Thornley Kelham, a classic car restoration specialist, has completely restored possibly the most famous Lancia in the world. The Lancia Aurelia B20GT, with its impeccable racing heritage and a unique Lancia-lowered roofline, was thought to have been lost forever. That was until it was found in a storage facility in Southend.
After its purchase by Giovanni Bracco in 1951, the car was taking top honors at world-renowned races within days. It placed 2nd at Mille Miglia, 1st at Caracalla Night Race, Pescara 6 Hour Race, and then famously won 1st in class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The champion had its roof lowered (for aerodynamic reasons) and its black and white paint coat applied for the 1951 Carrera Panamericana, before tragically crashing on the race’s fourth day.
After it’s crash, it was bought by another man from Mexico, where it was believed to stay for several decades, before ending up in Southend. When Simon Thornley found it there, with its peeling white paint and roped-together body, it had clearly undergone some Frankensteining. The reworking of the car’s rear-end was especially noticeable, deemed a “lead sled” Americanisation. Nonetheless, the car underwent an exhaustive confirmation process involving research and investigation aid from Lancia.
It was confirmed. The old boy was, in fact, the Lancia B20-1010 which Bracco had driven so many years ago. Now, they set out to restore it to the condition it was in at the ’51 Panamerica start line.
The whole rear was re-crafted, the floor had to be rebuilt, and the interior was fitted with period-authentic seats and trim. Samples of paint were tested and cross-referenced with Lancia, to confirm the car had been painted black, then red for Le Mans, then black again. Of course, this was replicated step-by-step by Thornley Kelham’s finishers. When all was said and done, their team spent 4000+ hours on the vehicle over three years!
Thornley Kelham’s is now selling nine Aurelia ‘Outlaws’. They will each be modelled after Bracco’s car, but with some major modern upgrades. They come standard with a bored-out fuel-injected Flaminia engine, modern disc brakes and nitrogen-filled front suspension, but can be completely customized for the individual buyers.