Why Lancia Never Made it in America
Mid-engine, rear drive, two-seater with styling by Pininfarina, basis for a fabulously successful Group B rally car: It should’ve been a home run. But the Lancia Scorpion was the victim of bad timing, increasing safety and emissions regulation and poor decisions, essentially dashing Lancia’s hopes of ever selling cars in the United States.
Around the world, the Scorpion was known as the Montecarlo, but in the United States, the Chevrolet personal luxury coupe was sold under that moniker, so Lancia chose the name Scorpion, in reference to its frequent co-branding with performance tuner Abarth.
The Montecarlo/Scorpion was originally slated to be the replacement for the Fiat 124 Coupe. By the close of the tumultuous 1960s, the demand for traditional two-seat roadsters was fading, but cars like the Porsche 911 Targa proved that customers were still interested in European sports cars with some kind of a roof opening.
In 1970, Fiat began building a series of prototypes – the X1/9, the X1/8 and the X1/20. The X1/8 prototype was finished in the summer of 1970, with a follow-up prototype finished in January of 1971. In July of 1972, the X1/8 was renamed X1/20 and looks even more like the production Montecarlo/Scorpion. The final prototype featured at Targa-style roof, and all the styling details that would make the production version of the Montecarlo by 1974.
Since all the development was under Fiat’s imprimatur, why did the Montecarlo end up as a Lancia? To homologate a new Group B car for racing. Fiat’s brand new X1/9 wasn’t able to move 500 units that quickly to be homologated, so the Montecarlo – which shared and a lot of basic structure with the mass-produced Lancia Beta Coupe – ended up branded as a Lancia.