Ferrari Heart: The Lancia Thema 8.32

Why was the Thema 8.32 even made?

Call it a celebration of the relationship between Lancia and Ferrari, which had kicked off in 1972 when the Stratos was equipped with the Dino’s V6 engine. The partnership stretched right into the ’80s with Lancia running engines from Maranello in the LC2 Group C racer, but it was 1986 when Lancia sat a 2,927cc V8 under the hood of its big luxury sedan, the Thema.


Not only was it awesome to see this beautiful example of an 8.32 participate in this year’s Marronnier Run in Nikko, but to see it parked up next to a Ferrari 308 – the model that donated its powerplant to make the project happen – well, it’s something I’m not going to forget for a while.


But my infatuation with this car goes back a lot further. The Thema 8.32 was something of a legend when I was growing up, and I can remember kids in my elementary school talking about a Lancia Ferrari that was so fast nothing could keep up with it. The car was rare and expensive, costing almost double what a regular 2.0-liter 16-valve Thema sold for, and nobody had actually ever seen one.


For years the 8.32 held this image. Once in a while you’d hear that a friend of someone dad’s uncle had one and it was insanely fast, which only added to the car’s mystical aura. The only examples I ever ended up seeing in person were finished in the same metallic aqua blue as this one, or a darker burgundy. Aside from the rear pop-out spoiler, the 8.32 could also be identified by the pin-striping that ran downs its side and across the rear.


Lancia could have gone way wilder, but it obviously preferred to keep the execution more subtle, looks-wise at least. The 15-inch wheels shod in 205/55R15 tires were a little hint at the car’s link to Ferrari with their five-spoke design.


But it was mainly that 8.32 yellow badge on the grille and elsewhere around the car that gave you the real confirmation. The ‘8’ stands for eight-cylinders and the ’32’ for the number of valves. This is something I remember Jeremy Clarkson got totally wrong on an episode of Top Gear in the ’90s while I was growing up in the UK; he said the ’32’ was used to denote the 3.2L capacity.


The 3.0L V8 may have been shared by the 308 and the Mondial, but for it to be mated properly to a big sedan like the Thema, some changes were made. The most notable was the crankshaft, which was changed from a flat-plane or 180-degree type, to a more conventional cross-plane 90-degree design. This, as well as the revised firing order and smaller valves, was done to give the engine a more torquey nature for everyday driving.


According to the owner of this particular car, you still need to rev the engine to get it to pull properly, though. That’s partly because there is only 205hp being developed in this 1989 catalytic converter-equipped car, where pre-catalyzer models boasted an additional 10hp.

But who really cares about the power; this is one of those cars that made the ’80s a little more special. By the way, take a look at the intake plenum design and the way it employs a twin mechanical throttle body setup linked over the intake. This looks way better that what the fuel injected version of the 308 engine looked like in the 308 itself. This plenum was a redesign that replaced the larger one used on the earlier, pre-facelift Themas.


This Thema has 73,000km (45,0000mi) on the odometer, has been garaged since day one, and is still with its original owner. It’s in remarkable condition; used but well taken care of.


The only issue that keeps presenting itself is chronic overheating. In this instance the radiator and some cooing components have been upgraded, but as I shot a million pictures around it, it was still dripping a little coolant on the ground.


The thing that me and my school friends went really crazy for in the day was the car’s pop-out trunk spoiler.


How cool is that?! I forgot to ask the owner how reliable this thing actually is, but I noticed it always remained in the ‘out’ position. Of course, Italian electronics are more known for the way they fail rather than the way they work.


Check out how much space is boxed off on the inside of the trunk lid for the wing mechanism. As expected, it’s very heavy so you have to accompany the lid all the way down before allowing it to drop onto the lock.


There’s that pin-stripe line I mentioned earlier.


Being a 1989 car, this proudly wore the ‘Lancia World Rally Champion 1989′ sticker, one I vividly remember seeing on the back window of so many Lancias of the same year. Sad isn’t it? 30 years ago Lancia had this Thema and it was winning on the international rally stage with the mighty Delta Integrale. Now it sells one model in the domestic market with zero plans to revive the brand and all that it once stood for.


But we have to move on, I suppose.


Along with the engine itself, it was the interior that made the 8.32 a special car.


The seats, the dash, and the door trims were designed and finished by Poltrona Frau, which on top of being a rather well known and respected furniture company, also trims the interiors of Ferraris.


The front seats were even power adjustable, but I’d be very surprised if any of these switches do anything now.


This car smelled simply amazing inside, a distinct background scent of mid-to-late-’80s Italian car – which brought back memories of my dad’s 75 and 164 – mixed with an almost tangible aroma of well-seasoned hide, and a few accents of fuel and oil to spice it all up. The stock Lancia leather steering wheel has been swapped out for a Ferrari item, something that I thought was an awesome touch.


Of course, this model was only offered as a manual.

Of all the unique interior details, my favorite is the Ferrari yellow-on-black instrumentation.


