Rare Rides: Ferrari-Powered 1991 Lancia Thema 8.32, the Superior Sister of Saab and Alfa Romeo

It would be understandable if the Lancia Thema you see above put you immediately in mind of a Rare Ride from a few days ago, the gold-plated DeLorean DMC-12. While that car had an entirely different purpose from the Lancia you see before you, the two did have a couple of things in common. Both were designed by Italian legend Giorgetto Giugiaro. And like the DeLorean, the Lancia also suffered (in normal trims) with the same Peugeot-Renault-Volvo V6 engine that made Eagle Premier owners miserable.

But that’s where the similarities end. Because today’s Thema sheds its multinational, mediocre V6 power for some purebred Ferrari horses. And you don’t even have to do the import paperwork.

Like all good things, the story starts back in the 1980s. Lancia, Fiat, and Ferrari were all under the Fiat S.p.A umbrella, while Saab was still an independent. All players were interested in a new midsize executive sedan, and agreed cost-sharing was in their mutual interest. Thus, the Type Four platform was developed.

Four cars came from this collaboration, two of which we received in the United States. Most well-known of the lot is the Saab 9000 (a beauty) large sedan. A little less known, the Alfa Romeo 164 was the final Alfa sedan product offered on North American shores; the brand bailed after 1995. The other two obscurities were the Fiat Croma (meh) and the Lancia Thema (sweet).

Before we continue, watch one of my favorite presenters, Chris Goffey, review the 164, Thema, and 9000 on old old Top Gear.

Most versions were rather mundane, with standard small European gasoline and diesel engines. Except for one. Lancia decided it would build a range-topping sports sedan, and endowed the Thema with a modified 2.9-liter V8 from the Mondial. It used a cross-plane crankshaft rather than a flat-plane, and was built at the Ducati factory instead of at Ferrari. A number of horses between 200 and 250 (it’s unclear) raced to the front wheels through the five-speed manual.

The nomenclature 8.32 stands for the average number of times it would be in the shop each month number of cylinders, plus the number of valves in the engine.

The car started at £40,000 in Great Britain circa 1987, or £107,600 in today’s money ($145,147 USD). Because of the astronomical price, just nine were sold in the UK. There were two model versions of the Thema 8.32 — Series 1 from 1986 to 1988 (2,370 produced) and Series 2 from 1989 to 1992 (1,601 produced).

Today’s example is a Series 2 imported by a brave owner to the small town of Seattle, which is somewhere north of downtown Los Angeles.

The seller indicates a recent engine overhaul, and otherwise excellent condition, aside from some sun damage to the leather dash and unfaithful front power windows. The leather interior was a seriously costly additional extra, even at this level.

With low miles and high rarity, the asking price of $15,000 seems reasonable for a chunk of Italian unobtanium. You can have it serviced at your local unicorn store.

[Images via seller]


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