Lancia D50

CMC | 1955

Diecast auto collectors are already used to the CMC quality standards, therefore any new model issued by this producer is awaited anxiously and with great interest. Once again the miniature cars fans will be delighted. The new Lancia D50 is not necessarily a revolution, but a subtle evolution: it’s a model which is offering to its audience more than meets the eye.

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What we cherish is not only the quality of the model, but also the unprecedented story of a unique race car, a purely exotic appearance in the Formula 1 world. Lancia inherits a glorious history of building highly performing cars, even they were street cars or sports cars. However, the history of the brand is much more glamorous than today when only one Lancia model is produced, the small and cute Ypsilon.

The company has been founded by Vicenzo Lancia in 1906, but only in 1950 Vicenzo’s son Gianni Lancia has decided to produce a sport version of the beautiful Lancia Aurelia. Encouraged by the success of this model, Gianni dreamed to conquer the world of Formula 1, a quite new competition at that time. In charge with this project was the development manager Vittorio Jano, an experienced engineer, which has previously worked for Fiat, but he gained full acknowledgement after designing Alfa Romeo P3, the first real monoposto in the history of car racing.

The final result of Jano’s project for Lancia has surprised the motorsport world. Formula 1 was already a good place to present the newest state-of-the-art automotive technologies. Mercedes Benz and Ferrari have already implemented such technologies, even some revolutionary technical solutions for that time. For example, Mercedes Benz adopted a space frame chassis and mechanical fuel injection for its sport  cars involved in various competitions. The Lancia monoposto arrived lately in the 1954 F1 season, entering only in the last race of the season, the Grand Prix of Spain. But the car was gifted with multiple innovations which proved that Lancia could become a serious competitor for the leaders of the time.

The structure of D50 was based on a tubular frame chassis, just as Mercedes W196, but in Lancia’s case the engine was a stressed member of the chassis. The engine block was sloped 12 degrees from the longitudinal axis, a solution which shortened a little the length of the car. The gearbox was placed behind the driver’s seat, in front of the rear axle. The most impressive feature one could notice was a pair of external fuel tanks placed between the front and the back wheels, an original solution for improvement of the car aerodynamics but also for the optimum weight distribution between axles.

By creating its new team Scuderia Lancia, Gianni Lancia had great ambitions to win the Formula 1 competition and he hired one of the most successful Italian pilots of the era, Alberto Ascari. Ascari achieved the fastest lap time in the practice session from the Spanish Grand Prix, but the clutch of his car has succumbed just at the very beginning of the official race. The confrontation with Mercedes Benz has been postponed until the next season, in 1955. But the first race of the next year, on the Buenos Aires track, was not a lucky one for any of the 3 Lancia D50 cars thrown in the competition. Although they seemed among the leaders at the beginning of the race, they had to withdraw one by one due to technical failures. The second race of the F1 season was even worse. At Monte Carlo, Ascari has plunged into the water in the harbor. He was saved in the last moment, but ironically, he died 4 days later at Monza, in a Ferrari 750 during a drive test. However, the second pilot of the Lancia team, Eugenio Castellotti, has won the 2nd place on Monaco track.

Ascari’s death was devastating for the Lancia team, which has built the entire strategy around him. Castelotti took part in only one more race in that year, at Belgian Grand Prix, but he was forced again to withdraw because of technical problems. Lancia was in a middle of disastrous financial situation after investing huge amounts of money in the Formula 1 team. The Lancia family was forced to cease the control of the company, and the Scuderia Lancia was taken over by Scuderia Ferrari. For a while, the D50 model continued to be branded as Lancia, but it was unsuccessful in winning any other race in Formula 1 in 1955. In 1956 the car was rebranded as Ferrari D50, but many of Vittorio Jano’s innovations were modified or removed. Juan Manuel Fangio has succeeded to win the pilots championship driving this car. The car has survived during the next season, in 1957, under a new name – Ferrari 801, but it was overpassed by a new Formula 1 rising star, Maserati F250. Thereby the career of the spectacular Lancia monoposto was finished forever. None of the 6 pieces has survived until today.

The Lancia D50 car model is a surprising one, even if compared with other previous CMC models. At first sight, one could not guess we’re admiring a little jewel composed by 1598 individual pieces, according to producer’s specifications. After all, we have a pure race car, without any fenders, doors or cockpit roof. The most spectacular part is hidden to the eye… but let’s talk about the outside first.

