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Among Anglo-saxons, it has been the Irish who are traditionally credited with better than average luck. Within Lancia circles, it will be the French who assume the 'Luck' mantle, once this story gets around.

The luck of the Irish French

We learned this story over a glass of wine in Melbourne in 1999, when Jean-Pierre Callay, long-time member of the Lancia Club of France was on one of his several visits to Australia with his wife, Daniele. Quite a few Australian Lancia Register members had attended the French club's rallies, in for example, 1991,1996 and 2001 and remembered the Calley's fantastic and genuine 'Mille Miglia' Lambda.

Needless to say, much of the conversation centred around aspects of the car and Jean-Pierre had come well armed with both modern and contemporary photos featuring the car. The first Mille Miglia in 1927 was also the first competition even in which Lancia entered a team. Not an 'official' Lancia factory team, because Vincenzo Lancia still harboured fears of alienating his 'establishment' market base, if the cars were to become too closely identified with the mad racing brigade. So, the Lambdas were in fact entered in the Mille Miglia by Lancia agents and while the event was won by a side-valve OM, with the first Lambda coming fourth. Vincenzo Lancia was encouraged and entered larger unofficial teams in the 1928 and 1929 events.

The conversation then move to how Jean-Pierre came to own the MM Lambda. He told us he first became interested in old cars during the sixties, owning first a TC MG and then a Speed 20 Alvis. During this time he had become aware of the Lancia Lambda and on selling a property in 1984 he decided the time had come to aquire one. He then heard of one for sale in Brittany, some 500 Km from home and decided to have a look at it. Frankly, Jean - Pierre was not terribly impressed; the car was owned by a man who had bought it soon after the war as a 'non goer' and it had remained that way ever since; the motor was in pieces and the car was generally very shabby. Jean-Pierre considered the price to much and decided against buying it.

However, over the next few weeks he continued to think about the car and he returned to Brittany and made an offer which the owner accepted and the car was taken home.

Jean-Pierre was aware that the car differed from the standard Lambda, but just to what extent, he was not sure. Perhaps it had been modified in the thirties by an enthusiastic owner? Anyway, armed with the vetura and engine numbers he went to Torino and visited the Lancia factory to research the history of his Lambda.

"Yes" said the young lady given the task of looking up the production details, "It was made on such and such a date, was first registered by the Lancia factory and was one of the 'MM' cars". A well known Lancia expert was present at the time and initially dismissed the idea, but re-checks of all the numbers finally convinced him that it was one of the special Mille cars!

Still dazed with his good luck, Jean-Pierre returned home and commenced a dedicated and througher restoration. One of the first events Jean-Pierre used the car for was, appropriately, the 1988 Mille Miglia. He and Daniele continue to use it for Lancia rallies and other vintage car events including the Mille Miglia again in 199, the Paris - Lisbon and Route du Tweed.

The story makes winning a national lottery 1st prize with a ticket found in the gutter look pretty ordinary. Well to me anyway.

Paul Vellacott,
Australian Lancia Register,
Melbourne, October 2002


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For the 1928 Mille Miglia he had three shortened Lambdas with Casaro bodies and many special mechanical features prepared by the factory. Similar cars were built for the 1929 event and Jean-Pierre's was one of these, being Vettura (chassis) number 20621/10639. Mechanical changes included more substantial front brakes - Jean- Pierre producing photos of the bigger shoes and drums - the bonnet was extend by 17 cms, etc. We were also shown contemporary photos of the car carrying number 79 with Strazza at the wheel. Later photos showed the car when it was entered in the Spa-Francorchamps race by the Belgian Lancia agent.