This lovely color image was taken in the pits at Le Mans before the start of the 24 Hours on June 13, 1953. This Lancia berlinetta was a D20 with supercharger, one of four entered by Scuderia Lancia that year. This D20 would be driven by Frenchman Robert Manzon and Monégasque Louis Chiron.
The D20 engine, in various forms, had been created by a team led by the famous prewar Alfa designer Vittorio Jano and ultimately led to the Lancia D50 F1 engine of 1955. For Le Mans in 1953 Lancia had modified the D20’s normally aspirated 3 liter four camshaft dual ignition motor by producing one with a 2.7 liter displacement and a reduced compression ratio but with the addition of a Roots type supercharger which gave a power increase to about 240hp. In well established Lancia tradition, a transverse leaf spring was used at the front and semi-ecliptics at the rear with a de Dion type layout having the gearbox in unit with the final drive.
Manzon and Chiron were both experienced Grand Prix and sports car drivers. Manzon was best known as a driver of the lightweight postwar Gordinis whereas Chiron had had an extensive prewar Grand Prix record with Bugattis and actually became the oldest Grand Prix driver when he competed at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1955 for Lancia at the age of 56, finishing 6th.
At Le Mans, the Lancias all retired during the race from various mechanical causes. In addition, they found that even with their supercharged motors they were substantially slower in top speed compared to their competitors from Jaguar, Ferrari and Cunningham. After the season was over for Lancia, the D20s were mostly converted to open cars, using the 3 liter engine, and being called the D23.
Photograph by Günther Molter ©The Klemantaski Collection
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