Cars from the first series, which were produced from 1975 to 1978, were known as Lancia Beta Montecarlo and those from the second series, produced from 1979 to 1982, simply as Lancia Montecarlo. In both cases, Montecarlo was spelled as one word, unlike Monte Carlo in the Principality of Monaco. Both series were offered in Coupé and Spider versions, the latter featuring a unique roll-back manually operated Targa style convertible top. A low-power version of the Spider, known as the Lancia Scorpion, was sold in the United States during 1976 and 1977.
Based on the prototype Abarth 030, the Montecarlo was known as the X1/8 (later the X1/20) while in development and was intended to be a Fiat-branded 'big brother' to the Fiat X1/9. It had a similar mid-engine layout, with a larger engine and roomier interior. The car was passed to Lancia, and was constructed by Pininfarina, the original design company, in Turin, Italy.
Total production amounted to 3,835 first series Beta Montecarlos, 1,940-second series Montecarlo's and 1,801 US market Scorpions.
The Montecarlo was a successful turbocharged Group 5 racer and was used by Lancia to win the FIA's World Championship for Makes in 1980 and again in 1981. Hans Heyer also won the Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft in 1980 at the wheel of a Montecarlo.
The Montecarlo was the basis for Lancia's successful Group B rally car the Lancia 037. The 037 retains the center section from the Montecarlo but little else. Its supercharged engine, while still mid-ship, is mounted longitudinally rather than transversely as it is in the Montecarlo.
Lancia ScorpionThe American market Lancia Scorpion was sold in 1976 and 1977 and was modified to meet American emissions, lighting, and crash test requirements. The car is so-called because the name Monte Carlo was already used in America by Chevrolet.
The Scorpion differed from the Montecarlo in a number of ways. It had a smaller engine (1756 cc) because the 1995 cc unit in the Montecarlo did not pass U.S. emissions standards. Between the decrease in engine size and the addition of smog equipment, the Scorpion delivered just 81 hp (60 kW) vs. the 120 of the Montecarlo. The Scorpion had different bumpers to meet American crash tests and semi pop-up headlights with the 1976s having solid rear buttresses (Montecarlo's had glass inserts except for very early models). All Scorpions featured the convertible top. Unlike the Montecarlo, there was only one production run of Scorpions. A total of 1,801 were manufactured in 1976 and sold as the model years 1976 and 1977 (1396 and 405 respectively).
The Montecarlo/Scorpion suffered from several different issues. Between the taller springs used to meet the US height requirements, a lack of caster, and bump steer, handling of US market Scorpions did not meet the promises of the car design.
The engine noise in the interior of the car was sometimes criticized; Road & Track listing noise as one of their biggest complaints about the car, with 'little joy listening to the wheeze of an emission equipment-stifled 4-banger', and Motor calling the engine noise a 'raucous cacophony'.
Harsh shifting is common and increases as the bushings wear (a common trait in mid-engined cars). The rear cross member is a design flaw; the metal used was too thin and is susceptible to corrosion and eventual failure, although stronger replacement cross members are available from aftermarket companies.
The S1 Montecarlo's and Scorpions suffered from overly boosted brakes, which caused the fronts to lock up easily in the wet. These were often criticized in reviews; for example, Road & Track complained of 'severe front locking and 37% fade' and Motor that they found 'it disconcertingly easy to lock up the front wheels when approaching corners'.
As a result, production was suspended in 1978 while the braking problems were resolved by some engineering changes including removing the brake servo. The S2 Montecarlo returned to the market in 1980 and introduced Marelli electronic ignition, which improved torque and the 0-60 speed (from 10 secs to 8.6).
Rust is an issue for the Montecarlo and Scorpion. Unless kept in a dry environment active prevention is required to fend off rust. The firewall and wheel wells are common locations for rust. Rusted floor pans are a major cause of early Montecarlo/Scorpion demise.
In popular culture
- A Lancia Scorpion appeared in Disney's Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977) as Herbie's girlfriend Giselle.