• Feb 12th 2007 at 10:26AM
  • 13
Iconic Italian design comes in many forms and one of those is the Lancia Monte Carlo. Sold abroad from 1975 through 1979, the Monte Carlo was based off the X1/9, and came equipped with a mid-mounted, 1995cc engine that produced upwards of 120 HP. It was the elder statesman to its platform sibling, yet when the Monte Carlo made its way to the U.S., more than the name was lost in translation.

Since Chevrolet used the Monte Carlo name, the Pininfarina designed coupe was rebadged the Scorpion, and then it had its stinger unceremoniously removed. The 2-liter unit originally found behind the driver was swapped out for a 1756 cc inline-four that made an anemic 80 HP, yet met the emissions standards of the day. Additionally, the sizes of the springs were increased, while new, (yes, we'll say it) uglier bumpers were fitted.

In total, 1801 examples were sold in the U.S. between 1976 and 1977, and today, Flickr member monkeyboy70 is the proud owner of #1601. He's admittedly spent entirely too much time and money bringing back his Scorpion from the brink after it sat dormant for over nine years, upgrading the engine with a 2-liter EFI setup (good for 107 HP and 130 lb.-ft. of torque), suspension, interior and paint to restore it to its former machismo laden glory. He seems to like it and so do we, so it will kick off this week's Reader Ride of the Day.

Follow the jump for a couple more pics, some details from the man, err, monkey boy himself and directions on how to submit your own ride to our Flickr pool.

1977 Lancia Scorpion, Serial #1601. Called the MonteCarlo when it released in Europe, it was a sales flop when it hit the shores of the USA..mainly choked by emissions and safety laws of the day, which added weight, robbed hp, and upped the cost. Mid engine, rear wheel drive, Pininfarina styling...it oozes Italian sports car. However, mechanically, it's a unibody design utilizing Fiat X1/9 suspension components, and Fiat Spider engine (more or less). I found this car as a neglected, mostly original car which had sat for 9 years. I then poured an unreasonable amount of time and money into suspension, engine, paint, interior, and trim to make it what it is now. However, all-told, I've less invested than a new Honda Civic. This photo was taken by Zach Mayne in 2003 for a feature spread in RetroCars Magazine.

Equipped with a 2.0L EFI engine (CA smog legal), custom Koni adjustable suspension, poly bushes, 15" Ronal wheels and tires...it handles like a mid-engined exotic should. This one, however, is light and pretty powerful. Dynoed at approx 107hp and 130lb*ft, it pushes only 2250lbs...it's sprightly, but is certainly not a dragster. However it still gets 28mpg, and can run all-day-long on 87oct pump gas. Here you see some on-track action at Thunderhill Raceway Park, just outside Willows CA. Photo taken by Dito Milan. Dito is one of the best track photographers I know. Now that the restoration is complete, I don't track it anymore...which is something of a shame. This is an outstanding track car.

For a mid-engined, 2-seater, there is a surprising amount of interior space. Lots of glass makes for an open, airy feeling. Stock buckets are re-done in solid and perf'ed leather for a very stylish look. Nardi wheel, mp3/cd player, and mix of tan leather, black vinyl, and chocolate-brown pile make for a very warm and inviting feel. The "sunroof" is actually black canvas, which rolls up into a compartment just above the rear window. Ingenious design locks it out of the way when open, and holds it taught when closed.

How to submit to RR of the Day:
Create a
Flickr account if you don't already have one. Search for and join the group called 'Autoblog RR of the Day'. Upload up to three photos of your ride to your own account at a size no larger than 450 pixels wide if possible and include as much information about it and yourself as possible. Even if your ride is sweet, it will not be chosen if there's not a lot of info accompanying it. Click on each photo and just above the picture it will say "Send to group". Click that and select the Autoblog group. You're done, that's it!

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      I knew I'd seen this one somewhere- RetroCars (may it RIP). Very cool example of a long-looked over car.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Sorry about the writing issues gentlemen. This was written at about 3 AM PST, after two 1,000 word articles. Lack of caffeine, partnered with a bit of sleep depravation makes good writing go bad.
      • 8 Years Ago
      To Howard Kerr's comments, esp those of the British car review...You'll always find someone who doesn't like something. ;)

      Re. 120hp not being enough...you have to bear in mind what this car was meant to be. If it were done-up too powerfuly, it would have competed directly with the Ferrari 308. And given Fiat owned both marques by that time, it wouldn't have made a lot of sense. Is why VW will always be underpowered when compared to an Audi.

      It was not intended to be a supercar, but stylish "touring"...noting that touring in Europe is dramatically different than in the USA.

      I've ridden in a Scorpion that had nearly 300hp, and THAT is enough power (and the chassis takes it too). But this level of tune is well beyond what normal people would be able to drive, let alone pay for.

