I used to cruise South Tacoma Way and its used car lots. I would buy cars like shoes. One day I saw this sharp looking silver car. It was only two years old, drove like a dream, had a great price and low miles. I had never heard of the make or model, which is probably why it had a low price, but didn’t care. The year was 1978, the car was a Lancia Beta. I took it for a ride and made a deal right then. Of course I got it for less than the figure on the window.
The Lancia was named after the Lancia company’s founder, Vincenzo Lancia (1881–1937). It sold out to Fiat in 1969. The Beta came out in 1972, it should have been called the Alpha, but Fiat didn’t want any confusion with the Alpha Romeo. The Beta had front-wheel drive, a DOHC engine, a five-speed gearbox, rack and pinion steering, fully independent suspension using MacPherson struts all-around, and four-wheel disc brakes. The Lancias are still sought after.
The only problem with the Lancia is that it was still basically a Fiat. Commonly called “Fix It Again Tony.” Or in my case, Tony was Tony Schmid, who owned Racing Prep on St. Helens in the Stadium District. I first met Tony when we were students at Mann Junior High in Lakewood. Tony was very picky. You DID NOT bring him a dirty car. The cars in his garage were all parked on little carpet tiles. There were frequent issues with my car. I was a faithful customer at Racing Prep.
A friend of mine described my Lancia to his wife, “It’s a cross between a Limo and a sports car.” One of my treasured moments of my life was driving by myself along the water of Hood Canal listening to Billy Joel on the 8-Track player. It was a beautiful spring day and that car glided around the curves of the road as in a dream. A few days later the dream was shattered when someone tried to break into the car for the Blaupunkt radio. First they tried prying the windshield out and denting the roof, next they tried wrenching open the door, and then they finally just broke a rear window and then completely destroyed and ruined the dash. It must have taken them hours . . . they never got the radio out. The car was totaled from their damage with a crowbar. I was left with just my memories.