Buyer’s guide: Lancia Aprilia

| 23 Feb 2024
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Lancia Aprilia

Why you’d want a Lancia Aprilia

The last car conceived by Vincenzo Lancia, the Aprilia was designed by Battista Falchetto, who also helped style the Lambda, and was one of the first road cars to be wind-tunnel tested.

The shape was exceptionally smooth, with the boot blended into the bodyshell.

The Lancia Aprilia was of integrated monocoque construction, with four pillarless doors. It boasted a light, compact, narrow-angle V4 engine with hemispherical combustion chambers, and four-wheel hydraulic brakes – inboard at the rear – with finned aluminium drums.

A 9ft wheelbase within a 13ft-long car meant that it had a wheel at each corner and, with sophisticated independent suspension, the Aprilia feels incredibly modern for its age.

Even Vincenzo himself, the ultimate critic, spontaneously declared after his first drive in the prototype: “What a magnificent car!”

A platform chassis with a 4in-longer wheelbase was produced for coachbuilt bodies, which made up 30% of Aprilia sales: early on, Trasformabile cabriolets were series-built by Stabilimenti Farina, and post-war versions had leaf-sprung live rear axles.

Lancia still preferred right-hand-drive, regardless of the market: no left-hand-drive Aprilias are known.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Lancia Aprilia

First-series Aprilias were imported to the UK by Lancia Works of Alperton without trim or even bumpers to minimise import duties; many were upholstered in leather instead of the standard cloth.

The Aprilia was not sold in post-war Britain and most in the UK now have been imported, including ʻourʼ car, which arrived 10 years ago from Australia.

The Lusso (luxury) version differed in many details, with running boards, and square, geometric instruments including a clock, thermometer and fuel gauge.

The larger engine for the second-series Aprilia required complete re-engineering, because a narrow-vee engineʼs angle is dependent on the bore, stroke and conrod length.

At 1352cc, the vee angle was just over 19°; for 1486cc it was 17°.

Both the quality engineering and attention to detail in the Aprilia are delightful: rubber strips on the bumpers were another pioneering feature.

Rust and the difficulty in finding some parts are the biggest enemies today – service items are widely available, but an incomplete car can be a challenge to restore.

Images: James Mann

Lancia Aprilia: what to look for

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Lancia Aprilia

Trouble spots

Please see above for what to look for before you look at any Lancia Aprilia classic cars for sale.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Lancia Aprilia


Compact dimensions with a good power-to-weight ratio led Lancia to the narrow-angle V4.

A Weber carb (as here) is a common substitution for the original Zenith.

Details vary between cars: this has a rear-damper control and brake-fluid reservoir on the bulkhead, with the oil reservoir for the front suspension on the other side.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Lancia Aprilia
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Lancia Aprilia


Lancia’s sliding-pillar front suspension was first used on the 1922-’31 Lambda, but was still leagues ahead of other set-ups when the Aprilia was new.

The complex but effective independent rear suspension was state-of-the-art. Inboard brakes seize if not used, with tricky access via a trapdoor in the boot.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Lancia Aprilia


Without synchromesh, but beautifully engineered, Lancia Aprilia gearboxes can jump out of the straight-cut first if worn. A juddering clutch points to leaking gearbox oil.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Lancia Aprilia


Cloth to recreate trim in most original Lancia Aprilia colour schemes can now be sourced in Italy; first-series cars sold new in the UK were often trimmed locally in leather.

Lancia Aprilia: before you buy

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Lancia Aprilia

The compact V4 engine has a central overhead camshaft driven by a Duplex chain, operating triple rocker shafts above and alongside it.

The block is in aluminium alloy with steel liners, the cylinder head cast iron and the rocker cover alloy.

Lancia even experimented with a fuel-injected Aprilia in 1937, and a narrow-angle V6 in the 1940s. A Nardi twin-carb conversion is a rare but desirable extra.

The second-series engine has a bit more torque; both are reliable, long-lived units and parts are available to rebuild them when worn.

Power loss at higher speeds may be down to a worn fuel pump (easy to rebuild).

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Lancia Aprilia

A leaky water pump is expensive to replace; so, too, is recoring a clogged radiator, due to the dynamo passing through its centre.

Electrics were 6V, updated to 12V in 1939. The spark-plug connectors can breakdown in the rocker cover, causing a misfire.

Lanciaʼs sliding-pillar front suspension gives soft, progressive springing, mated to hydraulic damping, low unsprung weight, controlled braking and outstanding steering angles. Look out for oil leaks and broken springs.

The rear torsion-bar suspension is softened by a transverse leaf spring inverted to oppose it. Watch for cracked spring leaves, and rusty spring hangers: if they fail, the car can flip.

