The Lancia Thema 8.32 has never really been a “forgotten” part of the automotive landscape. Putting a Ferrari engine in a front-wheel drive saloon car is not the kind of thing a car enthusiast forgets.
But that’s with a good few decades of hindsight to dull the wow-factor of such a thing. Since the 8.32 emerged in 1986 we’ve had Ferrari engines – or Ferrari-adjacent engines – in other saloons like the Maserati Quattroporte and if you squint a bit, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio too. As of this year you’ll find one in an SUV of sorts, the Purosangue.
But this was a Lancia, a car you could also buy with a four-cylinder diesel in some markets for heaven’s sake. History does not record what drove Vittorio Ghidella, who ran the Fiat group at the time, to sanction Ferrari handing over a version of its 32-valve V8 engine for the creation of a plush saloon.
While we might think of the Thema as being a bit pedestrian, it’s probably important to note that the Lancia brand was still dripping with goodwill in the mid-1980s despite dropping a few clangers here and there, on account of its wild success in rallying. Three years earlier the 037 had won the manufacturers’ title, and a year after the 8.32 debuted, the brand would begin its record-setting winning streak with the Delta HF 4WD and Delta Integrale. Saloon car with a Ferrari engine? Unusual, but not outside of Lancia’s remit.
This late-1980s ad for the 8.32 makes sure to mention that rallying success, though the ad people would not have known that Lancia would go on to increase its six-title tally to ten by 1992.
The Ferrari engine is mentioned too of course, referenced prominently in the main image, and then given a few lines in the text, alongside humbler Themas. The entry-level 2000 ie gave the Thema range quite some bandwidth, the 8.32 being around three times the price of the £12,495 starting point.
“Pure Lancia”, reads the final sentence of the ad. That’s presumably despite the large prancing horse-shaped elephant in the engine bay, but as meetings of minds go, this was a compelling one.
There’s only one thing we’re confused about though: whose choice were all those visible paragraph breaks in the ad copy?
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