Lancia Fulvia Works 1.3 HF

According to some people, the car I’m strapped into doesn’t exist. And if I don’t find the right balance between clutch and accelerator crossing this blind crest – they may very well be right. Many have told Alan Henry that he couldn’t possibly own a factory right-hand-drive Lancia Fulvia works car. They just didn’t make them. ‘Had the car for 49 years now.’

Wed Oct 11 2023

Alan had a car dealership in Canberra in the ’60s selling NSUs, Porsches and Lancias. He came across the works car when he was at Lambdas (agent for Lancia at the time) to collect a new car for a customer. ‘It was originally sold to Dennis Pritchard who played football for the Rabbitohs. I told them, “when you want to sell it, give me a call”. Not for sale, as they say. Fair enough’. He smirks. ‘30th of June 1970, 9 am. “Alan do you still want the HiFi?’” Money had to be in the bank by 3 pm that afternoon.’ Alan had the money there by 11 am. The Fulvia works cars were indeed only produced in left-hand-drive, but Grahame Ward at Lambda contacted the factory about doing a batch of them in right-hand-drive. They agreed to do it and two right-hookers were delivered to Lambda. Grahame Ward took one and the other is still with Alan. Lowes in Melbourne delivered one to John Armitage which he used for rallying. It was damaged and never repaired. ‘Lowes took an order from a barrister that they couldn’t fulfil. The shit hit the fan and he was going to sue the daylights out them. So they contacted me and wanted to buy mine to appease him. I wouldn’t have a bar of it. So the factory agreed to put one more together out of spare parts for this guy.’ It was produced three years after Alan’s. ‘Sadly, Grahame Ward’s Fulvia fell over the top of the hill at Bathurst. Going up Griffins Bend Grahame went to drive around the outside of Glenn Seton in a GT Falcon – Grahame ended up taking a short cut down the mountain.’ It’s believed the car was a write-off. The Fulvia marked Lancia’s official foray back into motorsport after withdrawing from Formula 1 in 1955. HF Squadra Corse became the works team guided by Cesare Fiorio, the son of Lancia’s marketing manager.

The Fulvia was the first Lancia to wear the ‘HF’ (Hi Fidelity) badge, complete with either blue or red running elephants, depending on the level of sportiness your Lancia had; red was for the hardcore versions. Originally, HF was a club made up of Lancia enthusiasts and only those that already had at least six Lancias were admitted. Each member was given a badge for the radiator grille with small stars representing the number of cars they owned exhibiting their ‘high fidelity’ to the marque. It made sense for the race team to adopt the HF prefix. Why elephants? Well, that’s unclear. One theory is that they were painted on the Mille Miglia cars to mock Ferrari’s prancing horse. Another is that Gianni Lancia (son of the founder) said: ‘Once an elephant starts running, nobody can stop it.’ The works cars were based on a Series One Fulvia as they were lighter. Lancia made 882 1.3HFs, of which 28 were taken from production in batches for works cars for HF Squadra Corse. Producing 101bhp at 6,400rpm, the 1.3 HF's engine was the most powerful ever used in a Fulvia and had considerable success in the world rally championship. Outside the Amaranto Montebello (Red) paintwork is offset by the flat black bonnet and wheel arches. An easy way to tell a genuine works car is by the wheel arches. Replicas will have fibreglass arches but the originals were made from steel.

