Vincenzo Lancia

24/8/1881 - 15/2/1937

Record updated 23-Aug-06

Vincenzo Lancia was an Italian driver, engineer and the founder of Lancia.

Vincenzo Lancia
Vincenzo Lancia was son of a wealthy soup manufacturer who made his money in Argentina before returning to Turin to start his business. He was born in the small village of Fobello, near Turin, the youngest of four children.

He was fascinated by the new expanding world of the automobile and served an apprenticeship with Giovanni Ceirano, a bicycle importer in Turin.

Once Lancia was sent to help Count Carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia, who owned a Benz. When they met in February 1899 they quickly became friends. And it was di Ruffia who is credited with the design of the Lancia logo.

With the FIAT's takeover of Ceirano in 1900, Lancia was appointed chief inspector at FIAT, although only 19. Impressed by his driving he was promoted to "Works Driver" and he drove for F.I.A.T. in events like the Gordon Bennett races, the Paris - Madrid of 1903 and two Vanderbilt Cup races in the USA. While out-right victories allude Vincenzo, mainly due to mechanical failure (blocked fuel pipe, 1904 Gordon Bennett; stone-damaged radiator, 1905 Gordon Bennett; broken valve gear, 1908 French G.P.), he was noted for often achieving the fastest lap time. (1905 Gordon Bennett; 1905 Vanderbilt Cup; 1906 Coupe de Auto; 1908 Florio Cup)

One event he did win for F.I.A.T was the 1904 Florio Cup, a two-lap road race between Brescia, Cremona and Mantua starting and finishing at Brescia, later to become well known as the Start/Finish of the Mille Miglia. The two laps involved 370 Km, which Vincenzo covered in 3 hours, 9 minutes and 56 seconds, recording an average speed of 115.7 KPH, or 71.88 MPH.

He eventually starting his business and setting up his own factory in Turin in 1906. Such was his connection with FIAT that he continued to race for them until 1908, scoring second places in the 1906 American Vanderbilt Cup and the 1907 Targa Florio.

His first car was built in 1907 - the 12Hp Alfa, which included a lot of the technology now taken for granted. Early Lancia models were practical, light and performed well. Each car served as a stepping stone that guided Lancia to his breakthrough model, the 1922 Lambda. The car featured fully independent front suspension and the world's first integrated chassis-body construction. Because of its low build and pragmatic design, the Lambda soon became a favorite of Europe's avant garde motorists who wanted a car that drove as beautifully as it looked.

Lancia did not advertise his cars in the media. Selling by reputation to discerning motorists, Lancia made enough money to build himself a state-of-the-art manufacturing site in Turin.

Lancia gained economies of scale by using the most sophisticated tooling available. The result was that his company could produce more than 4,000 prestige cars a year by the 1930s.

The commercial success of the Lambda enabled Lancia to continue to improve his manufacturing methods. This led to low-volume production of superior models such as the small Astura, the Augusta sedan and finally his all-time masterpiece, the 1937 Aprilia. Even today, the Aprilia is used as an example of applied aerodynamics, intelligent packaging and top performance.

He died from a heart attack on 15th February 1937 just before the Aprilia was put into full production. He was 56 years old, and he lies buried at Fobello.