Last weekend I was absent-mindedly flicking through the auction catalogues when I spotted an unobtrusive-looking Lancia Thema.

Admittedly I've always had a bit of soft spot for the boxy Italian saloon, which was the result of a joint project with Saab, Fiat and Alfa. What really grabbed my attention, however, was the fact that it was an '8.32' variant.

Back in the late ’80s, many manufacturers were busy releasing saloons that offered near-supercar performance. Companies like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and even Ford were all serving up suitably potent yet subtle cars, designed to appeal to well-heeled individuals who enjoyed driving.

Lancia, sensing that it was missing out on a lucrative opportunity, obviously spent too long in a bar one evening. It decided that what it should really do was make a V8-engined version of its front-wheel-drive Thema saloon.

Drawing on some local support the Italian manufacturer settled on using a 2.9-litre V8 with 32 valves, hence the car's '8.32' moniker. The engine was based on the Ferrari unit found in the Mondial and 308 and shared many components with its Prancing Horse equivalents.

With the new engine crammed into the Lancia's nose, and 212bhp being transmitted to the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox, the Thema could sprint from 0-60mph in around 6.8 seconds.