      Re. the bodywork...what Italian marque *doesn't* have rust issues?? And if it's underpowered, it's not even worth it. But in fact, in that era many cars had rust issues...German, Japanese, etc. People just need to accept the fact that old cars rust, and that's that. Why belabor the point??

      Re. the brakes...there is a lot of debate over whether the front-only boosted brake setup was the right idea. Esp given the weight is in the back, why would you boost the front? The common man would infer that you're just asking for front lockup in the rain. Many folks bypass the booster which ups the pedal effort significantly, but avoids the front lockup. Others say theirs don't lockup, and that the rest of us are crazy.

      It's a great little car for not a lot of pocket money, so what's to complain about? ;)
      • 8 Years Ago
      I owned a 1976 Scorpion for many years. Yeah, it was underpowered and the brakes were undersized (the only thing shared with the smaller, lighter Fiat X1/9)... but when thrown into a corner it handled beautifully!

      BTW, it was NOT based in any way on Bertone's Fiat X1/9 chassis. Pininfarina’s MonteCarlo/Scorpion chassis was completely unique, and was in fact the very first car that Pininfarina ever designed the entire chassis for. Up until then, Pininfarina had only designed bodies for customer’s existing chassis designs.) This car started out as a Fiat project called the Fiat X1/20. It was designed around Fiat's V-6 engine - which would have provided the right amount of power for a mid-engined car in it's price and weight range. Unfortunately, Fiat was never able to make their V-6 emissions-legal for the US which was the principal market the car was aimed at... so the emissions-strangulated 80-hp Fiat 124 engine was installed, and the project was re-badged as a Lancia to help justify the very expensive price tag in it's day. Its principal virtues were its styling (both interior and exterior), large trunk space, clever roof opening, and incredible handling. Its weaknesses were that it was under-powered, under-braked, over-priced for its performance, and prone to rust. If you buy one - try to find a set of brakes from any other Lancia of that vintage and adapt them to your Scorpion. This may also require the 14” wheels that the other Lancias used – not a bad thing, except that the Monte Carlo’s original 13” wheel styling was unusual and unique to the car.

      Pininfarina also received a patent on the Monte Carlo/Scorpion for the way the windshield glass was glued in rather than using a rubber gasket - as was still typical for cars in 1976. Today, almost all cars use this method of gluing in the window glass. It gives a smoother appearance, as the glass can is installed nearly flush with the body, which improves aerodynamics and fuel economy.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Love it. This one will be hard to beat for my vote.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I've said it before, and will (probably) say it again: You guys need to learn how to write.

      "the Monte Carlo was based off the X1/9"

      No, it was based ON the X1/9.

      "It was the elder statesman to its platform sibling"

      First, do you know what "elder statesman" means? It doesn't mean the same thing as "elder." But if the X1/9 came first, how could this car be its elder? As a new model, how could it be the familiar, experienced version of the platform?
      • 8 Years Ago
      I own a 1977 Scorpion that I bought new 30 years ago. It is a nifty little car and fun to drive. It holds a lot of luggage and was comfortable. I loved the design. It was around around 5 years old when it was no longer my daily driver. It got to the point where it had a lot of little things wrong with it. I just couldn't bring myself to sell it, however. It has been in storage for quite awhile and will need a bit of work to get running again, although everything is there. It has given a great deal of exclusivity per dollar.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Sweet. I love Lancias. They are my second favorite Italian Marque after Alfa-Romeo. Nice to see one picked as an RRotD.

      "Monkeyboy" I congratulate you for resurrecting, maintaining, and DRIVING this rare machine. A path most would fear to tread. After the resto has a few years and dings on it, take it out on the track again... the car will thank you for it. ;)

      Cars are meant to be driven, and driven cars are better for it.


      • 8 Years Ago
      I loved those cars. Never got to drive one. I did go out with a fat chick just to drive her Beta. Fun time.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I got to see one of these cars "up close and personal" about 10 to 15 years ago. It looked about how you would expect a 20 year old car to look, but considering the noted longevity of Italian steel...it was remarkably free of rust.

      After the "gushing" description of the author of this article, I thought I would add a few words from a British classic car price guide:

      "Conceived as a sister car to the Fiat X1/9 (and planned to be sold as a Fiat)... Pininfarina's lines were purposeful but the reality was less sparkling: 120 horsepower engine was not really powerful enough, roadholding dangerous in the wet, and severe frontwheel lock-up under braking forced production to halt in 1978. Revised version launched in 1980..." (was in production from 1975 to 1978 and after re-launch 1980 to 1984)
      "Dreadful rust traps, and avoid US-only Scorpions with 1800 engine and 80bhp."

      Total production over 8 years was less than 7600.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Well I'll be damned. My wife claimed that one of her friends in high school had a car called a "Scorpion," and after googling and eBaying I determined there was no such car. Sure enough, here it is.
      • 8 Years Ago
      It the Great Tragedy of many Italian cars that they are borderline lickable, but mechanically leave a sour taste.
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