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My 1954 Lancia Aurelia

"I'm still learning to drive it because it's not easy to drive like my Yaris," says Aurelia of her Lancia.

She's a little more than 21 years in the making and the Lancia Aurelia is about 20 years in the re-making. The two got together late last year when the Italian classic was a surprise 21st birthday present from Aurelia's parents Garry and Monique Connelly.

The saga started in 1990 when friend and car restorer Wolf Grodd of Sleeping Beauties heard Connelly had christened his daughter Aurelia, the same name as the famous Italian rally and race car.

"I had no idea of what the car was or looked like, but I had heard it was a rally car," says Connelly, a former rally driver who helped secure rounds of the World Rally Championship for Australia and was honoured in the 2009 Queen's Birthday honours list for service to motorsport.

"Wolf said we should get one and give it to Aurelia for her 21st birthday," he said.

The car came from England and was found on a dump in Woy Woy in 1990. Connelly paid $10,000 for the rusted shell. After 20 years of restoration at Sleeping Beauties it is now insured for $140,000. Aurelia didn't find out about the car until she was five years old.

"Then it was hidden away from me until my birthday," she says. "I hadn't forgotten about it but I didn't know it was going to be my 21st present."

The B20 Aurelia has a 2.5-litre V6 alloy pushrod engine, dual-throat downdraft Weber carburettor, drum brakes (inboard in the rear), four-speed H-pattern column-shift transmission and was capable of 200km/h when new.

"I'm still learning to drive it because it's not easy to drive like my Yaris," she says. "It goes like hell, but it doesn't stop all that well."

The Lancia was built from 1950-58 and competed in famous rallies and races such as the Monte Carlo, Mille Miglia, Targa Florio and Le Mans. In 1954, they cost 4200 ($6550) in Australia while a Rolls-Royce was 5000 ($7800). Restoration may have been a long process, but it was meticulous with a lot of handmade parts required, such as the boot and dashboard.

"They did a bit each year and the rest of the time it sat in the back of their garage," Connelly says. "It's amazing; you can still get parts from England, Italy and even in Australia."

Aurelia says she will display the vehicle at classic car shows and attend Lancia Club events.

"I'm very interested in motorsport and been to world rally and F1 events since I can remember. But I'm more on the organisational side rather than competing," says the masters student in organisational psychology who managed the media centre for the WRC round in northern NSW in 2009.

Connelly is chairman of the FIA stewards and attends seven F1 events a year. He is also a member of the FIA Institute which researches motorsport safety. He retired from his WRC involvement at the end of 2009.

1954 LANCIA AURELIA

Year: 1954
Price new: $4200 ($6550)
Price now: insured for $140,000
Engine: 104kW 2.5-litre V6
Body: 2-door coupe
Trans: 4-speed column shift, rear-wheel drive.

Did you know: Lancia Aurelia introduced the front-engine, rear-transmission configuration later used by Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Porsche, GM, and Maserati, as well as the V6 engine.