Almost all elements are manufactured without imperfections. The very large external tanks catch the eye first; they seem to be made by tin, carefully riveted to exactly reproduce the original aspect. The massive front grill is made of 2 different layers, one designed for support and the other for protection, the last one being photo-etched. The small folding windshield is supported by 2 stands fixed by rivets in the main body. The small sized mirrors are also delicate and very well reproduced. There are no less than 6 functional hinged caps: 4 are on the main body and 2 on the external gas tanks. 3 of the ones placed on the external body cover the gas, oil and water screwable caps while the 4th one is actually rectangular, covering a vent for cooling the cockpit area. This vent is placed in front of the windshield, just behind the engine compartment.

The driver’s place is very small and with few facilities, but it has soft leather upholstered chair and also a separated upholstered head rest. The driving wheel is a little jewel with its’ drilled spokes and the centered Lancia logo, but the wooden pattern ring is a separate piece, attached by the main functional metal wheel. There are some details very hard to notice and almost impossible to catch by the camera: the perforated throttle pedal and a protection metal plate beneath it, riveted by the floor. Everywhere in the cockpit you can see the tubular frame chassis which supports the entire car structure just as on the real car.

Back to the outside area, we can observe the structure which sustains the external gas tanks as well as the oil coolers placed between the main body and the side tanks. Also we can notice the pipes (that seem to be fabric cords) which connect these coolers by the lubrication system. The complex structure of suspensions is partially visible and can be better admired by removing the wheels. The inner part of the brake drums is well detailed and there we can see the small hoses of the brake system. The brake drums’ edges are made of plastic instead of metal, a little bit disappointing detail. The wheels instead are at the level we are used to receive from CMC. The rims have metallic spokes and the tires have white inscriptions.

The engine hood made by pressed sheet of steel with real large vent holes, covering the engine, which is sloped 12 degrees from longitudinal axis, shows the manufacturer’s care to reproduce accurately the real car’s details. The 8 tops of air filters are photo-etched perforated pieces and among them we can notice the irregular gas pipe which fuels the carburetors. There are 8 spark plugs cables proving that this is a double ignition system (“twin spark”), used normally on piston engines airplanes or on high performance engines cars. The entire engine compartment is very realistic thanks to colors of the surfaces –the cylinders heads are painted in grey shade and the engine block has a metal finish look. There is not a chassis structure visible under the car, all this part being covered by the body. Still, you can observe the impressive exhaust system on its entire length, ended in flared pipes.

What we love about this model is that you can actually detach large parts from the body – the front and back parts, unveiling the fact that CMC is taking extra care in building not only the visible details, but also the hidden ones. But be careful, the removing of those body parts is scrupulous, requires appropriate tools (screwdrivers for very small screws, tweezers, magnifying glass etc.), a stable hand and… a lot of patience.

For disassembling the back part of the body, you need to detach first a small rectangular plate from underneath which is fastened in the center with 4 screws. Afterwards, the massive back body part can be detached after unscrewing another 5 screws. The effort however will be rewarded, because here you can admire an unusual amount of details for such a model scale: the whole structure of the space-frame tubular chassis, the complex De-Dion suspension system fastened on the longitudinal bars and jointed by transverse wishbone-shaped arms, the transverse leaf spring, and rear drive axle. The entire suspension-live rear axle system is made by metal pieces being assembled with a lot of screws. Moreover, we can notice the gear box placed just in front of the rear axle. The most impressive part in this area is the oil tank, made by tin and connected through pipes to the external oil coolers which are placed between the main body and the side gas tanks.

It’s a little bit more complicated to disassemble the front part of the body. This is because there is another part which has to be detached firstly, the plate which is placed around the engine underneath the body, fastened with no less than 7 screws. Then, unscrewing 2 more screws from the higher part, normally hidden by the engine hood, allows the removal of the entire front body part. In this area also the details are exquisite: the independent front axle, with wishbone arms jointed by the tubular bars of the chassis and the leaf spring transverse suspension. Just as the rear axle, the whole suspension system is made by metal parts and is fully functional. In the front-end you can see the radiator, made by plastic, connected with the engine block by 2 hoses fastened with pipe collars.

In the model box there is a special bonus: an engine starting device, with a rod which is connected to the engine or maybe to the gear box, together with a power trolley, a motor car battery placed on a two wheels trolley. The two components were used together in order to start the engine, which did not carry a battery on itself.

As a conclusion, Lancia D50 CMC is a model which accomplishes the expectations of the collectors, bringing a bunch of details which partly justify the high price. The satisfaction to admire the details both from the exterior and from the hidden areas, accessible only by detaching parts of the body is hard to explain to an exterior observer, but of course the model car enthusiasts will recognize this feeling and will live this delight.

Text & foto: Ionuț Pârjolescu | Machete 1/18

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