The Lancia Aurelia B20 was the first GT – or, Gran Turismo car. It passed through six production phases – from 1950 to ’58. F1 stars Juan Manuel Fangio and Mike Hawthorn both drove B20s – when off-duty, of course! That would suggest they were on the speedy side – and they were. Styling-wise, too, B20s were ahead of the field. After all, they had been designed by Pininfarina. Credit, though, must also go to Vittorio Jano. He it was who conceived the Aurelia B10 saloon – in 1950. The B20 was based on that model.
The Aurelia was powered by a V6 motor. Again, this was the first time that that layout had been used in series production. Output was 112bhp. Co-incidentally, that was the same figure as the B20’s top speed. The V6\’s alloy block was rubber-mounted – to reduce engine vibration. A single camshaft operated on light alloy push-rods. Hemispherical combustion chambers housed in-line valves. A double-choke Weber 40 carburettor squeezed through the juice. Transmission was via a 4-speed ‘box – and column-shift. Later versions of the B20 were fitted with DeDion rear suspension. That improved the car’s wet weather handling. Front suspension, too, was beefed up – to counteract brake judder and steering shimmy. On the fifth and sixth versions of the B20, handling and braking were helped by increased torque stats. That was achieved by detuning the motor – via a softer cam profile.
To produce the B20 series, Lancia supplied a a rolling chassis to a succession of coachbuilders. Chief amongst them was Vignale. None of them, though, topped the simple sophistication of Pininfarina’s original. Rarely has coupé bodywork looked as good. You could almost say Lancia broke the GT mould with the Aurelia B20 – and, at the first attempt, too!