1979 Lancia Scorpion
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The Lancia Scorpion started life in 1970 as the Fiat X1/8 project, powered by a three-liter V-6 motor. In 1972, due to the oil crisis, it reappeared as the X1/20 with a two-liter 1,995-cc straight-four engine. Finally, in 1975 it was production ready with a Fiat DOHC I-4 mill that produced 122 horsepower, and was badged as the Lancia Beta Montecarlo. The car was designed completely in house in Cambiano, Italy, by Pininfarina. In total, 1,805 examples of this mid-engine two-seater were imported between 1976 and 1977 to the U.S., where it was marketed as the Lancia Scorpion in order to avoid conflict with the Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
In addition to the name change, the Scorpion differed from its European counterpart in the following ways: semi pop-up headlights replaced the recessed square fixtures, thicker bumpers were installed to meet America’s crash test standards, and a smaller twin-cam engine was used instead of the Montecarlo’s larger 1,995-cc unit in order to pass emissions testing . This last detail hurt the most for stateside enthusiasts; the smaller engine produced only 81 horsepower in comparison to the original 120 horsepower output. As a result, U.S. testers criticized the Scorpion's lack of power, overboosted front brakes and interior noise. The car was otherwise noted to be a fun ride, with crisp handling, good looks, and a nice open-air experience due to its sliding fabric sunroof. The 1976 car's solid rear roof buttresses gave way to glass in 1977, and these later cars number approximately 430 of the total 1,805 cars built.
Internet group support and a healthy supply of aftermarket parts assist owners today with everything from 2-liter Euro engine swaps to dealing with the rust that plagues these cars. Buying a good example is a great way to experience an Italian mid-engine Pininfarina coupe design for a fraction of the cost compared to one with a prancing horse badge.