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The Lancia Scorpion was designed to be a “big brother” model to Fiat’s X 1/9 – but larger, more powerful, and more luxurious. While the X 1/9 was a product of the Bertone studios, the Scorpion (Monte Carlo in the rest of the world) was designed and built at Carrozzeria Pininfarina as Fiat Project X 1/8, and later X 1/20. During the Scorpion’s gestation period, Fiat decided to limit themselves to high-volume production cars, and assigned the sportier, more exclusive models to Lancia, its wholly-owned subsidiary since 1969. Its basis was the Beta family of coupes and sedans, but with completely different architecture, thus turning the FWD drivetrain into a mid-engine sports car.
While the R.O.W. (rest of the world) got a potent 2-liter Monte Carlo model, the US, its primary market, had to make do with a smaller, less powerful engine, larger, heavier bumpers, and raised suspension to meet US headlight laws. The European 2-liter produced 120 bhp, while the US 1.8-liter engine struggled and wheezed to produce 81 bhp. Handling and style, then, were the Scorpion’s strong points in this market. In turbocharged Euro form, the Monte Carlo was twice World Champion in endurance racing, and it lent its core and drivetrain to the legendary Lancia 037 rally car.
It was the much-anticipated hit of the 1975 Salon de Geneve, and debuted in the US at the Chicago Auto Show in February 1976. The US version was not as warmly received as its European sibling, garnering comments by Road & Track such as “So lovely, so agile, so ingenious, so slow.” and “The Scorpion is an enigma – a scorpion without a stinger.” It was deemed an Italian showpiece – lovely to look at, with delightful handling, yet an unfulfilled promise. “In spite of its shortcomings, it keeps drawing us in for one more drive, just as surely as it turns every head on the freeway.”
Manufacturer: Carrozzeria Pininfarina for Lancia S.p.A.
Country of Origin: Italy
Drivetrain Configuration: Mid-engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine: transverse DOHC inline-4, water cooled, 1756cc, 81 bhp
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Top Speed: 104 mph (European models – 118 mph)
Years Produced: 1 US Series 1 cars, 1976-77 only; R.O.W. 1975-81
Number Produced: 1801 (US models, in a single 1976 run); Worldwide, 7596
Cost: $9943; options included electric windows - $210, metallic paint $250, leather seating $349, stereo $200, and dealer prep $75