Lancia Gamma



Gamma Coupe
Gamma Coupe
The upper-medium range "Gamma" was presented in 1976 back when Hugh Poling got his first car (65 VW Squareback). The Gamma, in Sedan (Berlina) and Coupe versions, was a Pininfarina design. The sedan had a two-volume line, while the coupe had three volumes. The Berlina suffered from 'practical' styling similar to the Beta Berlina, but the Coupe was one of the best-looking cars of its era (in fact, the first time I saw a Coupe I almost rushed out to buy one). However, this did give the Berlina a drag coefficient of only 0.37, better than most of its competitors.

Both models were front-wheel drive, with a four-cylinder horizontal engine with opposed cylinders (the same layout as the Flavia) and boasted two engine sizes: 120 bhp, 1999cc and 140 bhp, 2484 cc. The smaller engine was only for the Italian market, to take advantage of the low taxes for cars under 2000 cc. The power output of the larger engine was relatively low for its size, as the designers had concentrated on giving a good torque curve rather than producing as much power as possible. Peak torque for the 2.5 liter engine was 154 lbft at 3000 rpm, with over 90% available from 2000 rpm.

The engine assembly was very compact in height and length and well-balanced, had a short crankshaft without torsional vibrations, weighed only 140 kg. The engine components were in cast aluminum, fuel-air distribution facilitated by dual overhead camshafts (one for each bank of cylinders) activated by toothed belt. The engine was praised for being "delightfully smooth and unstrained" (Autocar), but unfortunately it suffered from lack of development.

The sedan weighed 1320 kg empty and had a top speed of 185 km/hr with the two-liter engine and 195 km/hr with the 2500 engine. The fly-weight coupe weighed 1270 kg with a slightly higher top speed. This was due to the lower drag, as although its drag coefficent was higher, the lower frontal area compensated for it.

Two gearboxes were offered, a five-speed manual, and a four-speed automatic. The latter sapped much of the car's performance, and rumor has it that the Gamma's auto box is the only one more troublesome than that fitted to the Beta. Luckily the manual box is practically indestructible, so if replacement should prove necessary there should be an adequate supply from scrapped manual Gammas.

The early cars used a carburettor to supply fuel to the engine, but from 1980 Bosch fuel injection was standard, though a carburettor was an option in Italy. This made little difference to the power output, though the top speed dropped slightly with injection. The main reason for the change was increased engine smoothness and reduced fuel consumption. There were a number of attempts to increase the power output of the engine. Lancia produced a 16-valve 2.5 liter prototype, producing 170 bhp, and a catalysed Gamma Turbo prototype for the US market.

Joe Kop claims to have a Gamma Turbo, model number 830AC4, serial number 1295. He'd be interested in any information readers may have on this car.

Lancia dealer Waterloo Carriage in London produced their own Gamma Turbo. This fitted a Garrett Rotomaster T04B turbocharger to the carb engine, giving 7 psi boost, and reduced the compression ratio from 9.0 to 7.8. There was little difference in performance at legal speeds, however the Turbo Coupe was 20% faster than the standard car at 0-110 mph acceleration, and had a slightly higher top speed (129 mph). Between six and ten such cars were made.

Pininfarina developed a number of special Gamma prototypes. The Gamma Spider was similar in design to the Beta Spider, with a removable roof panel and rear window, leaving a roll-bar over the rear seats. The Spider was first shown at the Geneva show in 1978, but not put into production. Possibly its greatest claim to fame was the use of the car by Pope John Paul II when he toured North Italy in the early 1980s. At least one Coupe has since been modified to the same configuration, though not by Pininfarina.

The Scala was a Berlina-based four-door sedan with styling similar to the Coupe, and four square headlamps replacing the two rectangular units on the standard cars. It was first shown in Paris in 1980, but again was not taken into production. Perhaps the best-looking Gamma of all was the Olgiata station wagon, shown in Paris in 1982. This was an elegant three-door station wagon similar to the Beta HPE. Again, this variant was not taken into production, and the car was advertised for sale in 1994.

Possibly the most disastrous design feature of the engine was the decision to run the power steering pump from one of the cambelts. Consequently, when applying full lock in cold weather with a cold engine, that belt could snap and the other would continue to run the engine just long enough to cause terminal damage to valves and pistons. Numerous changes were made in an attempt to cure this problem, without success. Regular cambelt changes (at least every 18,000 miles) will help, but the only real cure is to replace the power-steering pump with one driven from the crankshaft.

A second problem is inadequate lubrication causing rapid camshaft wear. This can be reduced or eliminated by running the engine on fully synthetic oil or changing the oil every 3000 miles.

Another common fault is overheating, due to poor water circulation allowing sludge to build up inside the engine. This is often exacerbated by blown head gaskets caused by earlier overheating. It is important to maintain the correct antifreeze level in the engine in order to inhibit this buildup.

Other Gamma Resources

Maintainer: Andrew Cliffe
Last update: 1st April 2001