Lancia Rally 037

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Although it was the direct successor to Lancia’s victorious Stratos, the genesis of the Rally was a good deal more complicated. The earlier rally special was conjured up by Lancia’s own competition department from an assortment of Fiat / Lancia components, brought together in a completely fresh structure by &none. But in 1977 the renowned tuning and manufacturing firm of Abarth took over responsibility for Fiat Lancia competitions, and when it was announced that new regulations were to be introduced in 1982, altering the previous 400-off Group 4 requirement to a figure of 200 for the new group B, it was Abarth who began to investigate what form the new Lancia rally car should take. With ever higher development costs and a reduced number needed for homologation, it made sense to base the new car to a greater or lesser extent on something in the existing range, and two approaches were considered. The first was to transplant a front-wheel drive package to the back of a small hatchback, as Renault had done with its 5-based Turbo, and the two options here were the Fiat Ritmo or the Lancia Delta. The latter has had to wait until this year to receive such attention (it is of course the basis of the latest Lancia rally car, the 4WD S4) because the final target of development was the mid-engined Monte Carlo.

This attractive sports car had something of a mixed parentage, being conceived originally as a stablematc to the Fiat X1/9, complete with Fiat project coding of X1/20. But the first appearance of the bodystylc was as a prototype road-racer built in 1974 by Abarth for the Giro d’Italia. Badged only as an Abarth 030, this special was powered by a 3.5-litre version of the V6 from Fiat’s handsome 130 Coupe, mounted longitudinally ahead of the rear wheels, but the layout had no connection to the Monte Carlo itself, which surfaced at the 1975 Geneva show with Lancia badges and the 4-cylinder Beta engine fitted transversely behind the seats. Thus when Abarth turned the Monte Carlo into the Rally, they were reverting to, previous scheme by choosing an in-line engine location with a ZF transaxle. In place of the V6 there was another version of the Lancia-developed Fiat 1,995 cc overhead cam engine, this time fed by a Volumex supercharger with a downdraught Weber carburetter.

The body structure bears a resemblance to the Stratos, in that a steel cockpit is retained, but the rest of the production steelwork is replaced by sub-frames tubular steel carrying engine, transmission and suspension, and on which are hung fibreglass nose and tail sections. Thy Monte Carlo’s four MacPherson struts are supplanted by unequal length wishbones and progressive coil springs, with twin dampers at the rear, and both rods are fully adjustable, with large vented brake discs all round. The wheelbase of the Rallye is some six inches longer than its progenitor, so the body panels have hardly anything in common. Apart from being considerably let, the Rally is much lower, with larger eelarches, while the nose is slimmer with n headlamps instead of the original tangular units; in fact it is really the Mow shapes which do most to visually ntify the homologation special with the iduction car.

Ile 200 cars necessary for homologation re built in one batch in early 1982, all of use left-hand-drive, and while most nained on the Continent, either in the rks team vein the hands of private trains, e car found its way to Britain. This side was to be campaigned in tarmac ents by Irish rally driver Dessie :Cartney, and was accordingly prepared Andy Dawson’s DAD concern. The car s dismantled and ,onverted to lit-hand-drive, and the suspension was milt with spherical joints instead of xible bushes. After a short competition Ter, the car was displayed in Lancia nwrooms around Britain before going to a w home in Scotland. When MOTOR SPORT tested the car at invitation of its new owner, Inverness sinessman John Gray, the car was fitted th the basic roadgoing specification engine educing 205 bhp, and was in regular use daily transport, a tribute to the flexibility a supercharged power unit. Since then it s had installed what is known as an ‘olution 1 unit with more potent cams, taxed-up cylinder head, and a smaller Iley on the compressor which is the nple way of increasing the boost, bringing figure up to about 300 bhp. In this form car will soon be seen in sprints,

OUBLE BUBBLE’. roof is more usually a gain trademark, but appears on this Pinatfanna wit, seen above Loch Ness, Mow, to allow room crash-helmets.

hillclimbs, and other tarmac events north of the border.

Lifting the front and rear panels (both fully detachable for better access) makes it abundantly clear that this is a competition car above all else: the sturdy tubing, stainless steel dry-sump tank and heatshield over the exhaust boxes in the tail are balanced by a huge oil cooler alongside the main radiator in the nose, while the only storage space is a large GRP pocket slotted into the front framework which holds jack, tools, and a space-saver spare tyre.

What one does with the holed tyre should one of the 50-profile 16 in Pirelli P7s blow is anybody’s guess. If the passenger seat is occupied even a modest 205 front (the rears are 225s) would have to rest in the co-pilot’s lap.

