Model history: Although he was an avid racer himself, Vincenzo Lancia never built a racing version of the road cars bearing his name. These road cars did attract plenty of attention because of their often unconventional and pioneering designs. Lancia's trademark was the small angle V-engine that had been in use since the late teens, and the Italian company was also the first to produce a car with a unitary construction. When the company's founder passed away in 1937, his son Gianni Lancia took over and things changed dramatically in Turin.
The Second World War intervened with the ambitious young Lancia's plans, but as soon as the hostilities ceased the work continued. He had hired legendary designer Vittorio Jano firstly to design a new saloon, but also to set up racing program. The first sign of the new direction was the Aurelia launched in 1950, which featured independent suspension all-round and a very compact V6 engine. A year later the competition version of the Aurelia debuted complete with a powerful 2.5 litre version of the V6 engine.
The Aurelia B20 GT was the very first Lancia racing car in the 45 year history of the company, but proved to be immediately successful with class wins in many major rallies and also at Le Mans between 1951 and 1954. Inspired by the success of the Aurelia, work was started on a completely new racing car that could challenge for overall wins. For this project Jano's vast experience at Alfa Romeo and Fiat proved to be vital as he designed a state of the art competition special. Dubbed the D20, the new racing cars were ready for the 1953 Mille Miglia.
With the exception of the engine there was little that the new racer shared with the Aurelia and even that was extensively revised. The displacement was increased to three litres and the central mounted camshaft was replaced by chain driven double overhead camshafts. Performance of the V6 was quoted at 245 bhp. The powerplant was installed in a tubular spaceframe chassis, which was suspended independently by wishbones at the front and back. One of the most unusual features were the inboard mounted brakes, designed to lower the unsprung weight. As with the Aurelia, coach-builder Pinin Farina was responsible for the design and construction of the lightweight coupe bodies.
Four cars were completed in time for the Mille Miglia debut and against very strong competition one of them managed to finish in third position. For the 24 Hours of Le Mans the engines were fitted with Superchargers to bridge the gap to the larger engined Jaguars and Ferraris. This proved to be disastrous move as it proved to be fatal for the reliability and all cars entered were forced to retire. Some drastic changes were carried through as both the Superchargers and the coupe bodywork were discarded. Now sporting open bodies also by Pinin Farina, the cars were renamed D23.
While the D23 scored a victory in the Lisbon Grand Prix, Jano was already hard at work building a lighter, nimbler and more powerful replacement. The displacement was further increased to just under 3.3 litres, which saw the output increase to 265 bhp. The handling was improved by slightly decreasing the wheelbase and by the installation of an advanced DeDion rear axle. Complete with a further revised Pinin Farina Spyder body, this D24 had a disastrous debut at Monza and it did not get much better at the Nürburgring.
At the 1953 Carrera PanAmericana there was a spectacular turn-around for the Scuderia Lancia as the D24s filled the first three spots at the finish. For eleven hours the 1954 season looked set to start with a Sebring 12 Hours win, but engine failure saw the advanced racer retire from the lead. Nevertheless, it was a sign of things to come as the D24 scored a series of victories with wins in the much coveted Mille Miglia and Targa Florio road races as highlights.
In a quest for even more performance, Lancia used the summer of the 1954 season to create a larger version of the V6 engine. Displacing just over 3.7 litre, the latest evolution produced in excess of 300 bhp. Four D24s were fitted with the engine and rebadged D25. They debuted in the Tourist Trophy at Dundrod but failed to finish with reliability issues. Unfortunately the sports cars were not raced again as the program was abandoned in favour of an even more ambitious Grand Prix program with the even more advanced D50.
Gianni Lancia's ambitions brought him the much desired victories, but the spiraling costs also brought his company on the edge of bankruptcy. He was forced to leave Lancia and to prevent the company from going bankrupt, the complete Grand Prix program was sold to Ferrari. In 1956 Juan Manuel Fangio drove a modified (Ferrari)-Lancia to the Formula 1 world championship. Lancia did survive and many years later returned to racing with the very successful Fulvia, Stratos, 037 and Delta rally racers.
Chassis 0005 is one of only two surviving D24s, and the only one that is in private hands. This particular car debuted at Sebring in 1954 in the hands of Juan Manuel Fangio Eugenio Castellotti, where it was very close to the win. It returned to Europe to score three consecutive victories, including the Targa Florio. It was given to President Peron of Argentina early in 1955 and as such saved from destruction. President Peron campaigned the car in national races livered in the blue and yellow Argentinian racing colours. It then served for many years as an instruction vehicle in a racing school.
In the 1980s the car was brought back to Italy and was subjected to a careful restoration, preserving much of the original mechanicals and bodywork. At the same time marque expert Guido Rosani was in the process of building several replicas (with many original parts), which are still actively campaigned in historic racing today. He later also built several D50 replicas around original engines. In the late 1990s chassis 0005 was acquired by a prominent American collector, who only rarely showed it. More recently it was bought by a Swiss Collection and restored again.
Still in American ownership, it is seen here in the first nine shots during one of its rare outings. The occasion was the 2006 The Quail, a Motorsports Gathering where the 100th Anniversary of the Targa Florio was celebrated. In the next seven shots the D24 is shown at Pebble Beach in 2008 when Lancia was the featured marque. It was brought to the event by French historian and former team manager of the Renault F1 Team, Jean Sage, on behalf of the new Swiss owners. The final two shots show chassis 0005 back in Europe on the 2009 Retromobile stand of Swiss broker Lukas Huni (on display only!).
Saw one - or it was a very good replica - racing La Carrera Panamericana rally around 1999-2000 and it really moved!. Maybe I wrong, but didn't Felice Bonetto died crashing in one of these in the original Panam just entering a town called Silao?
Undoubtly the best racing Lancia ever.
Undoubtedly the most important Lancia sports racer ever built. Superior handling thanks to properly designed de Dion suspension and excellent weight distribution due to 4-speed gearbox located behind differential.
V6 engine engendered production car offspring.
It looks pretty neat too in its darker shade of red.