This turned out to be an extended spotlight, but I’m sure you’ve already figured out that I have an unshakeable attraction to these cars. I don’t want to drive one though, as I’m afraid it will spoil the dream. If it’s anything like our Alfa 164 was (same Type 4 platform shared with the Thema, Saab 9000 and Fiat Croma) it will be comically crap to throw around corners and plain dangerous to try and stop.

But then again, that’s sort of the lure of these old performance cars from the ’80s and ’90s! Let’s talk about it more in the comments below…

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino



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I think you are being a bit harsh on the Tipo 4 cars. They weren't bad cars in the mid 80's, quite the opposite actually.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

They weren't amazing, they each had their own distinct character about them that's for sure but if it's the 164 we are talking about it was pretty poor. Torque steer and lift off oversteer for days, which actually made the car fun around roundabouts provided you could actually make it go around them lol


I would like to add some positive input on the Tipo 4 too. With having an 164 since 11 years now, I totally fell in love with it. And even before my 164, I had a Croma V6 for years.
Since the 164 is completely poly-bushed underneath, has KW Comp-2 coilovers and rolls OZ Ultraleggera III, it is indeed fun to drive on curvy roads.
AND it is reliable :)


pictures? this sounds awesome dude


I bet that looks spectacular, treat us all to a picture?

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

OK, I didn't expect the 8.32 to have a retractable spoiler! It's pretty odd to see any V-engine with more than 6 cylinders to be transverse mounted. LOL!

And yes, it is really sad to see that from a world-conquering marque that competed in all sorts of racing disciplines a long time ago, Lancia is pretty much a dead brand in today's automotive landscape.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Was transversely mounted in the 308 & Mondial too, albeit in the center. Truly is sad about Lancia though


Having grown up in the oft maligned 80s, Unicorns like this and the Lotus Carlton made that decade (and the early 90s) feel special to me in a way other decades just can't replicate. I realize we are living in something of a golden age of automotive design and performance now, but for me, my money is on the Lancia.

As an aside Dino, it's been interesting over the years to watch how your submissions have changed.

Your pictures have always been top notch, but your writing was a little broken in the beginning, I'm sure that's a consequence of communicating in different languages. Nowadays, I'd put your writing up against anyone else in the automotive world, print or online.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Thanks man! Oh and let's not forget the germans, lots of cool cars came from them in the eighties too!


Now That's a sleeper! A great one!


I didn't know these existed until about a month ago when I saw one for sale whilst trawling that well known auction site, to say I was blown away by it would be an understatement, when I was 8 back in the 90's our neighbour had a thema, I don't recall it ever being anything special but now Id like to wish it was, I remember it fell off a scissor jack he had left it on one day. There were quite a few lancias around our way, one couple a few squares down (the houses were built in square cul de sacs) had three deltas none in great condition, one featured graffiti artwork covering it top to bottom.

Dino Dalle Carbonare





I sold Fiat and Alfa at a franchise dealer from 2003-2007 and I can remember a gentleman, an old customer of the dealership, arriving with his wife in an 8.32. I seem to remember it being black with a lighter interior, but it is a vague memory as I type. That said, I was allowed to drive it on our test drive route and it went well(ish), sounded great... and didn't stop. One clear memory is that it didn't stop. Awesome thing, though.


hey I love the 164. my dad have one as a daily and have been with the family until this day for almost 20 years. tho it have the V6 so that might make it different. good for straight line speed and highway cruising but handles like a barge. it is a stupidly and comically magnificient experience for me. and it does look good when given a shakotan look, especially with the Super trim.

tho do wonder if this engine can fit on other Type 4 cars. if someone can manage to mate the Ferrari engine to the AWD 164 Q4, that will be awesome.


That's what Lancia should have done. Like a larger Integrale.


a sleeper sedan with AWD and a Ferrari V8? that seems like an absolute dream car.


Let's face it guys. The truth was that this car was crap. The thema wasn't really a luxury car in the first place but a fiat croma with some fake luxury trim and a lancia grill. That 8.32 model did have the custom leather and the Ferrari wheel but it wasn't much faster than the more plebeian turbo 16v model.

In other words it only attracted the fools in quest of an identity and nostalgia won't save it.


Ignorance is bliss


You must be a hoot at parties.


Too afraid to meet your super hero eh, Dino?


Perhaps a credit to Saab divorcing itself from the other Type 4 cars pretty early in the process, but 9000s go, turn and stop very well. They torque steer much less than the later 9-3 and 9-5, and the later 9000 Aeros are substantially more powerful than the Thema 8.32.


I grew up in Saudi Arabia in the 90s, my dad had a Thema, It was the 2.8L . This post brought back memories. Blasting down the highway in the passenger seat, car was manual, I remember how fast it felt back then. Probably rotting somewhere in Dhahran. Good post Dino!!


I think you will find the first Ferrari engined Lancia was actually the 1954 D50 F1 car.