Architect sold his Italian convertible when going got tough in Rome

The Lancia sports car Basil Spence bought while he was working on the British Embassy in Rome is to go under the hammer.

The Italian convertible is expected to raise up to £45,000 at an auction at Blenheim Palace on September 2.

Spence bought the Lancia Flavia Vignale convertible new in 1963 for the then sizeable sum of £2,350.

He is said to have sold it in protest when the Italian planning authorities were giving him grief over the embassy. He replaced it with a Jaguar.

In an earlier patriotic gesture he gave the Lancia the number plate BS 1066 in response to General de Gaulle’s refusal to allow Britain to join the EEC.

The plates have since been changed and the car has been extensively restored and repainted, with a biscuit leather interior, matching Wilton carpets, wood-rimmed steering wheel and original Motorola push button radio.

The car, with just 51,604 miles on the clock, comes with an extensive history file including the original guarantee in Spence’s name (with his Canonbury Place, London N1 address) as well as more recent correspondence with the Spence family.

“This little Flavia presents beautifully and must be one of the finest examples of these underrated Sixties Lancias currently available,” said Will Smith, sales manager at Silverstone Auctions.

“Sir Basil Spence’s ownership adds to the car’s unique past and will appeal to admirers of his work as an extremely successful and world-recognised architect.

“It’s a refined and practical four seater with a large boot, thoroughbred road manners, traditional Lancia quality and an exotic presence which is normally associated with much more highly strung and expensive Italian sports cars.”

It goes to auction at Salon Prive Concours d’Elégance at Blenheim Palace on September 2 with an estimate of £35,000-£45,000.