100 years

Do the lambda

You’ve probably never given it a second thought but if you’re driving a modern passenger car or SUV then it’s almost certainly based on a monocoque construction design that traces its origins back to the Lancia Lambda, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

The innovative Italian machine was the creation of Vincenzo Lancia and is remembered for being the first vehicle to introduce the world to the idea of a load-bearing unitary body. This construction technique, where the vehicle’s weight and load are borne by a unitary bodyshell instead of the conventional rigid chassis rails with cross-members, was reportedly inspired by the hull of ships Vincenzo had sailed on.

The elegant Lambda debuted at the Paris Motor Show in 1922 and was soon adopted by famous personalities and movie stars including actress Greta Garbo. It’s also credited with being the first vehicle to introduce independent front suspension, to better cope with the rough Italian roads Vincenzo and his talented lead engineer Battista Falchetto were accustomed to driving on. The design allowed the front suspension to absorb impacts from bumpy terrain better than a rigid axle, by allowing each wheel to rise and fall on its own without affecting the opposite wheel.