This Outlaw isn't a Porsche, it's a Lancia

Photography by Dirk De Jager

This Lancia looks like it comes rolling straight out of a Guy Ritchie movie. The handsome, street-style-smart Italian was conceived in the workshop of British classic car specialist Thornley Kelham. And while it seems impossible to make a Lancia Aurelia B20GT any cooler than it already is, that is precisely what they did by building a fuorilegge version–that’s Outlaw to the rest of us.

The Outlaw concept has always been a provocation for purists. It was pretty much conceived to be exactly that. The Outlaw was born out of a quest for more speed, no matter what. Sometimes, though, the first element that gets sacrificed during the transition is the sense of taste. Do a bit of Googling and you’ll see that not every 911 looks better after the treatment. 

The trick, of course, is to thread the needle–to capture Marlon Brando from “The Wild One,” not Vito Corleone simply wearing a bomber jacket. There’s tension to be kept. It’s a fine line. 

And when applying the Outlaw treatment to something really special, like a Lancia Aurelia B20 GT, the margins get even tighter. This one, however, was transformed by a crew that knows the model well: restoration house Thornley Kelham Ltd.

First, though, the color. No, it’s not black, as the shop’s Wayne Kelham quickly notes: “It is aubergine. We even went to a store and bought one to get the color right.”

Origins at the Panamericana

“The idea to do an Outlaw Aurelia B20 GT came to us after we did the restoration of a B20 GT race car Giovanni Bracco ran,” Kelham explains. “The Bracco car is one of the most famous B20 GTs. He led for a long time in a Series 1 B20 GT in the 1951 Mille Miglia, raced that same car in the 24 Hours of Le Mans that year, and he did Carrera Panamericana with it.”

Let’s break this down in a bit more detail. Giovanni Bracco was one of the finest Italian racing drivers of the ’50s. In 1951, he stole the headlines during the running of the Mille Miglia. His Lancia Aurelia B20 GT was very much underpowered compared to the mighty Ferraris. 

The weather conditions that year were atrocious, but Bracco put in an inspiring performance. Right up to the halfway point of the gruesome 1000-mile road race, he actually outpaced the Ferrari prototypes. 

On the way back to Brescia, however, as the roads opened up, the advantage fell to Ferrari–yet only Luigi Villoresi’s Ferrari Tipo 340 proved faster in the infamous Brescia-to-Brescia loop. 

Bracco’s second-place overall finish in what was essentially an adapted road car caused a stir. And he wasn’t finished yet: Later that year Bracco drove his car to Le Mans, entered the race, and won the 2-liter class. After the race, he drove it back to Italy.

At this point, the red car was given a transformation for its next assignment. To tackle the long straights and high speeds associated with the Carrera Panamericana, the Aurelia B20 GT was modded a bit. To reduce drag, Lancia cut away part of the pillars to lower the roof. The chopped profile may have added speed, but it also made the car look way cooler–another important tenet of the Outlaw culture. 

Things didn’t go well for Bracco in Mexico, though. He crashed on the fourth day, abandoning the race and the car at the same time. Bracco sold his car to a Mexican architect, Enrique Ortiz Peredo, who entered the car in the 1952 Panamericana, finishing 28th overall and ninth in class. 

After this, the car moved to the United States, where it stayed under the radar until it was discovered in Texas in 2011. In the end, the Bracco Aurelia was lovingly restored to perfect condition at Thornley Kelham. The finished result was shown for the first time at Pebble Beach in 2015.

Too Rough to Save

“Oh, when a client came to our shop after we had finished the restoration of the Bracco car and dropped a hint that he was game for a car like this as well, we didn’t need any more encouraging,” Wayne Kelham tells us as he shows us around the car. “To put the purist’s minds at ease at once: No good Aurelias were hurt in the making of this Outlaw. We just love these cars as much as anyone else.”

The donor car for the Outlaw transformation was a “really rotten” fifth- or sixth-series Aurelia GT, he adds. That’s basically one built from 1956 through 1958, the end of the model run. 

“They are less wanted and not worth restoring in the condition they are in,” Kelham explains, adding that the Outlaw Aurelia GT isn’t a one-off. “Right now, we aim for a production of eight Outlaw Aurelias.”

Lower, Wider, Faster

The Outlaw conversion consumes some 5000 working hours. The most obvious transformation is the roof, which is lowered by 8 centimeters–about 3.15 inches. 

“But we go further than that,” Kelham continues. “We bring in new wings on the four corners, making the car wider than the original. This widens the tracks by six-tenths of an inch.

“At the front, we have integrated a Nardi-type cooling opening. We moved the indicators to the headlight. And, of course, we removed the bumpers. At the back you see the taillights of the Series 2 Aurelia and a striking Monza-type fuel filler cap. The boot lid looks like the one from the Aurelia, but it is entirely different. We have also lowered the rear window a bit.”

The high-mounted, circular side mirrors are Thornley Kelham’s own specific creation. And then there’s the mechanical work. 

The car needed more power. It’s how the build would stay true to the Outlaw concept. 

The original 2.5-liter V6 has been replaced by the newer 2.5-liter V6 found in the Lancia Flaminia, the successor to the Aurelia. “But we also bored out that engine to 2.8-liter capacity, giving us 20 horsepower extra over the 150 horsepower you’ll find in the original Aurelia,” Kelham explains. “And we also use a more modern, electrically controlled injection.” 

These extra horses, in combination with the tailor-made air intake and the very free-flowing exhaust, make all the character of this Outlaw B20 GT. It goes through a whole register of
fantastic sounds. 

“We could pretty much tune it any way you like,” Kelham says, “but we really like it this way.” Then he smiles.

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View comments on the CMS forums
Kreb (Forum Supporter)
Kreb (Forum Supporter) UberDork
1/15/21 10:53 p.m.

Absolutely wonderful. Just perfect. From the fact that their starting place was an unwanted beater, to the fact that they stayed with a 2.5 V6 - just a better one. They nailed that balance between inspired and over-the-top.

doc18015 New Reader
3/6/22 11:25 a.m.

Looks like a better design and built mini Bentley....leave it to Italians!!  Beautiful bones makes for a outstanding Outlaw! I owned an original spider when in college. Unbelievably  fast, light and brought smile to my face on each drive! Probably worth the build price but a little to steep for the writer when compared to steed autos like the Ferrari, Lambos that will continue to grow in value.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/10/22 12:38 p.m.

In reply to doc18015 :

"Beautiful bones makes for a outstanding Outlaw!"

I like that line. And, yes, the car looks just stunning. It doesn't look modded or hacked-up. It looks complete and fully thoughout. Love the color, too. 

cwfritz New Reader
5/3/22 8:41 a.m.

I love those seats!  Well, yeah, I love everything about this car, especially that the builder used an upgraded Lancia driveline, but those seats are really sweet. I'd love to put something like that in my MG.  Are they original or aftermarket?  Thanks.

enderby New Reader
12/13/22 6:15 p.m.

Here's another one my buddy Tex has and Jay Leno had on his show:

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