The Lancia Fulvia – A Gentleman’s Choice.

Merry Christmas to all! 

It’s been a while since we featured a car properly here on the Bandit. A spate of events, both back in SoCal and in Dubai have kept us on our toes, capturing the car culture that brings us together as enthusiasts.

This means, however, that the chance to properly understand one car was one we were looking forward to. To that end, we set out to remedy the situation.

This story begins, at an early morning rendezvous on the edge of Dubai. Faithful readers of the Bandit will recognize where this is going, but I need to start the story properly, which I will now endeavor to do.

The crisp morning air was only interrupted by the occasional school bus as I waited for a man in a car. Barely a minute later, with a friendly toot of the horn, a dark blue Lancia Fulvia came to a stop in front of me. Climbing in, I looked to my left, to find the “Gentleman Driver” with a large grin on his face. Just like old times…

I have already introduced Assyl Yacine, but there is a crucial difference here. All the cars that we used to go out in earlier, were part of the Tomini collection. Being surrounded by these gorgeous automobiles must have had its effect, because just about a year ago, Mr. Yacine went to Milan on a business trip. Passing by a dealer’s lot, adjacent to an auction house, he spotted “Gini,” the Fulvia you see in these photos. It was love at first sight and before long, she was in Dubai. After undergoing a full engine rebuild, she’s back on the road with a very happy custodian at the wheel.

I was curious for a couple of reasons. The only Lancias I know properly, are the Stratos and the Delta Integrale. Sure, I could point out a Flaminia if I saw one, but I didn’t know what the ethos of the Fulvia was, beside the fact that it had some notable rally heritage. Additionally, I wanted to see what a gentleman, who gets to manage and drive valuable classic automobiles on a daily basis, had seen in the Fulvia.

At first sight, the Fulvia is a small car. Climbing in however, I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable it was, even for two six-footers and a bit of gear. The interior was a mix of varnished wood and a few Veglia gauges. A JBL Bluetooth speaker warbled along to some Italian period correct tunes, wisely hidden in the glovebox.

The steering wheel, a massive wooden piece, took up the most space in the car. Honestly, it might even put modern school bus wheels to shame! The switches looked like they would last a hundred years, while the horn was activated by a stroking motion, not pressing. Count on the Italians to make things interesting then…

Once the fluids were warm and the carbs were happy, we got moving. Not too fast, mind, but at a steady pace. The Fulvia’s engine displaces 1.2 litres, so participation in stoplight drag races is probably unwise.

Nonetheless, as we got onto the highway, the steady burble of the motor at 3,000 rpm was a comforting sound. We reached our first destination, got some photographs in the soft morning light, before joining the daily morning commute to our second spot.

I quickly realized that everybody on the road was inquisitive about this little blue machine that so clearly seemed out of place jostling in between SUVs and trucks. People stared at the car to the point that it seemed we’d be creating a traffic situation of our own. A swift downshift and the little motor sang, as Assyl put some distance between them and us.

The rest of the morning was uneventful, save for an Alfa Romeo 1300 owner who stopped us to chat and compare notes.

It was mid-morning, while we had stopped for a quick coffee break, when I realized what the Fulvia’s game was. Every car has something about it, which makes the heart beat faster. Whether it’s sheer speed, the sound of the motor, the outrageous or elegant design, or the pedigree it possesses, most classic automobiles have that X-factor.

The thing is, after a while, that fades away. Something exotic like a Lamborghini Countach is ridiculously hard to drive. Even a Porsche 911 begins to feel less special once you get used to it, although some might argue that this is a major advantage when it comes to being a practical sportscar. The point I’m trying to make is, over time, most cars begin to show their flaws and to the average petrolhead, this may be enough to curb their enthusiasm.

As we sipped coffee and watched, it became clear that “Gini” is anything but average.

A small body, on a simple yet nimble chassis. A small displacement engine and two carbs, powering the front wheels. A relatively robust four-speed box. Years of rally success under its ‘HF’ guise and timeless pedigree. A sort of understated elegance, which carried on to the interior. Comfortable, yet supportive seats. More than enough ‘romance,’ for those who don’t take their rose-tinted glasses off. Enough obscurity to pass under the radar when you need it to, yet still get the nods of approval from those who know what it is.

Put all this together and you get a highly versatile package that is perfectly at home on the Stelvio Pass, the French Riviera, the VIP parking of the Burj Al Arab and the local grocery store.

Additionally, I firmly believe that a car is a reflection of the owner’s personality and having known Assyl, I can certainly confirm that. He fully embraces the lifestyle that comes with owning a classic car, something the Fulvia commands.

After a fantastic lunch (Mr. Yacine certainly knows his way around his kitchen), we set off into the desert to catch the sunset and capture a few photos.

What was supposed to be a standard photoshoot turned into an impromptu session of light hooning. I could only marvel as this little blue car from 1966 skipped and danced through the sand without breaking a sweat!

The sun finally bid us adieu and we began the journey back to our respective homes. Every roundabout was a mission, as we leaned sideways to counterbalance the G-forces acting on the car at 60 kph, laughing aloud as we did it. After all, the chassis was more than good enough for a successful rally car, so we would be doing “Gini” a disservice if we did not exploit every inch of her capabilities.

The Fulvia is unique in a lot of ways. Its looks and character had won me over, but most importantly, it’s a reminder that machines don’t need to be overly complicated or fast to provide its occupants with motoring pleasure.  As I alighted from “Gini” for the last time that day, it struck me. The Fulvia is a piece of rolling theatre, akin to a movie extra whose presence is never noticed, but whose absence leaves audiences wondering what’s missing. Get to know this extra, however, and they’ll quickly exhibit a level of enthusiasm that would leave the rest of the cast in the shadows.

So, don’t disregard the underdog. It may just surprise you.

Special thanks to Assyl Yacine for spending a full day with the Bandit and giving us the opportunity to get to know his Fulvia properly. Here’s to many miles of classic motoring in the future! 

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