Sassuolo to Colchester in our Aurelia B12 – a cautionary tale!

Sassuolo to Colchester in our Aurelia B12 – a cautionary tale!

4 Feb, 2018


Ein paar einführende Worte zum Bericht von Tim Heath, den ich mit seiner Frau 2016 bei einem Fulvia-Meeting in Cuneo kennengelernt hatte. Die Verrücktheit mancher anderer Lancisti beruhigt, man fühlt sich nicht mehr ganz alleine mit seinem „Vogel“. Tim nennt eine Reihe interessanter Lancia sein Eigen, darunter seit 2017 eine frühe echte Werks-Fulvia 1,3 HF, eine 1,6 Sport und 1600 HF – siehe Bericht über den Goodwood Track Day 2017. Auf eine E-Mail-Anfrage mit „Season’s Greeting“ schickte mir Tim den folgenden Artikel, den er auch in Viva Lancia, dem Magazin des LMC veröffentlicht hat.

Ich frage mich allerdings, was an diesen Erlebnissen das Beeindruckendste ist: die verständnisvolle Frau, der Mut, die frischgekaufte Aurelia sofort per Achse aus Italien nach England zu überstellen oder die Hartnäckigkeit, mit der die vielleicht ganz unerwartbaren Schwierigkeiten gemeistert wurden. Viva Lancia.


The title of this adventure seems innocuous enough but….


The story starts mid October 2017 with a road trip to Italy (in a modern) to tick a few “bucket list” destinations. Itinerary Torino first stop to Cavalitto’s with a long shopping list (some for other LMC folk), then onto Sirmioni on Lake Garda for some RnR taking in Verona, before arriving in Padova which was going to be our base for a week. From Padova we intended visiting Venice (never been) by train and boat (the Burchiello river Brenta trip is highly recommended), and also a few days at the AutoEpoca car show. One day was also earmarked for a run down to Modena and Sassuolo where arrangements had been made to inspect a rather nice-looking Aurelia B12.

At this point I should perhaps explain my interest in Lancia is typified by a love of all this Fessia. We have ventured into the realms of sliding pillar with an Aprilia and (don’t get angry) we did not take to it and it moved on. Motivated by Ade Rudler’s immaculate example and the various reports of the overall excellence of the B12 design, we thought it would be interesting to try again with sliding pillar. So, after a bit of research and talking to a few people we homed in on an example for sale in Sassuolo south of Modena.

And so, it was we found ourselves at Best Auto in Sassuolo (MO) staring at a Lancia blu very presentable Aurelia B12.


Aurelia B12 in Sassuolo


The car started on the button and moved onto a ramp for inspection, and afterwards we took it for a test drive. It seemed to do everything, and all the lights worked so we hammered out a deal, put a deposit down, and went off for a nice Italian lunch. Initial plans kind of assumed driving it back to the UK, so when the estimated cost to transport it back came in later that day we resolved to do just that. Best Auto were happy to allow this on a trust basis – that we would post back the Italian plates and registration document when we had got home in the UK. All we had to do was sort the money (wonders of banking via ipad) and insurance. The latter proved a touch difficult with my UK insurer saying they would only insure it as a restoration project back in the UK while it had no UK registration. So, I contacted Axa in France where I have had some insurance services in the past, and they said no problem, even throwing in (for a small fee) Axa assistance European motoring cover. We also took the opportunity at the show to buy a User Manual (in Italian) for the B12.

Best Auto were exhibiting at the Padova show which complicated getting the car and paperwork, but they put themselves out to make arrangements for us to pick the car up on the Saturday.

Aurelia B12 – bought!

Not really planning to buy a car, we were unusually unprepared to take an old Lancia on a 1000+ mile road trip but being resourceful we stopped at a local Italian motor factors to stock up with oil and brake fluid, jump leads, tape, battery charger and fuel filter prior to picking the car up. We were given some sage advice from Aurelia connoisseur Chris Gawne at the Padova show which was in essence – don’t do it! But he kindly gave us his contact details as he knew we would do it!

So, at 11am on Saturday we set off from Sassuolo (having lashed up a supply from the battery for the Sat Nav). Bear in mind this was the first time driving this car at all in anger and probably the first time I have driven a column gear change (although I did briefly drive Brian Hilton’s FAY some 5 years ago). It is also had probably not been driven much since it was restored an estimated 10 years ago.

We had a route to Monza to a previously booked hotel, but 35 km down the road the car boiled over and we pulled into a petrol station for a late coffee and assessment of the situation. Opening the bonnet, it was apparent that the radiator shutters had not opened. Also apparent was I had nothing in the limited set of tools to undo the brake fluid cap which was done up very tight. The car seemed to be losing a small amount of brake fluid at the rear, which Chris had said was a possibility if the car had been standing for a while. It was a priority to undo the cap but nobody at the forecourt had anything useful, so we resolved to press on carefully. The radiator shutters were held open with a roll of cardboard, with coffee drunk, and car refilled we set off again only to boil another 30km down the road. Into another garage forecourt (in contrast to later roads this road from Piacenza to Parma seemed littered with filling stations), another coffee and fill up, we decide it may be easier on the car if we went on the Autostrada and limited to 85kph. We boiled over again after 20km and had to seek refuge in an SOS lay-by. We used our own water reserves of some 3litres to get off the motorway and find a supermarket before everything shut on Saturday afternoon. Tomtom unhelpfully directed us to a non-existent Lidl and then to a very existent Coop where we bought 27 litres of water and a nut cracker. This was the only thing in the shop that would possibly undo the brake fluid cap which it did. The reservoir was half full, so this would need monitoring. We changed plans and aborted going to Monza and sought out a hotel at Moncalieri on the outskirts of Turin we had stayed in during the GammaQuaranta; fitting really as the B12 was acting just like a Gamma! We also programmed Tomtom for a non-motorway route, thinking it would plot the route alongside the motorway through Alessandria and on to Torino. But it had other ideas of a more touristic nature going up to Pavia then cross country all the way to Chivasso and into the centre of Turin at night (not great in a strange and wounded car). However, we were treated to an unbelievable ruddy sunset on the approach to Turin which gave us hope that the weather would hold good.