Original Italian driveshafts feature 16 bearings that cost €100 each to replace; British-finished cars had Hardy Spicers, which are cheaper but not as well articulated. Special tools can be borrowed from the Lancia Motor Club.

Lancia Aprilia price guide


  • Berlina: £7000/25,000/45,000
  • Trasformabile: £20,000/50,000/100,000


Prices correct at date of original publication

Lancia Aprilia history

1936 Aprilia Berlinetta Aerodinamica publicly revealed at Paris Salon; Ardennes-badged French version on sale in the autumn: larger headlamps, 1620 built

1937 Italian sales commence: first series 1352cc,10,354 built. Founder Vincenzo Lancia dies of a heart attack, aged 55

1939 Second series replaces first: 1486cc, 9728 built; French assembly ends

1946 Lungo LWB version offered, 706 built

1947 Aprilia wins 2000cc Sports and 1500cc Touring classes on the Mille Miglia

1949 Production ends, replaced by Aurelia

The owner’s view

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Lancia Aprilia

Lance Batt’s father Gerald is a founding member of the Lancia Motor Club, with an impressive collection, so enthusiasm for the marque runs in the family.

“I’ve driven them from a young age, and grown to love them,” Lance explains. “This Aprilia was very well restored in Australia and drives like a new car.

“They are very underrated: it can drive happily in modern traffic, it’s much lighter than an Aurelia and it has a special charm.

“I took it to Scotland last year – it has a twin-choke Weber, which was an aftermarket conversion, and it cruises happily at 60mph.

“The gearbox has no synchromesh but it doesn’t need it – the lever just snicks in, it’s a lovely change.

“We have a Lusso version as well, which has been in the family for a long time, and a Spider based on the platform chassis with a body built by Basso – I took that one to Goodwood this year!”

Also consider

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Lancia Aprilia
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Lancia Aprilia

The Citroën Light 15 (left) and Jowett Javelin are alternative classic car buys


Advanced front-wheel-drive monocoque with great roadholding, let down by three-speed gearbox and heavy steering. Rust has ravaged many, but support for the Traction Avant is good.

Sold 1937-’57 • No. built 759,127 • Price now £5-30,000*


A flat-four engine, stiff body/chassis and torsion-bar suspension (double-wishbone front, four-link rear) gave the Javelin an edge in post-war Britain; today they suffer from rust and neglect.

Sold 1947-’53 • No. built 23,307 • Price now £2-10,000*

Prices correct at date of original publication

Lancia Aprilia: the Classic & Sports Car verdict

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Lancia Aprilia

The Lancia Aprilia’s character, compact dimensions and combination of comfort, performance and ease of use give it a near-unique appeal among pre-war cars.

They make it such a relaxed car to drive in modern traffic that it’s almost too good!

Lancia driveability and quality were reflected in a very high price when it was new, which is now hardly seen in current values.

Track down a good (or at least complete) example and enjoy it.



  • Quality engineering exudes from every pore, making working on an Aprilia a delight
  • Most wearing parts are available
  • There’s great back-up from the Lancia Motor Club, and specialists both in the UK and Italy



  • Pre-war charm is almost engineered-out
  • Some parts can be scarce or very costly

Lancia Aprilia specifications

  • Sold/number built 1936-’49/20,064 berlina, 7553 separate chassis
  • Construction steel monocoque, or platform chassis with coachbuilt bodies
  • Engine alloy-block, iron-head, ohc 1352/1486cc V4, with single Zenith 32 carburettor (Weber from 1946)
  • Max power 47bhp @ 4000rpm to 48bhp @ 4300rpm
  • Max torque 57lb ft @ 2000rpm to 74lb ft @ 2500rpm
  • Transmission four-speed manual, without synchromesh, RWD
  • Suspension independent, at front by sliding pillars, coil springs, telescopic hydraulic dampers rear torsion bars, trailing arms, opposed transverse semi-elliptic leaf spring, friction dampers (optional adjustable hydraulic; Houdaille lever-arms from 1939)
  • Steering wheel and sector
  • Brakes hydraulic drums f/r: first-series Lockheed, second-series Sabif
  • Length 13ft-13ft 7½in (3962-4153mm)
  • Width 4ft 10in (1473mm)
  • Height 4ft 9½in (1460mm)
  • Wheelbase 9ft ¼in-4¼in (2750-2850mm)
  • Weight 1936-2090lb (880-950kg)
  • 0-50mph 12.6 secs
  • Top speed 80mph
  • Mpg 28-32
  • Price new £350 (1938)


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