When we asked our readers which fantasy car they most wanted to see built, the legendary Lancia Delta Integrale hot hatch was a predictable favourite. Built to homologate Lancia’s Group-B rally car, the Delta Integrale road cars gained a committed enthusiast following in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This is how a new version could look.
Lancia revived the Delta name in 2008, not that you’d necessarily know it, as here in the UK these third-generation models wore Chrysler badges. This is probably just as well, because the rally-inspired Integrale variant must surely rank as one of the hardest acts to follow in automotive history.
Built to comply with World Rally Championship Group A regulations – which stipulated manufacturers offer at least 5,000 road-legal versions of competition models – the original Delta Integrale arrived in 1987.
In its various guises, the rally car would go on to win five consecutive constructors’ titles between 1988 and 1992, with many of the motorsport-focused upgrades making it into production.
These various tweaks culminated in June 1993 with the Evo II’s arrival. Aside from a number of one-off specials, this was the Integrale’s last hurrah before being phased out the following year, and embodied everything Lancia had learnt from the world of competitive racing.
Known for its blend of balanced, agile handling and blistering speed, it was recently voted the second best car of the last 25 years by Auto Express readers.
Needless to say, demand for original Integrales remains high, fuelling calls for a modern take on the five-door hot hatchback.
Unlike the recent Delta, styling would probably follow the first-generation Lancia’s angular lines, alongside trademark design cues in the form of a roof-mounted rear spoiler, two-part headlights and oversized wheel-arches. While under the bonnet, a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine would be the most fitting power source, although performance would surely increase over the Evo II’s 212bhp.
The major hiccup to any such revival is the fact Lancia’s owner, Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, recently announced the Turin-based brand will confine sales to its home-market in Italy. The brand was also conspicuous by its absence from FCA chief Sergio Marchionne’s recent five-year plan for the rest of the group.
It seems the best we can hope for at the moment is a modern-day interpretation based on an original Delta Integrale, as Italian coachbuilder Pininfarina did for a private collector with the Stratos in 2010.
The first 8-value Lancia Delta Integrale arrived towards the end of 1987 replacing the Delta HF 4WD with a remit to improve its abilities as a rally car. It took a year and a half for the 185bhp turbocharged 8-valve engine to be replaced by a 197bhp unit with 16-valves.
The 16-valve car had bigger wheels, better brakes and a rear-wheel bias for the 4x4 system. It also had a raised centre section in its bonnet to accommodate the extra valves.
The next significant milestone in the Lancia Delta Integrale story is the arrival of the Evolouzione late in 1991. These cars has a wider track front and rear, new front suspension and an adjustable rear spoiler. Power stepped up to 207bhp.
The Lancia Delta Integrale Evolouzione was the last homologation version of the car but there was a subsequent Evolouzione II that was never rallied in anger. This arrived in 1993 with the significant additions being a catalytic converter and a new turbo that liberated 212bhp. Various special edition versions followed before the Integrale bit the dust in 1994.