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Nobody could have predicted what the future held for the Lancia Delta when it was unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show in September 1979. There was little to suggest that the boxy, if not unattractive, family car with no more than 84bhp would go on to become the most successful rally machine in history and a hot-hatch icon. The Integrale monicker given to progressively hotter versions is today a byword for both style and performance.

When the last Integrale rolled off the production line, 15 years after its launch, the Delta had notched up an amazing 46 World Rally Championship victories as it swept to six consecutive titles for manufacturers from 1987-92 and four for drivers. And that tally doesn’t include the four wins from the
Group B Delta S4 look-alike.

The world has the demise of Group B to thank for the Integrale. When the category was canned in favour of Group A in the wake of the accident in which Henri Toivonen and co-driver Sergio Cresto died aboard an S4 on the 1986 Tour de Corse, Lancia competitions boss Cesare Fiorio turned to the hot version of the road-going Delta.

The 140bhp Lancia Delta HF 4WD had been introduced to the market in ’86 as part of a facelift and would go on to carry the hopes of the Italian marque in the WRC the following year. It was barely distinguishable on the outside from the hottest of Deltas that had preceded it, the HF Turbo ie, but it had another 20bhp from its eight-valve 2-litre engine to go with its four-wheel-drive system.

The squat look that defines the Integrale was still a year or so away. But the HF 4WD was good enough to score a debut victory on the 1987 Monte Carlo, with Miki Biasion driving, and claim that year’s WRC title with Juha Kankkunen.

Development of Group A rally cars was limited by strict homologation rules, hence the introduction of the first Integrale in September ’87. The developments on the road car could be carried over into competition, which explains the bulging wheelarches to incorporate wider tyres and an uprated version of its in-line four powerplant with new valves and a bigger turbo and intercooler. The louvred bonnet, another Integrale signature, hinted at an extra 20bhp.

“The demise of Group B led to the development of the Delta Integrale”

Biasion again did the business on the maiden outing for the Integrale, the 1988 Rally Portugal, and went on to win the first of his two world titles with Lancia. But the Italian marque wasn’t finished. There would be a further upgrades to the Delta as it sought to keep the car competitive.

The 16-valve Integrale, with 200bhp, came 18 months later, Biasion maintaining his run of out-of-the-box wins with the Delta on the 1989 Sanremo. The Lancia factory pulled out of rallying after another WRC title double in 1991, but development of the Integrale continued. The Evo 1 was revealed at the back end of that year. It had more power, of course, and the body bulged further — the bonnet hump grew and so did the wheelarches to allow a wider track front and rear.

The Evo 1 claimed more silverware with the semi-independent Jolly Club squad — eight wins and another manufacturer title. And there was one more evolution of the car to come, the Evo 2, that was never developed into a rally car. Largely a cosmetic upgrade, it did, of course, have more power.

It is the evo cars — the evoluziones — that are the desirable ones today. More powerful and refined, they are the classic Integrales.

Lancia Delta HF Integrale 8V

Price new £14,000
Price now £10-20,000
Engine Two-litre, eight-valve in-line four-cylinder
Power 185bhp
0-60mph 6.6sec
Top speed 134mph
Rivals Ford Sierra RS Cosworth, Mazda 323 4WD
Verdict The demands of international rallying created a legend


Market view

Rallying history that’s cheaper than you think

With the Italian version of Singer, Automobili Amos, creating a Lancia Delta Integrale ‘resto-mod’, there’s a growing appetite for this rallying icon.

At £270,000 Automobili Amos’ Lancia Delta Futurista is out of reach to most, but the original models remain affordable.

There are a few variants:
8v and 16v, Evoluzione I and Evoluzione II, alongside anniversary Martini 5 and 6 models. Due to build numbers and specifications, prices can vary wildly, from £10,000 for a standard 8v needing attention, to 10 times that for a Martini 6.

Enthusiasts are opting for the limited-edition cars that celebrate Lancia’s rallying victories. An Evoluzione I Martini 6 is expected to sell at RM Sotheby’s April Essen sale for £105,000 plus buyer’s premium. Meanwhile, Artcurial offered a standard, low-mileage Evoluzione I for no reserve at its Paris sale earlier in the year, which hammered at £62,983.

Owning an Integrale means having a slice of rallying history. It’s ’80s four-wheel drive hot-hatch royalty, designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, and has one of the most iconic badges on the front. If you can, get your hands on an Evoluzione I or II but the 8v and 16v still offer the same exciting ride for a fraction of the price.

David Bond,  Managing Director, Footman James

 

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