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Coachwork by Pinin Farina
The Aurelia presented here, B24S 1155, began its journey in fall 1955 and is one of a surprisingly limited number of Spider Americas originally finished in classic Lancia racing red.
As with the great majority of Spider Americas, this car was destined for export and is likely among a group of Lancia Aurelias delivered to the US in early 1956.
The history of this Spider America can be traced back to the mid-1960s, when it was registered in Connecticut to Gary Vitale, a resident of Watertown. In December 1966, Mr. Vitale sold the Lancia Aurelia to Robert Mellon, an attorney living nearby in Waterbury.
After enjoying his sports car for several years, Mr. Mellon began to work on the Spider America in his hobbyist garage. Given the Lancia Aurelia’s complex nature, he quickly found himself in over his head and the project came to a standstill.
After Mr. Mellon passed away, his estate made the decision to sell the Spider America and, in 2012, this long-forgotten sleeping beauty was reawakened after 40 years in static storage.
The current owner, a respected East Coast collector, acquired the B24S in a partially disassembled state and commissioned Tom Straubinger, a highly regarded Italian car specialist, to perform a complete concours- quality restoration.
With years of experience restoring and maintaining the most exotic machinery – from 12-cylinder Ferraris and 300 SLs to bevel-drive Ducatis – Mr. Straubinger approached the restoration of this Lancia with his customary high standards and attention to detail.
When the project began, the Spider America was a very solid and original 41,000-mile car that had simply been repainted once and parked for decades – the ideal candidate for restoration.
Once disassembled and stripped to bare metal, the Pinin Farina coachwork was found to be free of any significant corrosion or damage and was carefully cleaned, prepared and primed for paint. Using sections of untouched factory paint as reference, the body was refinished in its original red livery and then sent to David Carte’s Classic & Sport in Edinburg, Virginia, for upholstery, electrical installation, and further finishing.
As the bodywork was being prepared, Mr. Straubinger rebuilt the engine and restored the suspension, braking, and other ancillary systems. As the original, pressed steel wheels had become fragile with time, a complete set of optional Borrani “Bimetal” wheels were sourced at great expense and finished in the proper cream color with a semi-polished outer rim.
In keeping with the scope of the restoration, original mechanical components were carefully rebuilt to strict factory specifications and then tested for accurate operation.
Today, this Spider America is absolutely jewel-like in every detail. The engine bay is virtually spotless and correctly detailed down to the finishes and fittings. The Pinin Farina coachwork is exceptionally straight and beautifully finished with the proper brightwork and lighting. The cockpit is tastefully trimmed in black with Pirelli diamond matting, and the trunk is upholstered in the correct, tight-knit square-weave pattern.
Offered direct from a respected private collection and brilliantly finished following a painstaking two-year restoration, this Spider America allows its next caretaker to arrive at the world’s most prestigious concours and driving events with a superb example of a rarely seen Italian sports car.
In 1955, as well as today, there is little that could compare – both in terms of performance and style – to a Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider America.
Those familiar with these cars sing their praises. Spider Americas are wonderfully versatile sports cars that will reward the enthusiastic driver who wishes to push the envelope of performance. Yet, they can be driven easily and comfortably in almost any condition. They are true thoroughbreds – beautiful to look at, a joy to drive, and built to an uncompromisingly high standard.
Keeping in mind these already impressive qualities, consider then this car’s well- documented East Coast provenance, compelling barn-find story, genuine character, and exquisite restoration, and you have a classic sports car of the highest order.
Without question, B24S 1155 is among the very best of an extraordinarily refined breed.
The Spider America
Upon its debut at the Turin Motor Show in May 1950, Lancia’s Aurelia was immediately hailed as a technical tour de force. Spearheaded by the legendary engineer Vittorio Jano, the Aurelia introduced many innovative features, including a rear-mounted transaxle, four-wheel independent suspension, inboard rear brakes, and an aluminum V-6 engine developed by Francesco de Virgilio.
The sporting potential of the Aurelia was realized with the introduction of the B20 GT. At the 1951 Mille Miglia, a factory-prepared GT driven by Bracco and Maglioli won the under-two-liter category and placed 2nd overall behind the Scuderia Ferrari 340 America. This remarkable finish was followed by numerous race victories, including a class win at the 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Not only did the standard Aurelia models prove their merit in competition, they formed the basis for Lancia’s first purpose-built sports racings cars, the D20, D23, D24, and D25. These magnificent machines, particularly the legendary D24, were some of the most technically advanced and successful competition cars of the early 1950s.
At the Brussels Motor Show in January 1955, Lancia unveiled their most sporting Aurelia – the B24 Spider America. Based on the fourth series B20 GT, the B24 Spider America shared the model’s improved 2.5-liter V-6 engine and De Dion rear axle but featured a shorter chassis and standard floor shift. With a top speed approaching 115 mph, the Spider America was among the best performing open sports cars of its day and an ideal choice for the well-heeled enthusiast.
The Spider America’s coachwork, masterfully styled and constructed by Carrozzeria Pinin Farina, featured voluptuous sculpted lines, cut-down doors, split bumpers front and rear, as well as a splendid panoramic wraparound windscreen – the latter feature undoubtedly inspired by American styling trends of the period. In keeping with its sporting nature, the Spider America was a strict two-seater with a light folding top and side curtains in lieu of more conventional wind-up windows. As its name suggested, the new Lancia sports car was aimed at the booming US market.
In total, just 240 Spider Americas were built before Lancia replaced the model with the B24 Convertible in 1959. Of these, only 181 were specified in left-hand drive – B24S – configuration. To put context to these figures, the total number of B24S Spider Americas accounts for less than 1% of the entire production of Lancia Aurelias.
Due to their exceptional rarity, beauty, and performance, the Spider Americas are widely regarded as the most desirable road-going Lancia Aurelias ever built.