Photo credit: Lancia, Mauto, Stellantis
Who: Gianni Lancia was just over twenty when, in 1949, the weight of the Lancia company fell on his young shoulders. His father, Vincenzo, had died shortly before the war, and the brand, renowned for the quality of its models and the sophistication of its mechanics, needed a significant relaunch. At the age of 25, he was appointed CEO of Lancia & C. SpA. His engineering degree from the prestigious University of Pisa provided a convincing premise despite his young age.
Juan Manuel Fangio winner with the D24 in the 1953 Carrera Panamericana. The race was dominated by Lancia finishing in the top three places overall.
Why: Gianni Lancia’s enthusiasm for motorsports, coupled with the recognition of how this activity was benefiting the newly-born Ferrari, led him to use sports as a platform to showcase the vitality and quality of his own Lancia brand. His ten-year tenure at the company was marked by remarkable technical feats, both in production vehicles – most notably his V6 engine – and in racing triumphs. These achievements significantly elevated Lancia’s brand image. However, the flip side was the financial strain. The substantial investments and elevated costs associated with Lancia vehicles plunged the company into severe financial difficulties. By 1956, Gianni Lancia was forced to resign and sell the company to the Pesenti family. He also chose to donate the now-competitive Formula 1 cars to Enzo Ferrari, who used them to win the 1956 World Championship with Manuel Fangio behind the wheel.
Gianni Lancia with his driver Piero Taruffi, victorious with the D24 in the 1954 Giro di Sicilia and few weeks later at the Targa Florio.
When: It’s hard to believe, but the D24 Sport was developed in an extraordinarily brief time frame. Initiated at the close of 1952, the project drew inspiration from the successful D20 Berlinetta. This led to the creation of the D23, sporting a tubular chassis and an eye-catching design courtesy of Pininfarina. Despite its promising debut, the car’s 60-degree, 3,000 cc V6 engine fell short in terms of power. In a remarkable display of agility, Lancia promptly rolled out a second version – the D24. This iteration featured an upgraded 3,300 cc engine, a host of significant modifications, and a dry sump to lower the centre of gravity. The wheelbase was also notably reduced by 20 centimetres and incorporated a De Dion rear axle. The vehicle made its debut in August at the Nürburgring, putting on an exceptional performance.
An early hiccup with the electrical system was quickly fixed by repositioning the batteries, and from that point on, the D24 proved to be highly reliable.
1954 was a year full of successes for the Lancia D24. Alberto Ascari also succeeded in winning the Mille Miglia ahead of Vittorio Marzotto's Ferrari.
Where: In Turin, at the historic Lancia factories and at Pininfarina, where its striking bodywork was created, seamlessly blending racing efficiency with unique aesthetic features, such as the distinctive air intake on the right front fender.
The entire technical design and project realisation were completed by the Lancia team, who built the rolling chassis, engine, and gearbox, further solidifying the brand’s longstanding tradition of excellence. The technical leadership was under the capable hands of Vittorio Jano, who, after leaving Alfa Romeo, relocated to Turin. He would also spearhead the Lancia D50 Formula 1 project.
Developed by Vittorio Jano's technical team, the D24 is a magnificent example of fine automotive engineering in the best Lancia tradition.
How: The best way to answer this question is to look at the calibre of the victories. The D24 began competing at the highest level in November 1953 at the gruelling Carrera Panamericana, finishing first with Manuel Fangio and second with Piero Taruffi. In 1954, it clinched both the Mille Miglia with* Alberto Ascari* and the Targa Florio with Taruffi. These powerful demonstrations could have continued had Gianni Lancia not shifted his focus to Formula 1 – a venture as demanding as it was laborious, ultimately leading him to sell his company shares and abandon the automotive world he loved so dearly.
Today with Roarington simulators made with Pininfarina and Zagato, it is possible to relive the excitement behind the wheel of the Lancia D24 just like in the 1950s, such as on the Nurbugring Nordschleife where it made its debut in 1953.
It is truly impressive to think of the over 169 km/h average speed for more than 3500km recorded by Fangio at the Carrera Panamericana he won in 1953.
CLASSIC CAR MATCHER