The Wizards Of Oz.
I recently made mention of Mr Cox, who gently pointed out that my proposed Alvis Special bore more than a passing resemblance to the Lancia 'Astura' - a car I hadn't heard of, let alone seen. Mr Cox has 3 Lancia projects on the go, but first I must mention that we began an occasional correspondence nearly 10 years ago, following my request, via Prewarcar.com, for information on Bayliss Thomas cars, then still extant.
Mr Lobb, of a neighbouring parish, had a Mulliner bodied example with a Meadows 4EC engine and mine had the less sparkling (even after a rebuild) 4EB power unit - though with a more rakish Holden body. There was another one up in Scotland and, in store, a further example at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu. The rest - at least another 5 - were abroad and one of those belonged to Mr Cox in Australia. His car started out with a 4EB block which was adapted to take the 4ECA pressure-fed crank (the 4ECA was sold as a stationary engine from the late 30's to the early 50's) and an oil pump was installed on the 4EB fuel pump mounting. Careful work on the porting hugely improved the breathing on the inlet side (the engineer responsible suggested that Meadows had deliberately strangled the 4EB to protect the older 2 bearing crank) and the compression ratio was increased to 7:1.
A distributor conversion, alternator and a 30's Riley gearbox completed the mods and gave the hybrid sensible performance worthy of a 2-seat roadster.
Some years later, a new and fascinating project materialised with the discovery of a comparatively rare Lancia engine. In Mr Cox's own words, 'A bit over two years ago, Gary, a Lancia friend of mine, asked if I'd be interested in helping him build a Special around an interesting Lancia V8 engine he'd found in Germany. The engine was originally intended to be installed in a WW2 Lancia 'Lince' Scout car - a 3-metre-long, 3 tonne, 4WD jigger with a top speed of 80kph. Built in the last days of the Second World War, Lince production was curtailed by allied bombing and it appears that twice as many engines were produced than vehicles. The engine is a narrow angle V8 2.6 litre unit as fitted to the Lancia Astura (1932 to 1944) but with a dry sump and magneto ignition. The story that accompanied this engine was that it was war-surplus and never used.'
'After removing the rocker covers and sump, we found no signs of wear or use. Clean oil and machining marks were still evident on the camshaft lobes. Further investigation found that the alloy casting at the rear of the engine was twisted (a casting fault) preventing the gearbox and starter motor from being attached. After further testing, cleaning and rework of the offending casting, we briefly ran the engine. Full oil pressure and all the right noises indicated success. Having established that the engine was viable, we then had to think about an appropriate chassis.'
'After a bit of head scratching, I remembered that a crony of mine had a Lancia 'Artena' chassis, kept as a source of spares for his original saloon. The Artena shares the same basic chassis and components as the Astura, except for the engine. A 2 litre V4 was fitted instead of the Astura’s V8. After a bit more thinking and negotiation, we purchased the very dismantled rolling chassis and set about building the 'Artena-Lince' Special.'
'We had the chassis lengthened forward of the firewall to accommodate the longer engine and then added another 100mm to allow the radiator to sit behind the front axle (contrary to the Artena's layout but giving a more vintage look). Removing 200mm from the rear of the chassis gave us the 1st series Astura wheelbase of 3177mm; still a long car. Most of the mechanical bits were rebuilt or replaced with modifications which included a blower, overdrive and a modern differential. The diff was chosen to allow us the option of a variety of ratios, should the 3.5:1 unit we fitted prove unsuitable.'
'Gary was keen to have a simple, vintage style, doorless, pointed tail body, so earlier this year, I fabricated a frame and the car is currently being skinned.'
By the tin man....