Mid-Engine in Maine: 1976 Lancia Scorpion

The Lancia Scorpion was called the Montecarlo for the rest of the world. It was a rear-engine, rear-wheel drive sports car that was made from 1975 to 1982, during what I like to call the Disco/New Wave Era.

Movie buffs may remember the Scorpion as Giselle, a "luscious little Lancia" which was the object of Herbie the Love Bug's affection in Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977).

Apparently, only 1,801 were called "Scorpion" and made for the U.S. market. I had no idea it was so few.

That makes this a very rare car. Who knows how few could be left. Probably only a couple hundred by now, and even less in use.

Unfortunately, the U.S.-spec car wasn't all that it could be.

The Scorpion was only sold in the U.S. for two years, from 1976 to 1977, at the height of the Carter Malaise Era regulation strangulation. As such, a number of changes had to be made to sell the car here. The engine was decreased in size from 1995cc to 1756cc, and when combined with added smog equipment, resulted in just a pathetic 81 horsepower, down from 120hp the Euro-spec Montecarlo produced.

Cosmetically the vehicle also had to be altered. Handsome rhomboid single-unit Euro lamps were replaced with foolish small semi-pop-up lights that were doubtless inferior for night vision. The front and rear bumpers were made larger to pass crash tests. The rear buttresses were made solid, instead of glass.

The results were not appreciated. Road & Track said there was "little joy listening to the wheeze of an emission equipment-stifled 4-banger".

All that said, they sure do look pretty, thanks to Pininfarina's talented design house, who were almost at the peak of their powers during that time. It has an aggressive forward leaning stance, long flat hood, squared off corners, sloped back and handsome rear taillight arrangement. It's a tiny car but the proportions and shape are respectable and cool looking.

The Scorpion was a classic case of all-show, no-go.

This '76 model is up for sale in Maine, of all places. The seller states it runs and drives fine but needs a restoration, and they don't have the time to give it the attention it probably needs. They give little other info. One of the most important questions will be about rust. As in, does it have any. Lancia Scorpions have a horrible predilection for rust, like a lot of other Italian cars of the '60s, '70s, and '80s. This one currently being located in cold, wet coastal Maine, it could be a bona fide rust bucket. Maybe that's the "restoration" the seller refers to it needing. If so, it could be a deal-breaker. The car is not terribly impressive to start with, so a complete restoration with rust repair isn't going to feel good and worthwhile after it's finished not to mention being very expensive. I would insist on inspecting it in person and have it hoisted above to see the underside completely. If you find any rust, you'll have the ball in your court in terms of pricing.

The seller's photos are small and they have no pictures of the interior, which is irritating but not unusual for craigslist. I did however note two possible damage areas:

If there is no rust or irreversible damage, this thing would be fun as an inexpensive acquisition to bomb around locally on twisty roads. I'm sure it handles well, but with only 80hp highway traveling isn't going to be fun. It also would be extremely costly and time consuming to convert to Euro-standards, but that could still be an option for those with deep pockets and a special passion for this car.

Find it here on craigslist in Norway, Maine for $2,500. The seller wishes interested parties leave their names and phone numbers so the seller can call potential buyers. I say, try bagging it for $1,000 or less.

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