Inside you’ll find full harness seat belts, roll cage and a Ferrero Munari steering wheel. Falling for the race-bred road car was an early indication of the path Alan’s life would take. Realising the car dealership wasn’t for him, he went to work at Elfin and was part of the team for the Tasman series. ‘I taught Automotive Mechanical Engineering at the TAFE in Canberra, too. I’d only ever take a 12-month contract because the bastards wouldn’t give me time off to go motor racing.’ Alan became the team manager-cum-chief engineer for Chris Clearihan. ‘I’d done his Bolwell Nagari which he won the Australian Production Sports Car Championship with. It was quick, you had to think on your feet.’ ‘Chris couldn’t tell you tell you much about what the car was doing, but he was a hell of a driver though. The cars are infinitely adjustable, only a couple of degrees between high grip and oh shit.’ ‘A lot is in the setup – get the suspension working right, get your brakes balanced right.’ ‘That’s Barry Lock’s Kaditcha.’ He points to a picture on the wall. They took out the Australian Sports Car Championship in 1982 and 1985 with it. ‘Barry came up to me and told me everything that was wrong with it. Then he watched it in the wet at Lakeside. He said to me, “you’ve altered this haven’t you?” Matter of fact, yes. “Well what did you do?”...that’s for me to know and you to wonder about! Even now at 79, Alan Henry is still engineering parts, helping people set up their race cars and is a source of knowledge to those who want a no-nonsense solution to going fast. ‘You don’t need to spend $30K on an engine to go fast.’ Alan is measured, dry, a little reserved but quite the character. I turn to the Fulvia and ask him what he has got out of the car for the last 49 years – why has he kept it so long? He smirks and says. ‘Come on, we’ll go for a drive and I’ll show you.’ ‘The number plate on it used to read 382PIG and that’s what it is. Unfortunately, it’s happiest in itself above 85 mile per hour, which used to be good but the boys in blue seem to think 62 miles per hour is a better number.’ I strap myself into the passenger seat. Harness on – he turns the key and the engine whirs. One, two, three, four pumps of the throttle and the Fulvia springs to life with a throaty and distinctive purr. The biggest problem Alan has taking it out is people getting too close to the back trying to read the badges. ‘There’s a flyshit of metal between you and 80 litres of fuel.’

He backs out, keeping the revs up. ‘It does everything right, except low speed. Driving it in town is an absolute mongrel.’ The Lancia has 81,000 original miles on the clock but the works engine hasn’t done all of them. ‘I took the works engine out of it and put a spare unit in’, he tells me between gear changes. ‘Used to do some big trips out to Blackwater for four or five years – about 850 miles round trip.’ The original engine is back in now and the only modification is an air cleaner over the trumpets. ‘The intake is probably louder than the exhaust.’ At 4,500 the engine is starting to peak and at 5,000 it really gets going. He throws the Fulvia through the corners and winds it out in between. Windows down, soundtrack provided. We stop at the top of the hill to remove the air filter so I can hear the difference in induction noise on the way back. ‘Right, you have a go’, he says causally before we get back in. ‘Oh no, I couldn’t.’ ‘Why not?’ Yes, why not indeed. I jump in and settle myself. He wants me to turn around and go back the way we came. He tells me he recently had a heart attack and the hot weather isn’t great for him. Thanks Alan, no pressure here driving your pride and joy you’ve kept in perfect condition for the last 49 years! My tuition before taking off consists of. ‘Brake pedal – you need to push it reasonably hard, no assist.’ I turn the key all the way – nothing. He smirks. ‘Now push it.’ The engine leaps into life.

The turnaround makes me nervous. I’m on the crest of a hill without good visibility and only have his words of encouragement to comfort me. ‘You’ll be right.’ The clutch sucks. I baby the throttle a little and let it out and the car moves, slowly. I try a bit more throttle but I’m riding the clutch a bit now – almost stalling, moving a little bit at a time. I’m now across the middle of the road revving its guts out and going nowhere fast. It almost passes out – ‘dip the clutch’, says my co-driver. I tell you, nothing motivates you to find your mojo like an impending collision with a Pajero. I plant my foot all the way and drop the clutch. We’re off! First change, it’s a bit of a grind, but I quickly realise something like this can’t be treated too gently. The Lancia is a race car and needs a bit of tough love. Alan has made driving it look easy. ‘My wife loves driving this.’ He laughs. ‘“You’ve got to be kidding! – you spent half your bloody life converting street cars to race cars now you have a race car as a street car!”...yes dear.’ He asks me if I’m comfortable. I admit that I’m never that comfortable driving someone’s irreplaceable car. ‘No, I mean do you want the seat back further, if you’re all chocked up you’re never going to go anywhere.’ Oh, there’s a thought.

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