SOLD | 1953 Lancia D24 Sport
Chassis no. D24R 0001
Inspired and emboldened by the giant-killing success of Bracco and Maglioli with a second place overall in the 1951 Mille Miglia in their almost standard 2 litre Aurelia, (recently completely rebuilt by Thornley Kelham) followed by Aurelias coming third, fifth, sixth and eighth overall in the 1952 Mille Miglia and an outright win in the 1952 Targa Florio, Gianni Lancia moved rapidly towards building the world beating sports racing car and Grand Prix car which would become the Lancia D24 and D50. Gianni must have thought that if his 2 litre Aurelia with only 80 horse power and a top speed of 160 kph, could average an astonishing 110 kph in the 1951 Mille Miglia against the average 115kph of Villarosa’s winning 4.1 litre Ferrari there were no limits to what he might accomplish with purpose built racing cars built with a clean sheet of paper embodying the traditional Lancia principles of innovative engineering, lightness, excellent braking and perfectly balanced handling.
In 1952 work started on the D20 sports racer which was totally different in design and concept from the rivals produced by Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati. The engine was a lightweight all aluminium, 4 cam, twin plug unit mounted well back in the chassis with 217 bhp and excellent torque. The front suspension, based round a transverse leaf spring, was also completely new and designed to be light and positive while rugged enough to withstand the shocks from the poor road surfaces of the day. The front brakes were huge inboard drums designed to reduce unsprung weight and give the greatest possible friction area – a feature later copied by Mercedes Benz in their 300SLR. The rear suspension and brakes, again by inboard drums, were similar to the Aurelia’s with a transaxle to give perfect 50/50 balance. The car weighed only 850 kilos and soon proved the quality of its innovative design with third, seventh and eighth places overall in the Mille Miglia and an outright win for Maglioli in the Targa Florio.
Development work continued apace at Lancia throughout 1953 and early 1954. Lancia once again used an almost clean sheet of paper to incorporate the lessons learned from the D20 and the comments of their drivers. The D24 had open spider bodywork designed by Pininfarina of a purposeful beauty which he probably never surpassed. The engine capacity was increased to 3.3 litres although a highly developed 2.5 litre engine was also tried with a possible dual role for the D50 Grand Prix car then also under development. The rear suspension was redesigned with leaf springs and a de Dion tube. Inboard drum brakes were retained all round and the front suspension was unchanged. The clutch and gearbox were also completely redesigned. The D24 was distinguished by two air intakes on the right front wing bringing cold air to the redesigned lubrication system. The results of this exotic package reflected all the development work. In November 1953 the D24 achieved a one (Fangio), two (Taruffi), three (Castellotti) outright win in the gruelling long distance Carrera PanAmericana in Mexico. Ascari then won the 1954 Mille Miglia at an average speed of 139 kph. This was followed by an outright win in the Targa Florio for Taruffi.
So in 1953/4 Lancia won outright the three most famous road races in the world, defeating challenges by Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati. Increasingly Lancia concentrated its efforts on the revolutionary D50 Grand Prix car and the last major outing of the D24 was in September 1954 at the RAC Tourist Trophy where the D24s achieved fastest lap but had to be content with fourth place overall.
Clean sheets of paper and excellence in design regardless of cost proved too great a strain for Lancia’s fragile finances. The D50, the only Grand Prix car able to match the performance of the Mercedes W196 in 1955 (a story well told by Chris Nixon in his book “Rivals”) achieved some successes and pole positions at Monaco and Spa but financial problems and the death of Ascari while testing a Ferrari forced the closure of the racing department and the hand over of the cars free to Ferrari whose own Grand Prix cars in 1954 and 1955 were hopelessly uncompetitive. Fangio won the World Championship for Maserati in 1956 but in 1957 he won the World Championship for Ferrari in the Lancia-Ferrari, much modified but in testing established to be no faster than the original D50. There is wonderful black and white footage on YouTube of Fangio demonstrating a D50 on the Monaco circuit – not to be missed.
The D24s were broken up on the orders of the Lancia board of directors, although some of the engines survived and found their way into private hands in Italy. The destruction was witnessed by a young Guido Rosani whose father was a director of Lancia. Many years later in the 1980s Guido Rosani with the help of Luciano Basso in Turin and the unofficial support of the Lancia Museum embarked on the ambitious project of recreating four D24s, built exactly to the original Lancia drawings and using original Lancia 4 cam racing engines. At the same time Basso and Rosani oversaw the restoration for Count Vittorio Zanon of one of the two surviving D24s which had been given by Gianni Lancia to Eva Peron.
The four recreations have been in long term private ownership in the USA and in Europe. One of the four cars was extensively and successfully campaigned by its owner in Mexico in the Carrera PanAmericana (6 times, 2 class wins), Goodwood Festival of Speed (class winner), Goodwood Revival (fastest lap with Jocken Mass and second overall), the Targa Florio, the Targa Tasmania and numerous other events.
The car on offer shows fabulous patina, and has great character; it is supplied with both twin aero screens and a metal tonneau cover over the passenger seat carrying a wrap round single windshield, as used in period. It has been carefully checked over and work done as necessary by Jim Stokes Workshops Limited who also rebuilt the mechanical parts of the D50 Grand Prix cars and looked after the widely campaigned D24's. The car is UK road registration with current 2016 FiA papers. With three 46 DCF twin choke Weber carburretors Lancia achieved 235 bhp at 7,200 rpm – a specific output per litre which would not be achieved by Ferrari until the late 1950s. This car features the sole surviving 2.5 litre, 4 cam, twin plug engine developed by Lancia for the D50 and D24.
Max's driving impressions:
Having spent half a day driving this fabulous car in the English countryside, I found it to be docile to drive with a wide power and torque range, really allowing the driver to exploit the legendary Lancia chassis handling and balance. Unlike many of the sports racing cars from this era, when you are seated and driving you really do feel a part of the car, you sit so low the car feels as though it wraps around you. Compared to the gearboxes used by the Scuderia Ferrari in their four-cylinder cars of this era, the Lancia is in another class, its very easy and makes driving an absolute pleasure. Overall, as a car to enjoy a tour or rally, this really is among the best 50's sports racers.
The Lancia D24 winning the 1954 Mille Miglia with Alberto Ascari
The 1954 Sebring 12 hour race. Period footage showing the Scuderia Lancia Co. with their D24s prior to the race