Lancia Delta Integrale: An Italian Unicorn
Every now and again, something truly special comes along like cheerios, Duran Duran and the electric toothbrush.…
In the car world, The Lancia Delta Integrale was one such thing. A hatch back of such presence, poise and performance that we all felt it was going to usher in a period of continued success for the Italian brand.
Maybe time has tinted our glasses rose coloured when we think about this hot hatch from Turin but has there really been a more iconic hot hatch?
Sure the Golf GTI, Peugeot 205 GTI and Nova GSI all pushed the envelope but if you see one in the wild do you stop, drink up the majesty and enjoy the fact you have just seen something special?
No. No you don’t. I’ve never met anyone that salivates over an F reg Golf GTI in the same way the Integrale gets the blood pumping.
The Lancia Delta began life the 1970s as a fairly normal, run of the mill hatchback that did little to thrill. Then in the 80s, Lancia decided they wanted to enter the little dynamo into the WRC and they started to tinker. They popped a torque splitting four wheel drive system in there, made some other tweaks and set it loose onto the racing circuit.
Interestingly the car shouldn’t have been successful. The arches were far to small meaning the brakes and wheels were far too tiny but thanks to the some luck and the main rivals being woefully unprepared the little beast won the constructors championship between 1987 and 1992….that’s six in a row. As well as four drivers championships in that time, two apiece for Juha Kankkunen (1987 and 1991) and Miki Biasion (1988 and 1989).
Those performances made the Delta Integrale the most successful marque in the history of the WRC, as well as making the Delta the most successful car to that point.
Explaining the racing pedigree of this rocket can be saved for another day but to qualify in the Group A category in the late 80s, 5000 cars had to be produced for sale and this means that one of the best rally cars of the age hit the roads.
For this we are truly thankful.
The squat stance and ability to get the power down in the real world gave this car the most amazing handling and sheer smile per mile metrics that have ever been seen.
Alas, the success did not continue for Lancia and the brand as well a the model fizzled out into the wilderness were they produced some of the dullest cars known to human kind.
A truly sorry tale for the manufacturer that brought us the not only one of the best hot hatches of all time but also the legendary Stratos…..that, however, is a story for another day…
So, if you ever see one of these Italian unicorns in the wild, be sure to enjoy it as it passes.