The story of the genesis of the new Lancia flagship, the Thesis, is presented in all its multifaceted detail, in the words of the people responsible for what they called the “841 Project”. “The Thesis is the first born of a new wave which includes the Phedra and the New Y, to be launched next year”, explains Flavio Manzoni who was chief interiors designer at the time of the Thesis project and has been director of the Lancia Style Centre since November 2001.
The styling of the new car owes a lot to another Lancia design project which appeared at the Turin Show as the Dialogos concept in 1998. While initially the two projects ran independently, they were developed side by side at a later stage and when the design of the 841 was eventually frozen, its shape clearly revealed the influence of the Dialogos.
“We began in 1997 with a brief to design a saloon that was 4.7 m long (which is 20 cm shorter than the Thesis turned out to be in the end) on a 2800 mm wheelbase. And we were to work on a purpose-built dual frame floorpan”, explains Massimo Zappino, chief car designer at Lancia.
“Originally, the 841 was intended to be an ultra-classical booted saloon”, continues Marco Tencone, chief exteriors designer. “Then after the presentation of the Dialogos they asked us to introduce as much of that concept car as we could onto the 841 for which the architecture had already been established”.
Mike Robinson now director of the Fiat Style Centre looks back rather nostalgically to his time as the man in charge of the 841 Project. “You rarely get the chance to lead a programme as ambitious as that one”, he says today. “I’d call it an “ethnic” design, in the sense that it attempts to re-establish the brand’s cultural roots rather than seeking to emulate the competition”.
The article continues in Auto & Design no. 135