Bless the loon who came up with this idea, and bless the one who approved it for production. In 1986, Lancia created the Thema 8.32—a luxurious front-wheel drive sedan with an engine borrowed from a Ferrari 308. No, really. This is a thing that exists, and it's apparently quite nice to drive according to Harry Metcalfe of Harry's Garage, who features this rare sedan in his latest video.
The regular Thema, which featured various turbocharged four-cylinders and a V6, was the result of a tie-up between the Fiat and Saab. In the early 1980s, the Italians and the Swedish co-developed a front-wheel drive platform to compete with the likes of the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes E-Class. The cars that resulted were the first-generation Saab 9000, Fiat Croma, Alfa Romeo 164, and yes, the Thema.
To make the ultimate Thema, Lancia called upon Ferrari, its Fiat stable mate, for help. So, that's how the Thema 8.32 ended up with a Ferrari engine, though, this isn't quite the same V8 you'd find in a 308. It was based on the 32-valve 3.0-liter used in the 308 Quattrovalvole, but its flat-plane crankshaft was replaced with a more-traditional cross-plane crank. This changes the firing order, and gave the 8.32 a distinct audio signature from the 308. The engine was built by Ducati, too.
While the Thema 8.32 offered a respectable 215 horsepower—enough to match a contemporary BMW 535i—stuffing a V8 up front made it very nose heavy. Metcalfe says the weight distribution is like that of a Porsche 911, but backwards. And it was expensive, at around double the cost of a four-cylinder Thema.
As you might expect, Lancia didn't sell many—just under 4000, and according to Metcalfe, only nine in the UK. That's kind of a shame, because as Metcalfe finds, the 8.32 is a genuinely entertaining car. It's more of a relaxed, powerful cruiser than an all-out sports-sedan in the mold of the BMW M5.
Of course, if you're bemoaning the death of the Thema 8.32, Maserati will happily sell you a new super-sedan with a Ferrari V8—it's called the Quattroporte.