1976 Lancia Beta Coupe Group 4 Works
The Beta Coupe was introduced in 1973 as the successor to the hugely successful Fulvia model. An attractive car penned by in house designer, Pietro Castagnero, it was first revealed at The Frankfurt Motor Show in Autumn 1973. Whilst the Stratos was the star of Lancia rallying programme, the manufacturer had learned the sales gains brought by competing with a standard looking model from the Fulvia, hence the Beta was homologated into Group 3 and 4 in October 1974.
The bodywork received exaggerated flared arches giving the Beta a very purposeful look, two engines were used, the 8 valve 1890cc unit providing 175 bhp for Group 3 use whilst the Group 4 cars featured the Abarth sixteen valve head as used in the Fiat 131 Abarth Works Rally Car.
Not much was expected of the Beta, with the Stratos clearly marked out as the hero car, however the Beta performed even better in its early days than the Fulvia had. In its first event at home in San Remo, the Kenyan Shekhar Mehta took a fine fourth place. Next to North America for the Rideau Lakes Rally in Canada where Lampinen’s Beta excelled in the mud and snow. It was only team orders from boss Cesare Fiorio that led to the Beta slowing down in order to let the Stratos of Munari overtake and claim victory with Lampinen coming second. The Beta continued to provide a supporting role to the Stratos throughout the 1975 season and undoubtedly helped Lancia to secure the world championship that year.
In 1976 Lancia sold the Works Betas to other teams and this car (along with several other Betas) was bought by Reseau Chardonnet, the French Lancia importer. Under the name Team Chardonnet (with a distinct blue livery) this car made history by being the only all-women rally team with Anny Charlotte Verney and Marie Madeleine Fouquet running this Beta in a number of events, including the 1976 Tour de France.
The Beta remained in France and was restored back to its original Alitalia running livery in the early part of this century, the car featuring on the cover of the Italian Gentleman Drivers Magazine in March 2006. Shortly after this, in October 2007, the Beta was issued with an FIA Technical Passport for the GTS 26 Class. This document remains on file.
John Hughes had made several abortive attempts to buy the Beta having come across it at a number of events. Eventually in 2012 the French owner relented and John swapped his Fiat 131 Abarth Rally car and money for the Beta. Following purchase, KeySport, who already knew the Beta well, inspected and serviced the car, fitting a larger fuel long range fuel tank and modifying the seats to suit along with a myriad of detail work as detailed in extensive invoicing, illustration and correspondence on file.
John went on to enjoy the Beta in a number of events including several San Marino classic rallies and the Monte Carlo. It was entered as the official FiVA observation car in the 2013 San Marino Historic Rally, again with John as the driver, covering the event in his role as President of FiVA Historic.
Today the car remains in fine order and as with his Fulvia, it has an authentic detail patina so often lacking in competition cars. It comes with a good history file and will be fully checked and serviced before sale.
Although always regarded as the underdog to the Stratos, this Works Beta Group 4 has real presence and an aggressive stance and would be welcomed by many world class historic events.