CAR Dealer Magazine staff are of a certain age. In our childhood, there was only one daddy on the World Rally circuit. The Lancia Delta Integrale. World Rally Champion 1987. 1988. 1989. 1990. 1991, too.
Oh, and don’t forget 1992.
On the poster we had on our wall, they’d run out of space on the laurel wreath graphic to fit them all in. We imagined the frustration of the graphic designer: What? I’ve got to fit another year on?
They did indeed, and all because the Delta Integrale was World Rallying. Many wax lyrical about the Mini’s famed prowess in the sport, but even that has nothing on this famed Italian. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was virtually unbeatable across all conditions. Which,
conveniently, meant the road-going versions that homologation rules stipulated had to be built, were similarly awe-inspiring too.
It all came about because the Group B cars, of which Lancia had played such a major part in developing, were banned. They were just too fast. This caught many makers on the hop – who remembers the factory full of unsold Ford RS200s? – but Lancia had it all in hand. It was already developing the future.
This was released in 1986, as the Delta HF 4×4. Looked just like the standard HF, complete with 163bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre. Don’t be fooled. That permanent four-wheel-drive running gear made it pretty damn capable, and its potential was soon being realised.
For, just a short while later, the first of the famed Integrales arrived. With an 8v version of that 2.0-litre, it produced 182bhp – which sounds weedy now, but was good enough then for 0-60mph in 6.6s. With revised suspension, bigger wheels and enlarged brake discs, it all helped create a legend – given cult status in the UK from its left-hand-drive only status.
It didn’t stand still. By 1989, the engine had 16 valves, and a further bulge in the bonnet to clear the enlarged head. It was punching out 200bhp, in utterly counter-balanced, Italian-tuned brilliance. And still it won rallies. So still Lancia developed it.
The first of the Evoluzione variants came in 1991. This was so good, a bunch of car-mad journos named a magazine after it: no wonder, when an even wider track, and even more bulging wheelarches, left it looking so utterly delectable. There was yet another new bonnet, an adjustable rear wing, and enough tuned-in ability to chop a further six per cent from the World Rally special stage times. The competition simply shook its head.
It was probably tempted to just pack up and go home when the Evo II came in 1993. Despite getting an exhaust-cleansing cat, this boasted 215bhp, was even faster and even more achingly wantable. New wheels, alcantara Recaros and a red-topped, Garrett turbo-equipped engine meant not even Bon Jovi could win the fight against it for space on bedroom walls.
Some 16 years ago, and here was a car doing 0-60mph in 5.7s, and putting this power to the ground with total accomplishment. Throw in that famous yellow ‘elephant’ badge on the grille, and is it any wonder we still lust after one?
Trouble is, so good was the Integrale, they’re still not within our price range. To get an Evo II like on our poster, we’re still looking at a healthy £14k plus (and, usually, a lot more). Oh, and make sure you add on a hefty chunk to keep the thing in poster-worthy condition, too. Know what, though? It’ll remain on our list. Age shall not wither our passion: mark our words, this cult car itch will one day be scratched…
by Richard Aucock
Lancia Delta Integrale Evoluzione II
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo
Top speed: 140mph