New cars: Lancia Delta HF Integrale 16v

Staying one step ahead

Lancia has a busy period of reorganisation ahead in Britain. With its models now sold through Fiat (UK) Ltd, instead of Lancar, there will be inevitable dealer changes, but none of the consequent confusion should obscure the new production excellence from Turin.

We have been driving the most exciting example, the third-generation of the four-wheel-drive turbocharged Delta which has consumed the World Rally Championship since 1987. Now equipped with a 16v powerpack of 200 road horsepower (the competition potential is twice that), the HF Integrale 16v remains a supreme driving experience — even at the projected “£19,000 to £20,000” when it arrives in the UK this August, still in left-hand-drive only “for the immediate future”.

It was January 1987 before the first Delta 4WD appeared in world-class competition, the necessary 5000 manufactured, whereupon Lancia demolished the opposition to win seven events and the World Championships for both Drivers and Makes. In 1988 the Integrale (its 185 bhp roadgoing base having debuted in October 1987) won all but one qualifying event in the makes series; a second successive double tide was never in doubt, and Miki Biasion was created the first official Italian World Rally Champion.

In 1989 the Integrale, easily identified by its Audi quattro-style wheel-arch extensions on the original 1978 Delta body, has continued to pummel its rivals from Ford, GM and the Japanese. But the latter are becoming notably more effective through the efforts of Toyota and Mitsubishi, so the 16v derivative, one which also promises to increase the already profitable 15,000 run of Delta 4WD derivatives sold to date, was a commerical and competitive necessity. It should make its World Championship debut any time after August 1.

Fiat/Lancia’s familiar iron-block counterbalanced 2-litre now gains 16 valves in vee pattern to complement belt-driven double overhead cam. Pumped intake mixture via a more efficient Intercooler and Garrett AiResearch T3 at a maximum 14.2 psi at the usual 8:1 cr assists unusual 16v flexibility.

From 2500 to 4800 revs, over 210 lb ft of torque is supplied (more than the peak of a similarly hefty Sierra RS Cosworth), peaking at 224 lb ft on 3000 rpm. That is 500 rpm down the scale of the previous 8v unit, and maximum 16v power of 200 bhp at 5600 rpm is also highly accessible to the laziest of drivers.

The effect on performance is startling. We did not recall the previous Integrate as lethargic, but the 16v bites 62 mph from rest in 5.7 seconds, a figure which would not disgrace a Porsche 911. The overtaking prowess supplied by the wide power and torque curves should offset considerably the handicap of LHD in Britain.

A 137 mph maximum is almost irrelevant in a machine which continues to employ its strut suspension and sophisticated permanent 4WD to outstanding effect. As before, a Ferguson-patented viscous coupling (VC) and epicyclic gears provide central power apportionment, and the action of the rear differential is further disciplined by Torsen Gleason-patented limited-slip differential. An hydraulic clutch is now specified and the ZF gearbox has been uprated with a new second-gear ratio listed.

For the buying public the good news is not completed at the provision of a flexible 15 bhp bonus in the engine compartment. Lancia and Bosch engineers have worked together upon a four-channel, six-sensor third generation of electronic anti-lock braking for the quartet of Integrate discs. Listed as an option, along with a sunroof and now 7J x 15in alloy wheels, the ABS has been taught to electronically exchange information with the Marelli-Weber IAW engine-management system.

The effect is to ensure that ABS always intervenes subtly at the consistent brake pedal, even if the car is decelerating sharply over mixed surfaces or has to stop suddenly in mid-corner. It was a 100% success on our experience.

Tyre and suspension settings reflected significantly revised suspension (very few parts interchange with the car’s visually similar predecessor). ABS demanded some of these alterations, accompanied by the provision of a slight rearward power-bias. Today the setting is 47% front, 53% rear, almost exactly a reverse of the original. Front-end weight continues to occupy some 63% of the now hefty 1250kg five-door.

Externally and internally it takes a practiced eye to spot the differences between 16v and its rallying champion forerunner, but the 1.2in elevation in slatted bonnet height (the underneath heavily padded to minimise noise levels) is most obvious. Ride height is reduced by almost an inch. I would guess that the intake beneath the spoiler to direct cool air to the gearbox was vitally needed in competition to justify its inclusion.

So the 16v Integral, remains a step ahead in the 4WD “super-hatchback” set, but snags remain. Wind noise from that bluff shape increases sharply above the easy 100 mph and 3900 rpm cruising pace. The interior is a sorry mixture of unsuitable colourings and sprawling switchgear. Recaro seats are the least supportive from that reputable company. But at the end of a damp but exhilarating day amongst the Torinese lanes, tracks and motorways, my opinion of the latest in Lancia Integrale remains one of unmatched performance versatility. The I6v is the finest all-weather driving experience on sale, one that is only enhanced by the addition of ABS. JW

Book reviews

Rolls-Royce – The best cars in the World, by George Oliver.

