I Don’t Know Who I Am Anymore

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I hadn’t the faintest idea what this car was when I first laid eyes on it. This was more than a little worrying for someone like me, who’s overall sense of oneness and self in the universe relies pretty heavily on the ability to identify car brands, or at least car nationalities, with relative ease. But this one threw me for a loop. The other side of that coin, however, is that its regular presence around the block from where I was living allowed me the opportunity to learn something new, an opportunity that no one should ever turn down. This is a 1975 Lancia 2000 HF Coupe.

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Lancia can trace its roots back to a man named Vincenzo Lancia (“Vinny Lance,” to his friends). The guy is a bit of a badass actually, because not only did he have a very successful career at Fiat, but he also raced cars for them and then started his own car company all before his 25th birthday in 1906. His company became known for rampant innovation and forward thinking. Lists of the company’s innovations read like greatest hits albums for automotive genius. Unique oil lubrication systems. Weird carburettors. Combined gearbox and differential units mounted on the rear axle. The first engine to be both supercharged and turbocharged. In 1913 they were the first to have a car with a built-in electrical system, for Pete’s sake. That wasn’t that long after electricity was discovered (I’m lying, basic understanding of electricity existed at least 167 years before Lancia jerry-rigged it into his car).

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This Lancia, the 2000, was the successor to a car called the Flavia (the 2000 was actually known as the “Flavia 2000” for a couple of years). Introduced in 1961, the Flavia operated as a vehicle for executive types up until the early seventies, when they updated it and renamed it the 2000. Both the Flavia and the 2000 were available as sedans or coupes. Unlike its bigger cousin, the Flaminia, which had a V6, the Flavia had a less powerful but far more interesting 1991cc flat-4, similar to the setup used in Subarus and Porsches. That 125 horsepower engine was mounted in front of the the front wheels, with the five speed manual gearbox (with overdrive) placed directly behind it. Power went to the front wheels, the first Italian car to do so.

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This is the HF model, which effectively meant that this flat-4 was fuel injected instead of carburated. Internal combustion engines effectively run by harnessing the power of thousands of tiny explosions that occur by sparking (with a spark plug. Clever, I know) a mixture of gasoline and air within a cylinder. Now, for years and years, carburetors were the name of the game when you wanted the right fuel to air mixture in your combustion chamber. But, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which had to do with expense and complexity and a small evil known as the catalytic converter, carburetors were phased out in favor of fuel injection. A fuel injector measures the amount of air coming into the engine at any given time, and then opens a nozzle that allows the fuel to mix with the air, “atomizing” the fuel in the process so that it can be ignited in the most efficient way possible. Whatever man, I think it’s cool.

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American author Wendell Berry wrote this poem, titled “The Real Work,” in his collection Standing By Words:

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

I like that. There exists fear of bafflement, certainly, a fear of not understanding. But to be challenged by the sheer unpredictability of the unknown, to be placed in complete awe at all there is left to learn: there’s worth there. For me, I love Lancias, and the Flavia, but I never knew about the 2000 until I stumbled upon it, parked just around the block from where I was living. I’m glad to know it and it’s quiet, understated beauty. That’s all I’ve got for you- thanks, as always, for stopping by. See you next time.

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Additional Thoughts:

  • The cool-looking wheels on the 2000 were 14-inch Cromadora mag-alloys.
  • In moving from Flavia to 2000, the car also received disc brakes.
  • An ad for the 2000’s headlights described their illumination powers as “a long range throw of the powerful main beam inner lamps giving a tremendous blaze of light directed where it’s needed most.” And they say today’s marketing is dramatic.
  • Many consider this to be the last “true” Lancia, before the company was bought by- in an ironic turn of fate- Fiat.
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