14th Jun, 2023 13:00

Imperial War Museum | Duxford, Cambridgeshire

Lot 111

1915 Lancia Theta Hydraplane Runabout
Highly regarded Lancia model and first supplied to New York

Estimated at £120,000 - £140,000

Lot details

Registration No: DS 6634
Chassis No:

  • Highly Regarded Lancia Model and first Supplied to New York
  • Retains its original engine, gearbox, axles, numbered bonnet with brass lighting equipment by Rushmore
  • Lancia Motor Club commented on how ‘remarkably original’ it was in 1982
  • Previously subject to an extensive engine overhaul
  • Current family ownership since 2011
  • Re-cored radiator and converted to 12v electrics

A talented automotive engineer, Vincenzo Lancia founded an automotive company in his own name in November of 1906. Previously he had been FIAT's chief test driver but in 1907 he was ready to launch the first car under the Lancia name with an ethos of original design, defiance of convention that would be forever associated with the name.

Lancia introduced the 35hp Theta in 1913. Powered by a 4,940cc four-cylinder side-valve engine producing 70bhp, an output good enough for a top speed of some 75mph, Vincenzo Lancia specified a typically innovative built-in electrical system for the Theta that included an electric starter, previously not seen in Europe. Built in two different wheelbase lengths (3,100mm and 3,378mm), the Theta chassis was capable of carrying different coachwork styles and was, therefore, a relative success big hit in the USA. With the last chassis delivered in 1919, by which time almost 1,700 had been made, some 25 are believed to survive, with many having lost their original coachwork over the years. This Theta appears to retain that original American-built Hydraplane Runabout coachwork and is in a very good condition.

Originally supplied in New York by American Lancia agents, Thomas Evarts Adams Inc., this Theta later found its way into the collection of Bill Harrah. Arriving at Liverpool, UK, in 1981, the car still retains its original engine, gearbox, axles, etc. still with its original numbered bonnet, with brass lighting equipment by Rushmore. All the brass, the wheels, convertible top and the floors present as original with original details such as the brass edging. Whilst in the USA the running boards had been removed in the USA but have since been reinstated. In production from late 1913 to 1918, chassis number 2645 was produced in 1915 when chassis from 2280 to 2730 inclusive were assembled. It is engine number 301. A letter from the Lancia Motor Club, dated 1982 (copy on file), confirmed it as a 1915 chassis and described by the Lancia Motor Club as ‘remarkably original’ in 1982.

Used and maintained in the custodianship of John Blake until July 1986, the Theta then passed into the hands of Malcolm Elder, who also used the car before executing a restoration in the 1990s. The chassis and running gear has been extensively restored along with the engine, which has benefitted from new connecting rods, valves, pistons, white metal bearings, and overhauled water and oil pumps, with photographic records on file.

Engine overhaul notes from the history file:

Crankcase line bored, new bronzes for main and big end bearings made and fitted, New connecting rods, nuts and bolts, Re-metal all bottom end, Crank ground, phased (not just reground, phased to ensure all the - crankcase pins are in the right place, thus ensuring all faults are corrected) and balanced with flywheel, Block bored and honed (had to correct the centres thus ensuring all bores in the right place and perpendicular). Valve seats re-cut, Also benefitting from the following new items; pistons fitted (and balanced), valve guides made - SG IRON, valves manufactured to high specification - S and G Valve Manufacturers, valve springs, little end bearings, oil pump fitted with modifications to improve pin lubrication (centre of gears drilled to improve internal pin lubrication), the oil pump is a known weakness in this model. Additionally benefitting from: Pressure relief valve overhauled, Air compressor overhauled, New 3165S shaft for water pump made, Twin mechanical seals fitted front and back to water pump, New standpipes made for priming cups x 4, Oil seals fitted to magneto drive, Magneto rebuilt.

Additionally, the radiator has benefitted from a re-core. Still retaining the original electric starter, the electrics have been converted to 12v from the original 6v system and incorporates a modern 12v fuel pump and traffic indicators. The body was restored and repainted by Vintage & Classic Paintshop using Tekaloid paint in 2009, with “the body primed 3 times in total”. A letter on file, from February of 2009, documents the ‘work carried out’. “The undersides of the wings were painted with a high-quality Black stone chip protector. The seams of the wings were sealed.” Inside, the Black leather upholstery is new, with all the original instruments, including the speedometer, being subjected to an overhaul.

An American ‘Brass Era’ eligible motor car, examples of this marque have previously completed the famous Peking-Paris event in 2007 and 2010, with many thousands of miles covered, indeed, the Theta has been used on various VCC rallies. The Theta is offered accompanied by a history file containing technical drawings and diagrams, a copy of the workshop manual, a copy of some relevant articles - such as a document on engine overheating, import paperwork from 1981, notes on the engine overhaul, a facsimile of the original handbook, a collection of old MOTs and the current UK V5C registration document.

For more information, please contact:
James McWilliam
07943 584760


Auction: Imperial War Museum | Duxford, Cambridgeshire, 14th Jun, 2023

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Tuesday 13th June 2023 from 12pm to 6pm
Wednesday 14th June 2023 from 9am

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