To view of the number of books on this subject, George Oliver is a brave man to have embarked on yet another; and he is fully aware of the situation, one of his chapters being devoted to an informative bibliography of almost all other Rolls-Royce publications. It is thus to his great credit that he has made his book very readable, even managing to include fresh information despite the enormous coverage which has gone before. There are also “new” photographs, when such are now very difficult to discover.

The illustrations, many in colour and including plans and drawings, are arranged somewhat haphazardly but make a fine collection. Very interesting are those of a 1904 car modernised as a ghastly two-seater in 1920, the 1909 cab-bodied 40/50 which the author drove from Berwickshire to Beaulieu, the controls of the only surviving three-cylinder 15hp car, and his own 31/2-litre Bentley bought for £210 in 1962.

GET Eyston’s special-bodied 31/2-litre Bentley (of which Philip Mann is having a copy made) and the Embiricos 41/2-litre Bentley coupe at Brooklands are there, but not those Ghosts raced by private owners in the 1920s. The Clark chassis drawing of a PIII is superb.

No-one has delved deeper into Rolls-Royce references in publications of all kinds than George Oliver, and his book is refreshingly different from so many of the stereotyped make histories; he is to be congratulated on a difficult job well carried out in entertaining style.
We will immodestly mention that he pays tribute to Motor Sport for the first outspoken road tests and for our Cars In Books feature in which many Rolls-Royces have figured.

The author takes the reader from the earliest Rolls and Royce amalgamation right through to present-day models. A chapter called “See how they run” describes driving experiences with old and later cars, and another called “See how they last” remembers older cars as they were originally encountered. My criticisms are confined to the lack of an index, confusion in Oliver’s mind as to exactly when that epic Ghost journey took place, a confusing description of how to go from top to “sprinting” gear on that 1909 ex-break-down truck, and negative mention of Rolls-Royce’s adoption of independent front suspension. Oliver is interesting on coachwork, as is only to be expected from one whose former work on the subject was so good that my copy was stolen!

Every owner is recommended to add this book to his or her library. WB

Build to Win, by Keith Noakes, is all about composite materials technology in racing, and is rather more approachable than at least one of the other technical titles in this series. Early developments are listed (the first patent involving honeycomb material surfaced as early as 1938 at De Havilland Aircraft), before some straightforward description of today’s various processes leads in to a selection of chapters looking at examples, from Cooper to TWR Jaguar and McLaren. A section on competition motorcycles follows, and the book closes with a discussion of the safety of these materials, amply demonstrated since publication by Berger’s crash at Imola.

Generous illustrations show Formula One and sports-cars under construction, as well as Donald Campbell’s Bluebird CN7 which used honeycomb materials in 1959. Informative, though not of practical value in the same way as the previous volumes. GC

Monaco Grand Prix – Portrait of a pageant, by Craig Brown and Len Newman.

This is rather sumptuous! Published on the eve of this year’s race, it features the fine photography of Michael Hewitt, backed up by those of LAT and others (311 all told, 91 of them in excellent colour), with results from every contest since the first in 1929. The earlier races get less (though still good) picture coverage, the later ones the full Hewitt treatment. All who love street racing cannot fail to be captivated by the marvellous shots from this tight circuit. And for a lesson on how not to take photos, look at page 49! WB

There have been a number of books aimed at novices anxious to get a wheel-track in motoring sport, but none more informative than Simon Arron’s Making A Start In Motorsport, a 159-page paperback from PSL of Wellingborough, which sponsors the 750 Formula Challenge. The categories covered are circuit racing, rallying, autocross, rallycross, autograss, karting, hill-climbs and sprints, drag racing, trialling, autotesting and oval racing, as well as marshalling and attracting sponsorship. Apart from telling a beginner what is what, and what equipment is needed, good pictures and relevant addresses are included — but although the BOC is listed the Prescott Hill-Climb School is not, and the MCC trials with night sections and individual rules might have been mentioned. However, not everything can be packed in for £4.99. Each chapter has an introduction by an appropriate celebrity, with Derek Bell doing the foreword. It should whet the appetite and instruct at one and the same time. WE

Two more in the ever-growing Brooklands Books series have materialised: Marcos Cars 1960-1988 and TVR — Gold Portfolio. These well-known compilations of road tests and articles from various magazines (apart from forming an invaluable source of information for motoring writers) give a good picture of the history of a marque or a model as it was perceived at the time, which is not necessarily the way we see it now.

Brooklands Books has quietly established a useful little niche for itself with these works, which are not an indiscriminate collection but are edited down to a good spread of coverage. Picture quality varies, since these are shot from the printed page, often from colour into the mono which is standard, but in the end it is the written information which counts. The normal 100-page version, such as Marcos, costs £6.95, and Gold Portfolio extends to 180 pages at £9.95. GC

Impressively up-to-date as ever, the 1989-90 edition of Observers Cars has just been published by Penguin in its traditional pocket-sized softback format, at £3.99. More than half the 181 entries are new, a representative sample of current road cars being covered thorough the usual page of technical specifications and single blackand-white picture. For solid information alone it is cheap at the price, but editor Stuart Bladon occasionally finds space for half a sentence of opinion too. GT