The main electrical items are accessible from inside the cockpit: the battery is behind the left-hand seat, and the fuses are set out in a double row of cute little red buttons on the centre console. Although the main fascia is a plain moulding, elements of the comfortable road car do remain — there are a comprehensive (and reasonably effective) heating and ventilation system, electric windows, even an ashtray. But in contrast, the plain metal pedals are drilled out, and the hefty roll-cage includes side-bars which are higher than the seats, though these surprisingly make entry to and egress from this very low car easier if anything; being padded they make a convenient rump-rest while the legs are swung over. The driving position is a very natural one, aided by an adjustable steering wheel, VOL UMEX blower ts mounted on the side of the Abarth-developed four-valve per cyltnder /995 cc block lrIght), suck*, through a twm-chohe Weber

behind which speedand tachometer predominate over the usual engine gauges, which are supplemented by a boost gauge. Being used to fluctuating turbo dials, I had assumed that a supercharged engine would boost in direct relation to revs, but was interested to see that in fact the pressure jumped instantly with a floored throttle (presumbly as the result of the restriction of the part-closed butterflies, illustrating the response advantage of the mechanical supercharger over the turbo.

A squirt of throttle is enough to start the engine, and the triple-plate clutch, while heavy, is nice and quick, allowing smooth progress even in traffic. The willingness of the car is quite astonishing; in fourth gear, the revs can slide down towards idle and then surge up again without complaint all the way to the 7,000 rpm limit. In fifth, that figure should produce 137 mph according to Lancia, and certainly we measured 132 mph before running out of room, with a little (a very little) more to come. It was unfortunately a wet day when we took performance figures on the Rally, but they are nevertheless impressive: the 0-60 mph time came down to 6.7 seconds, and that was sideways almost all the way. Dropping the clutch flicked the light car crabwise instantly, an attitude it maintained into second gear, whippping straight for a mere second between ratios, but always completely controllable and stable. The three-figure barrier was cracked in 17.8 seconds . With its rose-jointed suspension, the ride of the little red car is hardly relaxing, but Continued oo p88I

BARE STRUCTURE under the nose cames oil and water radiators, and a GRP pouch which holds a narrow spare,’ and some tools (bottom right).

then relaxing is one thing the driver is not tempted to do. The “clunking” noises and constant jiggling around are oddly satisfying in themselves, as an indication of the sort of performance to be expected, and delivered, at speed, while the sound of the engine is an unusual mixture of a muted roar from the three-box exhaust and restrained compressor whine. Changing gear is spoiled only by the soggy moulded lever from the Beta Coupe which rather masks the crispness of the shift through the ZF transaxle, which places first left and back, and whose ratios are nicely spread.

The steering is quite heavy up to about 40 mph, although the wheel is not a small one, which may contribute to the sense of stability in cornering. There is none of the twitchiness of a Stratus, and the throttle can be closed quite smartly before the tail begins to slide; conversely it can be pushed into power oversteer easily in second or third, and held in a very satisfying slide. Up to that point it is virtually neutral, the fat Pirellis gripping impressively; altogether a forgiving combination of engine and chassis which will pull itself around that surprise tight bend which caught you in too high a gear, and remain under control if you lock a wheel on a greasy patch under braking.

It makes no sense at all to run one of these cars on the road no bumpers, no storage, no nearby service agent (Gray’s car went back to Italy for its new engine) — but enjoyment is not always constrained by common sense. Driving it over the Struie, a moorland pass north of Inverness composed of brows and dips interspersed with narrow stone bridges, the long-travel suspension and punchy engine made it a delight, squirting from bend to bend knowing that the twin servo brakes (one front, one rear) can absorb much more punishment than it would be prudent to subject them to on a public road. Further south, the alternately wide and narrow mad skirting Loch Ness emphasised how accurately this impatient projectile can be threaded between the stone walls, trees, and rockfaces which border this twisty and demanding road, and how willingly it flicks left or right to tackle the next corner.

The urgent sensations that the car communicates to the driver were if anything heightened by the damp weather, calling for extra delicacy of throttle and wheel, but the Rally is not a tricky car to drive; it is entirely predictable and capable of very rapid journeys on any type of road. In third or fourth, overtaking is a safe manoeuvre m the shortest of spaces, the fixed lights allowing a polite warning flash, and the view is pretty good even over the shoulder. The effort of the weight of steering and clutch are disguised by the satisfying responsiveness of the chassis as a whole, and the feeling inside is one of business-like comfort.

It is the sort of car whose squat presence urges you to pick your day, plan a route, and get on with it, which resents stopping to fill the. two 71/2 gallon tanks, and which leaves the driver tired but smiling. The passenger is just going to be tired, unless he is also a rr.of fast driving and Italian sportscars, but then the “road car” ription is really not meant to be taken seriously; “road-legal tally car” would be nearer the point, and the occupants should ant their outlook accordingly. — G.C.