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It just doesn’t get more Italian than this. A warm-blooded potpourri which could sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds – even if it happened through a pair of screaming and suffering front tyres.

Lancia introduced the Thema model in 1984 at the annual Auto Show in Torino. It was more luxurious than the competitors and – in theory at least – better built than the sister car from Fiat. Thema was a handsomely designed executive saloon with a sensible choice of engines such as a torquey and smooth V6 or effective 4-cylinder turbo engines. A sound sales strategy, but perhaps not worth getting overly excited about.

Even Lancia must have found these sensible choices just a tad too sensible, because at the Torino exhibition two years later in 1986, the red carpet was rolled out for a rather different Thema sporting a Ferrari V8 engine. Whoooaar!! All at once the Thema wasn’t only noticed by people wearing blue shirts and dark suits with home equity, good pensions and self-closing kitchen drawers. Suddenly auto journalists and real men wearing driving gloves were lining up to have a taste of this exhilarating four door saloon from Lancia.

A vaguely modified 3.0 liter Ferrari V8 made all the difference.

It was dubbed Thema 8.32 to clearly illustrate the 8 cylinders and the 32 valves living under the bonnet. The engine was the same 3.0 liter V8 as used in Ferrari’s 308 and Mondial Quattrovalvo, but with a different crankshaft and a few other changes in the Lancia, such as a different firing order. It was believed that these changes would suit a comfortable saloon better. The engine parts were constructed by Ferrari in Maranello and assembled at the Ducati factory in Bologna.

Classic Italian elegance from the eighties.

The Thema 8.32 is a rare bird – Lancia built less than 4,000 of them between 1986 and 1992. They were expensive to buy, and with the thoroughly bulletproof and reliable Ferrari technology of the eighties (tongue in cheek), owners often needed deep pockets in order to keep their 8.32 on the road. When new they were approximately £ 40,000 in the UK – which must equate to six-figures in todays money.

Nowadays you can still find really tidy examples for sale at reasonable money. The running costs can be on the high side due to the exotic engine, and there are also a fair few details and trim which are unique to the 8.32 model. Front wheel drive, saloon body and a sober three-box design can be a show stopper for some, while others find the engine thoroughly irresistible and thereby find the whole concept utterly fantastic. However, I think it’s safe to assume that all of us find this creature deeply fascinating. It is proof that there are bored engineers employed at car manufacturers, who are quite dedicated towards killing that boredom, and who won’t take “No” for an answer.

The little electrically operated rear spoiler was one of the 8.32 specialties.

What are your feelings for the 8.32? Have you always dreamt of owning one? Maybe you already have, or still do? Tell us all about it…

14 Responses

  1. David Leadbetter

    One of those cars that I’m glad exists but am also glad I don’t own because I think it may be a disappointment. Was this first electrical “active” rear spoiler on a production car?

    Reply
  2. Anders Bilidt

    I think you may very well be right about the rear spoiler Dave. Other early ones which spring to mind are VW Corrado and Porsche 964, but they were both a couple of years after the Thema 8.32.
    Severely cool saloon. I have no doubt that I would appreciate the engine. – the effortless style as well. Not sure I would appreciate the torque steer quite as much though…

    Reply
  3. Jesper Jensen

    Never tried an 8:32 but some years ago I had a 3-liter LX SW. It hadn’t much torque steer with its 170 HP:>)

    Reply
  4. Anders Bilidt

    Interesting information Jesper. I must admit that the only Thema I’ve ever driven, was a normally aspirated 2-litre car with an automatic gearbox. It was very comfortable, but also very boring and certainly also utterly unable of causing torque steer. If only I could try an 8.32 some day! I would love to be proven wrong about torque steer… ;-)

    Reply
  5. Jesper Jensen

    I’d like to try an 8:32, too :>) . I’ve been close, though. As my former Thema was an LX-version, It had all the equipment of an 8:32 except for the engine:>)

    Reply
  6. Søren Navntoft

    I’m sure there have been a obscure model – probably from US – with an invention like the electric spoiler before Lancia, but I’m also pretty sure that the 8.32 was the first to make it famous, and Porsche to make it street smart

    Reply
  7. Tony Wawryk

    Great engine, I’m sure, but a very boring car to look at, imo – but as I’ve previously said, I’m shallow. I’d take a 130 Coupe over one of these any day…

    Reply
  8. Marc

    I own a blue 1990 8.32 since 2014. It also has the great tobacco alcantara interior, you know, that really cosy suede leather which, personally, I find rather more appealing than the – also very nice – Poltrona Frau leather. Anyway, my motivation was to find :
    1) a rare Italian collector over 25 years old
    2) at a reasonable price
    3) powerful
    4) easy for daily driving
    5) with financial potential.

    Suddenly the Ferrari engine with the Thema’s Rolls-Roycesque interior sprung to mind. After a fair bit of research and blog reading, I found a fabulous original example from first owner, a wonderful Italian gentleman, who was the Lancia – now Maserati – importer in Luxembourg. With only 120.000 kms but after 10 years of little to no running, a partial engine rebuild was highly recommended to avoid bigger problems. Plus some little extras, made it good to double the cost of the car. That’s when point # 5) vanished into thin air. But the car’s now a dream to drive, you wouldn’t think it’s a front wheeler and there’s a special feeling to own something less obvious than a 911 with a fabulous Ferrari pedigree hidden inside. Something reminiscent of the brown paper bag theory if you consider the classic, somewhat boring, design of the exterior. Only a handful of people know what this little gem is about, so it’s nice to feel part of a certain elite in a quirky kind of way. The 8.32 creates a love-hate relationship amongst enthusiasts and always provides very entertaining conversation. An added value I hadn’t considered when looking for one. So, if you like having fun, driving a Ferrari V8 that howls up to 8000 rpm, if you also like taking care of an old lady and, overall, feeling slightly eccentric, go for the 8.32, unquestionably! You can’t ever get bored with one. To hell with point # 5).

    Reply

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