How to recognize authentic examples, all the details to check and tips to find spare parts
The Lancia Thema 8.32 is a special ultra luxury version of the Lancia Thema which was very appreciated by customers. It saw the light in 1986, in full Eighties opulence, when the Dallas-style unbridled hedonism was sparkling its excesses in the whole West. The 8.32 reflected the desire to experiment felt at the time in the Fiat Group. In this case, the goal was to create an exclusive car, intended for very few, with the primary purpose of raising the model’s image and attracting customers to showrooms. Nothing loud or flashy, though. Rather excellence in every detail, innovative technology and high class aesthetics as it has always been in Lancia’s DNA.
A discreet charm diva. Let’s start with the engine, a 3-liter V 8-cylinder 32-valve – from which the name “8.32” derives – supplied by the Prancing Horse. It’s the same engine of the Ferrari 308 and of the Mondial quattrovalvole but less exuberant. It highlighted the Berlina compared to its German competitors, on which the Lancia Thema 8.32 offered the exclusivity of an interior of great craftsmanship and Italian Style refinement. The upholstery of the seats – also equipped with electric adjustments – and of the dashboard, were hand-saddled by none other than Poltrona Frau, as were the door panels, the steering wheel and the gearbox. The result is discreet luxury in perfect Lancia style, enhanced by additional comforts such as the radio telephone in the armrest, the stereo with headphones for the rear passengers, the sunroof, the briarwood on the doors and on the entire dashboard. Even the rear wing is pop-up, it retracts into the trunk in seconds thanks to a simple button in the wiper lever. TopClassico asked the Lancia Thema Club Italia for some advice about purchasing and restoring an example of the model.
The leather on the dashboard might be tricky. In addition to the presence of rust, particularly in the lower part of the rear window and in the rear wheel arches, one of the main details to pay attention to in the Lancia Thema 8.32 is the dashboard: “You can hardly find any without the leather having a shrunk and when they are redone, even if identical to the original, it can always be seen, even though there are great upholsterers around”, explains Pierpaolo Berardi, president of the Lancia Thema Club Italia. “Restorations are done, that’s normal, but a well preserved one has a different appeal and the redone leather dashboard is bound to be noticed, even more so if it is beige in color. Some dashboards are still quite beautiful, close to perfection, but in those cases the cars have a documented history and have been kept indoors. When the seam that follows the edge of the instruments is no longer in place or is crooked, beyond the 2-3 cm of defect the coating is not recovered and must be redone. However, there are also owners who prefer to keep it that way, as it’s original”, continues the expert. Stil talking about the interior, it should also be checked that the wood cappings are healthy and not cracked or discolored.
Between one series and another. The other essential factor on which to focus your attention before buying a Lancia Thema 8.32 is the confusion that may exist between the versions. “A year and a half after the release of the first 8.32 series, the restyling was launched and many who bought a car maybe in 1987 upgraded to the next version: this is a trouble as it is not easy to get back the correct version. For example, returning to an original grill can cost up to 1000 euros. Many in the first series have also punctured the doors to put the rubbing strips of the second, and restoring that has high costs because it means weld the doors again and repaint them. Yes, because even if the rubbing strips are a small thing, to put them on it was necessary to drill the door. In general, it is obvious that if you find an example of the first series with parts of the second that must be taken into account in the purchase price”.
Sore point, the trasmission. The other features to be carefully considered are: the fillets of the bodywork, which have to be original or exactly replicated with measurements, colors and positions identical to the originals. “They were handmade over the paint both in the first and in the second series and therefore now they are easily faded or partially erased”, Pierpaolo Berardi points out. “It is clear that if they are too regular and well done they are reproductions. Some are also pleasing to the eye, but you have to know that they are not genuine”. The external identification plates are also important: they must all be there and, especially for the first series, be careful that they are real and not reproduced. Finally, it is good to check the correct functioning of the spoiler and the integrity of its gasket. For the mechanical part, pay attention to the injection, checking the regularity of operation and the absence of petrol leaks; test the correct working of the water pump, making sure there are no leaks; finally, for cars equipped with controlled damping suspensions, make sure that the original shock absorbers are there and that the system is working. “A sore factor of the model is the timing belt“, points out the President. “To fix the belts as Lancia prescribes, the engine must be lowered but many do not and it happens that they do not tighten the rear belt, which after a while gives way. Therefore, it seems a paradoxe but at the time of purchase it is better to know that the work has not been done and so take the car to your trusted mechanic”.
Watch out for the soaring prices. “Some specialized restorers of this car, or presumed as such, claim that a fully restored model is worth 35 thousand euros. No: I’m sorry to say it but that figure does not change hands”, warns the President. “Decent cars start at around 15 thousand euros up to 25 thousand in the case of 8.32 close to excellence. With 15 thousand euros you can buy something quite good, perhaps with not very recent interventions and some defects. There has been a car recently sold within the Club for 16-16,500 euros: nothing sensational but in good condition with a little scratch on the side and the dashboard a little withdrawn”.
Maintenance and restoration. The fundamental rule to be sure not to waste any money is to take some time to consult with experts or dedicated clubs. In fact, from the chassis number it is possible to know exactly how a certain example must be. Talking about spare parts, the President of the Lancia Thema Club Italia has no doubts: “There are Lancia spare parts dealers, even well known as Cavallitto and Mara, but for models still not really vintage like this there are no specialized dealers. So the research is mostly online. As a club we have reproduced some unobtainable pieces such as the wing seal, which is reserved for members: it gets damaged on all 8.32 and up until two years ago it was a problem, until we solved it in this way. We also reproduced the water pump overhaul kit, another thing that was impossible to find”, he concludes. Talking about restorers, none of them are necessarily recommended by the Lancia Club.
The curiosity. From a census of the Lancia Thema Club Italia in 2020, it appears that there are Lancia Thema 8.32 in 22 countries around the world, on four continents, with a record of presences in Germany.