Twin headlights, spirited performance, great handling and front disc brakes meant it was exceptional value for money in Europe.
Writing in the March 1962 edition of British Motorsport magazine, Bill Body extolled its virtues, saying that “it is the poor man’s (Lancia) Flavia, except that it out-accelerates this costly Lancia.
“The Fiat 1500, refined, fully-equipped and sensibly priced, is a genuine 90mph family saloon.
“Indeed, it is faster and out-accelerates such cars as the Series III Sunbeam Rapier and gallops away from Peugeots and similar saloons, as well as disposing of sports MG Midgets and Austin-Healey Sprites.”
Car buyers flocked to this car.
Nearly 2 million were sold.
The Lancia Flavia was Italy’s first front-wheel drive automobile.
First shown at the Turin Motor Show on November 3, 1960, it started production in early 1961.
The technical advances did not stop with front-wheel drive.
A transverse, leaf spring front suspension sat beneath a 1.5-litre petrol, fuel-injected “boxer” four-cylinder engine.
Four-wheel power disc brakes were a revelation — even in Italy.
As a medium-sized semi-luxury car, the Lancia was pitched at the same European market occupied by the Fiat 1800/2300 and Peugeot 404.
What kept sales low was its unresolved styling and subdued performance.
The bug-eyed front end and plain rear flanks did not convey refinement while the 78bhp engine struggled under the weight of the car.