970, it was sold to south London, where it remained with the same owner for some 40 years. During that time the car campaigned with a class win at the LMC 30/50 Donington Auto Test.
The Lancia was purchased at auction in 2015, and the restoration at CMC was announced the following January.