Junkyard Treasure: 1976 Lancia Beta Coupe

Not many Betas were sold in the United States, and this one appears to have been parked outdoor and forgotten when it was just a few years old.

I thought about buying the clock, but an Italian clock exposed to the elements for 35 years cannot be fixed.

With the windshield gone and the sunroof open, the sunny summers and rainy winters of Northern California have had their way with this Lancia’s interior.

The owner’s manual is still here.

The wooden gearshift has experienced some weathering.

A rare 1976 Lancia Beta Coupe in a Northern California self-service wrecking yard.

A rare 1976 Lancia Beta Coupe in a Northern California self-service wrecking yard.

A rare 1976 Lancia Beta Coupe in a Northern California self-service wrecking yard.

A rare 1976 Lancia Beta Coupe in a Northern California self-service wrecking yard.

A rare 1976 Lancia Beta Coupe in a Northern California self-service wrecking yard.

A rare 1976 Lancia Beta Coupe in a Northern California self-service wrecking yard.

A rare 1976 Lancia Beta Coupe in a Northern California self-service wrecking yard.

A rare 1976 Lancia Beta Coupe in a Northern California self-service wrecking yard.

A rare 1976 Lancia Beta Coupe in a Northern California self-service wrecking yard.

After well over a decade of documenting interesting discarded vehicles for various publications, I have seen many dead Fiats, a fair assortment of crusher-ready Alfa Romeos and even a handful of Maseratis. Lancias, though— that’s another story. Lancia never sold many cars in North America, and those few that were purchased new by brave car shoppers tended to last… well, not for very long. Last weekend, I visited a San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard after Row52 pulled my coat about what the yard stated was a Fiat 124 Sport Spider. That car turned out to be the first Lancia I’ve seen in a self-service wrecking yard for at least 15 years: this 1976 Lancia Beta Coupe.

The Beta Coupe may be best-known, today, as the hilariously terrible car choice made by Jeremy Clarkson for the Botswana Special in 2007. It had a few mechanical issues.

Holy hantavirus! By far the most rodent bedding I have ever seen in an engine compartment, after 37 years of junkyard crawling.

This car has been sitting outside with no windshield and an open sunroof for decades, possibly since it was just a few years old. The engine compartment has several bales of straw and a few cubic feet of poop inside, deposited there by many generations of busy rodents. I worry more about hantavirus (which is spread by rodent droppings) in Colorado junkyards, but you can catch it in California as well. For this reason, I didn’t feel like pulling out the reeking vegetation in order to get better engine photographs.

Cars in coastal California tend to rust from the top down.

These cars had a well-deserved reputation for suffering from rapid and fatal corrosion, but the rust on this car appears to be the usual sort that happens in California: the summer sun nukes the paint, and then winter rainwater pools on the exposed metal and rots it. I’m sure the floors beneath the carpeting would show scary rust as well, but I’m not huffing vaporized mouse poop as I pull up icky 43-year-old floor mats. Some usable bits remains, and I hope some lucky Bay Area Beta owner grabs all of them.

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