1953 Lancia Aurelia B20
Why am I an Automotive Masterpiece?
The post-war period brought a desire, we could say a hunger for renewal. Everything that suggested the past, before the war, needed to be forgotten or overcome. Cars were the "first" vehicle of this renewal. In practice and in dreams. Since its initial appearance, the Aurelia caused a sensation, also because, together with its contemporary Fiat 1400, it represented the first truly new "Italian" automotive product of the post-war period. The B20 coupe version is its pinnacle. Lancia’s first post-war car, the revolutionary Aurelia designed by Vittorio Jano appeared in 1950. Its combination of the first production V6 engine, a 60° design developed by Francesco de Virgilio, with a balanced transaxle gearbox and inboard rear brakes were revelations in post-war Europe. The Aurelia Gran Turismo was presented in 1951 as a coupe evolution (type B20) of the B10 saloon with an engine that, finally, was introduced with a displacement at the class limit. This was the result of the new policy imposed throughout the company by Gianni Lancia, who had taken over from his mother in 1947. The Aurelia engine had been increased to 1,991cc in 1951 and in uprated form went into the B20. Lighter and higher geared than the saloon, the B20 was good for a top speed of over 100mph. Introduced in 1953, the 3rd and subsequent series B20s were powered by a 2,451cc, 118bhp version of the pushrod V6. The shape, designed by Mario Felice Boano and refined and built by Pinin Farina, became an instant classic for its smooth, clean lines and its competition prowess. The car was immediately entered for the 1951 Mille Miglia and three "private" examples, of the four that were registered in the names of their drivers, finished in the first seven places overall and took the first three in class, with Bracco-Maglioli finishing second, beaten only by Villoresi's Ferrari that had over twice the displacement of the Lancia. Bracco, partnered by Lurani, was then 12th overall in the Le Mans 24 Hours after driving his race car to the event from Italy. Lancia prepared seven "Corsa" versions of the car for 1952, six of which registered for the usual "privateers”, and which not only took 2nd, 3rd and 4th overall in the Giro di Sicilia, but finished the Mille Miglia in 3rd, 5th, 6th and 8th overall, 1st, 2nd, 3rd in the Targa Florio, 4th, 6th, 8th and 9th in the Coppa d'Oro delle Dolomiti and, equipped with a supercharger, 4th in the Carrera Panamericana.
The Aurelia Gran Turismo 2500 (definition that includes coupés and spiders) in the B20 coupé version with chassis no. *B20-2342* is an example of the so-called Terza Serie (3rd series). The Aurelia B20 appears to have been classified "by series" only in the first two editions with a 2-liter engine, while the production of the 2.5-liter engine has never been officially classified by "series", a subdivision that entered into common use for greater immediacy reasons. The Third Series (chassis from B20-2232 to B20-2951) was produced from March 1953 to December 1953, with a 118 hp 2.5-litre engine, a more rounded rear without tails, front lights without "eyelids". In 1953 the car was bought brand new and painted green, with interiors covered in the famous Lancia cloth, in a hazelnut tone; the owner was mr. Giorgio Fassio, eldest son of Ernesto who was industrialist, shipowner, publisher known for being active in the marine insurance sector. The Fassio was a very wealthy Genoese family, lovers of beautiful cars; Giorgio himself was close to the Drake, Enzo Ferrari. In 1954 a Chemical/Oil Products Tanker in the family fleet was given the name "Giorgio Fassio". Therefore, an important first owner. But the sporting history of the car, only recently rediscovered, began immediately afterwards, when Fassio sold it to Carlo Croce (although, to be precise, the car was registered to his wife, Anna Maria Mutti), son of Fioravante Croce, another Genoese shipowner. A peculiar coincidence: like Giorgio Fassio, Carlo Croce also had a ship (a cargo vessel) in the family fleet that took his name. He and Giorgio Fassio shared the social class and inevitably hang out in the same environment; their passion for cars does the rest. Croce raced under the Genoese “Scuderia Janua” team insignia, was an excellent racing driver and began to use the B20-2342 on the most important racetracks. He started in 1954 with the Giro Automobilistico d'Italia where he qualified 7th overall and 5th in class. The good result probably led to the sale being finalized and the car was registered in the name of Croce's wife, Anna Maria Mutti. After that first race, for a more sporty outfit, the bumpers were removed and above all the sliding glass windows were fitted. In 1955 the gentleman driver competed in the Coppa del Mare e dei Monti where he was 9th overall and even 1st in class. At the end of April, car and driver touch the sky, taking part in the Mille Miglia. Croce can be described as a veteran, in fact he participated in the 1951 red arrow on Lancia Aprilia, 1952 on Alfa Romeo 1900, 1953 on Lancia Aurelia B21, but obtained his best result only in 1955 with the B20-2342, ranking a very honorable 18th place overall, worthy of the best professional drivers on sports cars. It doesn't end there: in July, Croce was 16th overall at the Coppa d'Oro delle Dolomiti; in August he was 7th overall and 5th in class at the Stella Alpina; in September he was even 4th overall at the important Coppa Intereuropa, on the fast Monza track. The sporting year ends in November on a high note: at the Riviera del Ponente - Circuito di Ospedaletti, the B20 and Croce achieved a superlative 2nd overall, 1st in class. It is also the swan song of the driver and his winning GT: there are no news of Croce after that fantastic 1955. The car remains registered in his wife's name until 1958, but there is no further evidence of any race. According to what his daughter testified, Croce interrupted his racing career following a tragic accident involving a dear friend while racing and the concomitant birth of his daughter. The line of owners that follow is traced and known for a while. We have photos of the car in Italy in 2009, painted light gray and in good overall condition. However, that same year it underwent a complete and documented restoration in Italy. The car gets a black livery, with cream white rims and gray “Lancia” cloth interiors. It is exported and registered in Sweden. With Swedish plate it is back on the roads of the Mille Miglia in 2016, taking part in the re-enactment of the race. So it does in 2017, this time with an Italian plate again, the same it has today. The car has the same sporting livery, without the bumpers, used in its glorious racing season.