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My apologies to Huib Geurink, who devotes such a large proportion of his life to running the viva-lancia site and the many Lancisti who have sent comments and questions about my past Snippets, for again, the long delay in getting a new Snippet 'up'.

I have been working on a couple of Lancia research projects that I had planned to post as a Snippet, but I still need further data / photos to complete. So I have gone back through the Australian Lancia Register's Newsletters and found a series of pieces I wrote on the foibles of particular Lancias.

This one on the Aprilia appeared in Newsletter No 65, in March 1987, when Bill Jamieson, the first Editor of the Register's Newsletter was still at the helm.

The piece is based on my experiences with my 1st series Aprilia Berlina (saloon) which I had bought in 1965 and had used as a daily 'regular' car up until the mid seventies. I still have (and love) the car, which since then I have had on 'Club plates' - a low cost 'registration' system for enthusiast's old cars here in the State of Victoria.


Picture on the right:
1. Standard spark plug
2. Plug fitted with 20 mm tube
3. Early two-piece connector
4. Later one-piece connector
5. Radiator attachment cam-lever, in which I have drilled a hole for the 'locking' wire.

Picture below:
Paul competing in his Aprilia at the Castlemaine Lancia rally in 1981


I have chosen the Aprilia to start with, simply because it has a couple of foibles which readily come to mind.

One simply cannot count oneself as an Aprilia person without having experienced the G.A.E.S. - the Great Aprilia Explosion Syndrome - politely termed, for the purpose of this series, as a foible. One is driving along, invariably minding one's own business, when there will be a thunderous explosion from under the bonnet. Through the side louvers of the engine compartment will spurt slices of dense blue smoke, accompanied by a tinkling sound. As split second later, from under the dash, pours more oil-scented blue smoke.

Old Aprilia hands nonchalantly pull up, open the bonnet, retrieve the oil filler cap (source of tinkling sound) from where it has hopefully lodged somewhere around the engine bay. They then open the doors briefly, allowing the fumes to disperse, and then continue on their journey. The cause of the explosion is a stray spark from the Aprilia's long plug connectors igniting oil fume and perhaps petrol vapor in the spacious rocker cover and crankcase.

For many years I thought that the sparks ignited the fumes because of cracks developing in the bakelite spark plug connectors, but after trying perhaps a dozen connectors, I have another theory. I now think that the sparks originates from the contact point between the sparkplug top and the spring-loaded contact in the connector.

Aprilia bits

To reduce the chance of a gap developing between the sparkplug and the contact, across which a spark could jump, I fitted 20mm long extensions to the normal screw-on plug caps. This compresses the connector springs, preventing a make and break contact, and I have had a couple of years explosion-free motoring.

The proof of the pudding came the other day when, in an effort to start the car, too much petrol was poured down the carburetor, wetting the plugs. During the ensuing quick plug change, I omitted to swap over the plug extensions. Sure enough, within five miles we had experienced two big bangs. The plugs were quickly taken out, extensions put on and foible No.1 had again disappeared.


A second Aprilia foible is for the bonnet to part company with the car at speed. Instead of crashing through the windscreen as both the driver and passenger anticipate by ducking below the dash, it takes off gracefully, clearing the roof and coming down to a perfect two-point landing on it's trailing outer edges - if you are lucky!

This, thank goodness, is a much rarer foible, brought about by failing to ensure that the bonnet catches are not properly secured. It can also be caused by the front centre pin of the bonnet becoming disengaged from it's housing in the radiator grille when traveling over rough roads.

Following my second experience of this particular foible I have drilled a 1/8" hole through the cam leaver that locks the radiator grille in place. I then wire the lever in the locked position.

The occurrence of either of these foibles just once would be enough to put many people off a particular model for life. With the Aprilia, however, it's remarkable qualities and endearing characteristics ensure that foibles are tolerated with a smile!



Post script 2004

I can't recall either foibles occurring since writing the original piece in 1987. Memories of the second foible, however, ensure that I pay close attention to seeing that all four bonnet clips are correctly aligned and engaged when shutting the engine bonnet. The aerodynamics involved in the bonnet's take-off, flight over the car and landing would make a good thesis topic for someone doing a Masters in aerodynamics. On second thought, maybe it should rank for a PhD.





Paul Vellacott,
Australian Lancia Register,
Melbourne, May 2004


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