This is the face of the new Lancia Flavia. It also happens to be the face of the new Chrysler 200, and I'm not sure what to make of that.
If you know me well enough, you know that I lust over Lancias the way most of my generation lusts after Lamborghinis or Ferarris.
Countach? Make mine an HF Integrale, thanks.
If you know me well enough, you also know that I've owned several Lancias, and I've looked back on 1982 (the last year Lancias were officially sold in the US) as a dark year. A tainted year.
Through the lenses of dozens of automotive photographers over the last 3 decades, however, I've watched the brand evolve. I've been mocked and teased by the Lancia gods time and time again. The Alfa 164 and Saab 9000 were almost Lancias, but not Lancias. I made do with my 1975 and 1981 Lancia Beta coupes, but what I wanted was a new Lancia - which is probably why I haven't been able to keep any other car for very long.
When the economy tanked in 2008, though, there was suddenly hope. Lancia's parent company (Fiat) absorbed Chrysler, and announced that it would merge the Lancia and Chrysler brands. It was fantastic news, and I held my breath to see what would happen next.
I didn't have to wait long to exhale, as Chrysler released their version of the storied Delta at the very next Detroit auto show. Sure, it said "Chrysler" on its rump, but it was an honest-to-goodness Lancia on US shores. I felt excited and vindicated.
This news of the Lancia Flavia's return after a near forty-year absence elicits quite the opposite response. The new Flavia is an honest-to-goodness Chrysler, but it says "Lancia" on its rump.
So, is it a Lancia?
The 200, by all accounts, is dynamically flawed. Have there ever been dynamically flawed Lancias? I don't know. In fact, this whole conversation of what makes a Lancia a Lancia and whether this Chrysler is "worthy" of carrying the Lancia shield is the exactly same sort of semantic exercise in metaphysics that I spent several years trying to avoid in college, so I won't let myself get sucked into it here.
What I will let myself get sucked into, however, is the question of whether or not the 200 is worthy to wear the Flavia badge.
This, dear reader, is a classic 1963 Lancia Flavia Berlina.
MORE VLASSIC THAN CLASSIC
I know. It looked better in my memory, too.
The Flavia is the "black sheep" of old Lancias, then. It doesn't encourage you to flog it, like a Fulvia. It doesn't beg to run free and fast over the open road, like an Aurelia. It doesn't buzz like an olympic swimming pool of pissed off honeybees, like an 037. It doesn't chew you up and spit you out, like a Stratos. The old Flavia doesn't do much, in fact, except fit four people and carry the same storied shield as its more romantic brothers ...
... which is exactly what the new Flavia will do.