Aurelia B12 – on the way to Turin


The B12 did not boil over from the “Coop” stop although an eagle eye was maintained on the seemingly very accurate temperature gauge that had been fitted by a previous owner. I should say that this and oil pressure gauge were the only instruments working (no speedo, trip, or fuel). We pulled into our hotel at a reasonable 7.30pm and parked the car whereupon it stalled and would not restart. It seemed to be out of fuel so the 5l spare was emptied but as the car was on an incline it was not enough, and the battery went flat trying to restart. So off we went for fuel (why do most automatic petrol stations not recognise non-Italian bank cards??) and out with the jump leads and she was running again. Checking water and brake fluid, the levels were unchanged which was an excellent sign to go off for a well-deserved Pizza up the road from the Hotel.

Aurelia B12 – another stop on the way home

We had totally forgotten about the daylight-saving hour change, so we left the hotel later than we had planned. Having decided we did not want to break down in a tunnel we planned to go over the top via Col de Mont Cenis. The car had other ideas boiling over just 20 km out of Turin, then twice on the road to Susa. We were now using up our water as the manned forecourts were shut. We did find one tap after a number of 10km boil-overs and refilled all our bottles, but we were concerned we would not make much progress at this rate. And there was a massive forest fire up the side of the mountain which had got all the locals out rubber necking. We pressed on driving as gently as possible up the road to the col. We boiled 4 times on the way to the top. We had to plead with the café owner to refill some of our bottles, but the coffee was good.


Aurelia B12 – best possible guidance

On the descent the car flowed and did not boil – indeed the temperature did not get above 60 deg C although it was cold on the French side of the Alps. After Modane we stopped to take stock and as the car seemed more settled we would try the Autoroute at again a steady 85kph until the first service station. The car went well and we steadily increased speed until we were doing 100kph.

We thought our next pre-planned hotel stop in Troyes (more Gamma connections) was looking good until the alternator light came on at the VilleFrance peage. A stop to check for disconnected wires was all we could do as we had no multi-meter (one of the most important bits of kit when travelling with any old car). As it was going to be dark shortly we decided to truncate today’s run to the outskirts of Dijon where we could find tools and a spare battery in the morning. A lovely meal at Clos du Napoleon in the aptly named village of Fixin, washed down with a fine Gevrey Chambertin and dynamo problems were a world away. Monday was cold and drizzly when we got to Brico Depot as they opened at 7am to buy cheap tools and a multi-meter, then onto NorAuto for a battery. We had been charging the car’s battery in the hotel room during the night, but the new charger had gone phutt, so we fitted the new and fully charged battery to the car. I wired the multi-meter into the SatNav supply to see when the volts dropped to the time to change the battery. Guess my surprise as we set off to be presented with a fluctuating voltage indicating the dynamo was still outputting albeit unregulated. We got onto the motorway and pressed on generally doing around 115kph but occasionally taking this up to 130 kph (GPS), and now starting to enjoy the car. We got to Calais, bought another ticket for the B12 and were on the boat 3 hours before we had originally planned.


Aurelia B12 – leaving Europe (not Brexit)


Off the boat in Dover the B12 sailed serenely through customs whereupon I lost my “rear-gunner” Sarah who had been following in the Mercedes. It wasn’t until Faversham services (the car needed fuel) I managed to call her and tell her where I was. The car was going great – my only (haha) worry was that the dynamo over-volting may blow the headlights. It didn’t, and we got home at around 8pm. Tired but elated!

As a postscript, both the bottom radiator casting and the bottom thermostat housing were found to be badly corroded, likewise the heater hoses were badly perished in discrete areas, and the flexible oil pipe to the gauge wasn’t that flexible and cracked when I unknowing lent on it in the garage. It pumped at least a pint of oil out when I ran the car for 10 seconds. Any of these could have failed at any time during the trip and been more disastrous than what we had to overcome.

What do I think of the car? Well it has measured up to expectations. It has great performance for a saloon, steering and brakes are spot on and it is smooth. We have named her Aurora! Finally, thanks must go in first place to my rear-gunner Sarah for her patience and non-stop driving, along with BestAuto for making the car available to drive home, and also to Ade and Chris for their advice and ongoing support & guidance. Would we do it again (theoretically as we have no plans!)? Yes – subject to a suitable risk assessment! It is a great way to get to know your car and get it into shape for trouble free motoring! But I might look at the rubbery bits a bit closer next time!


Tim Heath / 2.2018


Kleiner Nachtrag zum Fahrzeug:

In den Jahren 1954 bis 1956 wurden 1.380 rechtsgelenkte (und 1.020 linksgelenkte) Aurelia B12 gebaut. Der V6-Motor hat 2.266 ccm, leistet 87 PS bei 4.300 U/min, Radstand 2.850 mm, Länge 4.485 mm, Gewicht 1.250 kg, Spitzengeschwindigkeit 151 km/h.

[Niels Jonassen, Lancia Aurelia In Detail, 2006, p 170 ff]

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