The Y theme was developed in accordance with a well-defined approach, inscribed in the very history of the Lancia marque.

To explain the process is the author himself, Enrico Fumia, engineer and director of Lancia’s Centro Stile since late 1991, the continuation of his experience at Pininfarina where, for Alfa Romeo, he designed the prestigious 164 and the sporty GTV and Spider models presented this year. “Looking at the Lancia models of the past, we identified a series of styling cues, ‘guidelines’ you might say, to interpret and not just replicate,” says Fumia. “Some lines, like the arc that divides the flank, were present on cars like the Appia or Ardea, although in a different way; the same line, reminiscent of a javelin in flight, is also detectable on the Y10 in the slight fold that demarcates the flank.”

In an illustrative overview symbolically dated ‘1939-95’, Fumia has visualised a large part of these stylistic references. “The beltline that descends towards the rear regenerates the concept of flared wings. At the front, the same effect has been obtained with two masses of different plan section, but at the back we would have had to sacrifice cabin space or widen the track too much. It’s the rear lines that give the impression of ‘wings’ on the Ardea and the Appia. Front-end research again turned to these two models for its inspiration,” Fumia further explains, “with the bonnet converging on the grille. In this sense, the Y is not so tied to the Y10, to which it is, obviously, more closely related in the side view. In both cases they’re modern two-box cars.”

The story of the new Y is not a controversial one (in the identification system of Fiat Group projects, codenumbered 840). Its stylistic orientation was already clearly defined in the initial concept drawing, dated January 1992, where Enrico Fumia developed the graphic theme around the losenge shape described by headlamps and grille deriving from the geometry of the Lancia shield. The motif was reiterated on all sides of the car (an aspect the author defines as ‘quadrifrontal’), being repeated in the shape of the rear end and the chamfering that scored the flank, incorporating indicator repeater and door handle.

The painted polystyrene model realised the following March on the basis of this concept sports a grille with its lower angles not as acute as in the rendering but still triangular, inspired by Lancia shields of the past and intended to set itself apart from the numerous interpretations then being proposed by other marques. Two solutions were present that would not survive into project development: roof rails with movable crossmembers integrated into the seams of the roof (a device for which a patent has, however, been lodged) and a rear-screen wiper faired into the body surface – this latter item brings to mind an analogous interpretation on the Fiat-Ritmo-based coupé prototype built by Pininfarina for the 1983 Geneva show, where the wiper was housed in the rear spoiler.

The first model was reviewed alongside the Fiat Punto, whose floorpan, shortened by 7 cm, it uses and the Y10. Impressions were positive and they proceeded to the realisation of a style model to match against a proposal from the I.DE.A. Institute, then busy on the same brief. Simultaneously, Mario Maioli, at the time coordinator of Fiat Group design, asked the Lancia style centre to produce a second model on the basis of an alternative rendering with a more traditional setup. It was the first Lancia proposal that won the three-way contest, rewarding the boldness of its formal originality. The I.DE.A. model was particularly notable for its tail-end solution: a shiny black tailgate – reinterpreting the Y10 concept – with a large backlight and inset area that accommodated the lighting and ancillaries behind glass. Flank and front end were, however, very ‘Punto’ with a Lancia grille. The contest for the interior design, begun a few months later, saw three competing proposals, this time with two from I.DE.A. and one from the Lancia style centre. Again it was this last which prevailed, for reasons of stylistic coherence with the bodywork. “We immediately set out with the idea of having a scooped-out facia, a kind of elegant and sophisticated ovoid container, with a trimmed insert to match the upholstery in a lavish and original touch,” Fumia remembers. “The instruments were positioned in the middle so as to display the information to all the passengers and for two functional reasons: being slightly further away, the eye has less refocusing to do and visibility of the dials is never compromised by the movements of the steering wheel.” Evolution of the dashboard and cabin proceeded in parallel with that of the exterior.

The article continues in Auto & Design no. 95