Caffeine&Machine cultofmachine Yard Visitor Delta blues: the Integrale’s final form

Delta blues: the Integrale’s final form

The Delta HF Integrale Evo 2 is the final evolution of Lancia’s legendary homologation special. What’s made it such a desirable collector’s car?

Lancia has always been a company defined by contradictions. It built rally cars tough enough to win ten Manufacturers’ World Rally Championships – more than any other make – but left the UK road car market in the 1990s with a reputation ruined by rust and unreliability. It was a relentless technical innovator, helping pioneer the unibody chassis, the V6 engine, and active aerodynamics, to name just a few.

But today, it sells one car in one country – a 12-year-old hatchback based on 20-year-old Fiat bones.

There are no contradictions with the Delta HF Integrale, though. It was a car built with an singular purpose: take an ageing family hatchback, and make it capable of dominating the world’s rally stages.

The Delta’s first WRC title came in 1987, the year after Group B cars were banned and Group A became the top category in international rallying. A product of good timing, the turbocharged Delta HF 4WD launched in 1986 and suddenly found itself perfectly positioned to succeed in rallying’s new era. It walked the World Championship that year, winning the Manufacturers’ title with 140 points compared to second-placed Audi’s 82. Lancia drivers locked out every podium position in the Drivers’ Championship.

In 1988, the Integrale name debuted, and in 1989 the switch was made from an 8v to a 16v head. In 1991, the pumped-up, wide-bodied Evoluzione version arrived, but at the end of 1992, Lancia pulled out of rallying as a factory team. The company was near-unstoppable during this six-year period, winning every single Manufacturers’ title in a run of dominance akin to Mercedes’s recent run in F1 or Audi’s LMP1 rule at Le Mans.

Even after leaving the sport it had ruled, though, Lancia wasn’t quite finished with the Delta Integrale, because in 1993, the car pictured here (in Rally Sweden-appropriate conditions) arrived: the Delta HF Integrale Evo 2. Though never the base for a competition car, it’s the Integrale variant that’s most revered and cherished amongst fans and collectors.

Truthfully, the differences between Evos 1 and 2 are minimal. The biggest visual clues to the later car are larger, 16-inch versions of those wonderful Speedline wheels, a standard pair of high-backed Recaro bucket seats and a fuel filler cap in aluminium. Mechanically, the biggest changes were a new ECU and a smaller turbo designed to reduce lag, with a slight bump in power from 207 to 212bhp. This car also comes equipped with a lightpod – definitely not original, but increasing coolness by a scientifically-proven 100%.

There are plenty of Delta aficionados who argue that the Evo 1, or even the earlier non-Evo cars, are the sweeter drives, but the looks, rarity and end-of-the-line significance of the Evo 2 means it’s led the recent unabated rise in Integrale values. Most are now listed as POA, but £80k seems to be the entry point.

It’s easy, and probably a good thing, to harbour a healthy amount of cynicism about charging this sort of money for 1990s hot hatchbacks. We must give the Integrale its due, though: firstly, it’s the most successful rally car of all time, and that must count for something. Secondly, it’s a standout example of a 1990s homologation special – seriously hot property in the collector market right now.

Thirdly, it’s a Lancia, and that really means a lot for those who remember the innovative, aspirational brand it once was. Parent company Stellantis recently outlined its intentions for an all-electric comeback for Lancia, so while a modern-day interpretation of the old Integrale recipe seems unlikely, at least we’ll still have that name.

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