the move I was amazed by the Beta's lack of rattles and shakes.
This car has really been looked after and was properly bolted
together at the factory. The engine is nice to listen to with
a raspy note from the exhaust and a pleasant induction gasp
from the carb. Unfortunately, before I drove off I managed
to snap the throttle return spring, much to the disbelief
of the owner. Over the last five years the car has never missed
a beat. It's true you know - as soon as somebody mentions
the prospect of selling the car it starts to sulk - they know
you know! With the spring replaced with a stiffer one the
acceleration and throttle response were affected. Without
pinning the accelerator to the floor there was a definite
lack of grunt that it should have had from its 135bhp unit.
You would have to be a hooligan driver to get the Beta going
- with a different spring the story would be different. The
performance test would appear to be unfairly swung towards
the Strada with the Beta at a power disadvantage.
the motorway the car was very stable and extremely quiet,
it was hard to believe I was driving a fifteen year old Lancia.
My nine-year-old Dedra squeaks and rattles more than this
Beta. The gear change I found a little vague with its foot
long wand-like gear lever and I had a little trouble finding
reverse a few times but apart from that - a good 'box with
no niggles. The car handled very well and really tucks into
the apex on fast corners. The Lancia is a driver's car although
for fast driving. I found the brakes a little spongy, even
with the Tar-Ox discs stopping all four wheels. In front of
you the instruments either side of the two circular speed
and tacho dials are not particularly attractive to look at
- almost garish in their green and orange colours, and not
easy to read. The indicator, wiper and light stalks are metal,
topped with plastic grips - easy to use but they look fragile.
Overall a very nice car which deserves to be driven every
day if you want to receive maximum enjoyment out of it.
hop into the Strada. Well I say hop into, I found myself climbing
up on the to the high Recaro seat completely unlike the Beta
where you practically fall into the car. The Strada's sitting
position is very good with its high aspect. you can look down
the bonnet, which makes parking easy, and all-round visibility
is very useful. The Strada has those depressingly small and
cheap looking wing mirrors. Everything inside the cockpit
is at hand and easy to use but the dash is very basic and
Eastern Block. Looking down at the three spoke 'Abarth' embossed
steering wheel you hope that one day the name will no longer
just be a cosmetic styling package but will become a model
designation with advanced performance. Some might say that
the 130TC is not a real Abarth. However, if Carlo Abarth's
intention was to design a car that was completely different
in handling and had much inproved performance compared to
the base model - then in my view he succeeded.
I WAS A TEENAGER these two cars featured highly on the 'cars
I would like to own list', due mainly to seeing racing examples
competing in the BRSCC Italian Intermarque Challenge.
Stilwell brothers campaigned two Strada Abarths, one of these
was the ex-works Karl Jones car with which Bill Stilwell eventually
won the championship outright. Lancia Specialist John 'No
1' Day also won the championship twice with his Lancia Beta
Coupe, often winning races and battling up at the front against
Ferraris, Stratoses and De Tomasos. Twelve years down the
road Fiat Stradas are still being successfully raced with
the likes of John Elbra and Charles Neale at the wheel, and
John Day is still successfully racing a much modified and
virtually unrecognisable Beta Coupe.
driven road-going versions of both cars some time ago thanks
to Ali Serpen with his frighteningly fast sprint-prepared
130TC and my fatherÕs very own Beta Coupe. I liked both cars
as they were fast and aggressive, looking at the time. Now
faced with two similar cars I was looking forward to drawing
on past memories and trying not to be too critical of the
the Beta is the most attractive and appealing of the two cars.
This particular car has been driven daily for the past five
years and has covered just under 50,000 miles. It was purchased
from a Ferrari and Lancia collector at just 16,000 miles.
The only modifications carried out are a set of Tar-OX discs
and the OZ alloy wheels (fitted to preserve the originals).
The Beta looks fantastic from every angle. The paintwork is
just stunning without a dent or ripple anywhere, in fact the
paint still looks wet. Not being a fan of putting modern alloys
on classic cars, the OZs don't look too flashy or out of place.
Inside the car it has that "Lancia Smell". I'm sure it's not
just me, but my father owning two HPEs and one beta Coupe,
I could still recall that smell. Exactly where it comes from
I don't know, it's not a musty or mouldy odour - just hard
to explain and definitely nostalgic.
the risk of over-using a cliche, the driving position is more
acceptable to an ape. You sit a bit too close to the pedals
and too far away from the steering wheel. However, the wheel
does adjust up and down so a compromise can be found. The
immaculate Recaro seats are covered with a special cloth.
It was designed by an Italian fashion fabrics designer called
Ermenegildo Zegna. They still look stylish but the seats lack
any real lateral support, a stark contrast to the Recaros
in the Strada that lock you in place with a vice-like grip.
For myself and passenger the Beta's seats were not uncomfortable
and quick to get used to. You never forget the front view
in a Beta, the way you look across the bonnet over the little
hump which is needed to accommodate the supercharger.
car has covered a lot of miles and feels slightly unloved
and looks used inside. The Recaro seats are comfortable but
like many 130TCs are worn down to the plastic in some places
and could do with re-covering. With Middle Barton Garage performing
over £7,000 worth of restoration including new panels, new
gearbox, new clutch and new suspension, the Strada is almost
sorted but still needs some TLC.
the test the Strada had been sitting for a few months as the
owner works abroad so the car was a little reluctant to get
going. The clutch had to be pressed right down to the floorpan
to select a gear, which was awkward, and the gearchange wasn't
the best either. On acceleration the 130bhp Strada feels very
quick and, in fact, has a 0-60mph time of 8.1 seconds (7.7
according to Fiat). This is impressive when compared to the
modern 5-cylinder 155bhp Fiat Bravo HGT which has a 0-62mph
time of 8.5 seconds. The twin cam engine makes that addictive
induction roar as the twin 40mm carbs suck in air and the
front and lifts as the tyres fight for grip. Fiat and Lancia
specialist Barry Waterhouse once told me that you could floor
the throttle and almost turn the steering wheel from lock
to lock before the hot tyres would take grip and shoot you
down the road to its 122mph top speed.
two-door hot hatch sits high on its alloys, which is good
for visibility but bad for handling. The Strada 130TC is a
fun car to drive but wants to be driven fast all the time,
whereas the Beta is at home pottering around town and also
performs the blasting around your favourite roads with style.
The Beta feels like the superior car, not just on looks and
condition but as an everyday car, that said the Strada has
had an unleaded fuel conversion while the Beta still runs
on four star fuel, making the Strada a better prospect for
the future fuel situation.
imagine a large number of the 704 imported Stradas were either
written off by over-enthusiastic drivers or thrashed to death.
Good ones are hard to find but in the back of Auto Italia
you can usually find a few or by contacting the Sporting Fiats
Club (Formerly the Fiat Twin Cam Register) 01778 440509. Gearboxes
are a weak link in the 130TC (it costs £2000 for a new one),
so a low mileage car with either a new or recon unit would
definitely be worth buying. The 130TC would be a good choice
for a fast second car, it would also be a lot of fun on track
Lancia Beta is a more civilised prospect with a more user-friendly
environment inside. On the 'High Street' test the Beta won
outright. People looked twice at it, with its gleaming black
bodywork. Overall a good value for money 2-litre twin cam-engined
classic car. With only 150 of these cars being imported, finding
a good one is harder than finding a good Strada. Look for
an impeccable service history and limited ownership to ensure
a good car.