The chromed buttons for the vacuum rear windows are to the left of the wheel, and further evidence of the obsessive attention to detail can be found in the warning light for the manual choke, the red lights in the doors and the wind-screen-washer button that also automatically sets off the wipers. Was that a first on a European garage door opener 61 Once warm, the pushrod 60° V6 is sweet, flexible and ‘soft’ in tune, its single Solex carburettor enabling you to drive it smoothly and unobtrusively down to low speeds in third and top with the minimum number of changes. It will pull smoothly and quite strongly from nothing to 70mph in a particularly versatile third gear, while the short and quick movement is totally at odds with most people’s perceptions of what a column change is supposed to be like. The servo-boosted Dunlop disc brakes are fairly heavy, but reassuring, balanced and resilient and the Lancia’s firm, flat ride deals quietly and disdainfully with everything.
Sounding well bred and discreetly throaty, the V6 gives brisk and evenly paced acceleration up to 90mph thanks to its flat torque curve, although the combination of gearing, weight and garage door opener 61 limits the top speed to about 110mph. If not exactly fast, the Flaminia puts a smile on your face with its combination of enthusiasm for the task in hand, pleasing refinement and the fact that such an eminently dignified car on such skinny tyres can be hustled so quickly through corners, diving in slightly at the front but clamping its de Dion rear to the road with absolute tenacity. The steering is low geared, a little heavy at slow speeds, but seems to gear up as lock From top: Lancia's rear lights meld into bumpers; Merc has lower waistline; similar cabin treatments, with two main gauges, but it's Latin style and cloth vs the trad wood and leather of the Swabian machine increases, so that you never feel as if you are endlessly twirling the wheel. In short, the Flaminia is magnificent, but very much an experience of the late ’50s or early ’60s. It is not a casual machine but one that demands you drive it with proper attention a curious mixture of sedate sports car and lusty limousine.
The Mercedes, in contrast, feels entirely a car of the mid-1960s that, in many respects, would not have been out of place in the mid-’70s. Its power steering means you can palm it around town with ease, while the automatic transmission although unrefined by modern standards with its punchy shifts means that you don’t have to work hard to extract the ample performance. It is also beautifully made but in a more rational, ‘productionised’ way that doesn’t suggest the laborious hand-work that must have gone into the Lancia. Apart from the elegant inlet manifold for the Bosch mechanical fuel injection, the M189 engine looks very conventional, but physically more imposing than other six-cylinder Benz units of the time. From inside, the garage door opener 61 low waistline makes the 300SE appear even more open and Evolution of the Mercedes-Benz ‘six’.