Motoring Trailblazers - Lancia Ardea

Sat 3rd Aug 2019

The world of motoring is hurtling headlong into a bright new future of all-electric, automated, connected technology - and Marty McFly is not behind the wheel! But what were the cars that were ‘back to the future’ of years gone by?

There have been many different trailblazing motors which were seen by the critics to be ahead of their time, and in this series, we will investigate and showcase many of the best in class.

Lancia Ardea
Produced from 1939 to 1953, the Italian car manufacturer Lancia, found a real winner with the Ardea, a car which was synonymous with the streets of Rome in the early 1940s as it was the vehicle used for more than 500 taxis in the city.

The Ardea was also adapted to a light van ‘furgoncini’ and light truck ‘camioncini’, and as with many Lancias of the time was produced with a right-hand drive, even though Italian leader, Benito Mussolini demanded that all Italian vehicles drive on the right-hand side of the road.

The Ardea’s place in the pantheon of groundbreakers comes due to it being recognised as the first mass-produced five-speed transmission - a feat which whilst giving the car a higher maximum speed, was mainly introduced to ensure greater fuel efficiency at a time when postwar fuel prices were spiking.

This innovation came in 1948, the same year that Ferrari produced the 5-speed Tipo 166, but as there were only a handful of the Ferrari’s built, it is the Lancia which takes the place in the history books, much earlier than Alfa who arrived on the scene with five-speed transmission in 1955.