The Lancia Delta was not a particularly remarkable car. It was just another hatchback. Early cars were powered by 1.1 four-cylinder engines, or maybe a 1.3 for the really adventurous. It was a fairly formulaic five-door hatchback built to satiate a market need for, well, fairly formulaic five-door hatchbacks.
Then something happened. Lancia, which had a rich and highly successful stake in rallying was suddenly presented with a huge problem. Group B, the wildchild of rallying’s history, was banned. Thanks in no small part to a fatal accident involving a Lancia S4 - the three-door, rear-engined, ‘ultimate’ evolution of the Delta. Though in reality, all it shared with the road car was the name. But we digress.
Lancia needed to stay relevant in motorsport, not least so it could distance itself from the horrors of Group B. But what to do? Group A was now the jewel in the rallying crown, so of course, it made sense to attack here. And attack Lancia did.
To dominate in Group A, Lancia needed all-wheel drive. The S4 had this, but the system was nothing that would ever be fitted into a mass-produced road car. Happily, Lancia had indeed been working on an all-wheel drive system, which it debuted as a concept in 1986. It was this system, an evolution of which is in the car listed here, that would secure Lancia’s fortunes. In ‘85 it had released a 1.6 turbocharged front-drive model of the Delta, which was followed-up by the HF 4WD in ‘86. A car that would sit at the top of the Delta range. Ironically, it was never developed for rallying, but even so, it facilitated Lancia’s ability to continue on the stages.
And it continued with phenomenal success. The cars grew in power, first to the 2.0 8V version listed here, then 16V, then Evolution and Evolution II. The Delta would go on to win forty-six World Championship events. It would see Lancia win the World Rally Championship six times in a row and in doing so, it took a once humble, unassuming five-door hatchback and thrust it in front of the world. The car became an icon, a legend of motorsport, and a car that raised the pulse of every petrolhead on the planet.
This enthusiast-owned ‘88 Delta HF Integrale 8V has been in the UK for the majority of its life, and during that time it has clearly been cared for by a collection of passionate owners - twelve according to a check on the vehicle. And while that number may be a concern on a five year-old Mondeo, it’s not here. As many of those owners have gone on to Evolution models. The current owner, in fact, is only looking to sell as he has been presented with the opportunity to acquire a 16V Delta Integrale.
The model listed here is an 8V, and it marks Lancia’s push into building the Delta into a more motorsport ready car. This model builds on the good work of the Delta HF 4WD before it. It has the same 1,995cc twin-cam, fuel-injected engine, but with the addition of a bigger Garrett T3 turbocharger and a larger intercooler than the model before it. The water and oil radiators were increased in size for better performance, the ignition, injection and knock sensor were redesigned for more power, and the engine itself had new valves, seats and a bigger capacity water pump. The result was some 180bhp in road spec.
The all-wheel drive system is permanent, with a 56/44 front/rear split along with a Torsen rear differential to manage the lateral torque split. And while we’re down at the driveline, the Integrale, which is Italian for ‘integral’ or ‘complete’, features bigger brakes with 284mm vented front disks, along with revised, stiffer suspension care of uprated equipment.
And it’s these mechanical improvements that give this car its desirable looks. The Delta wasn;t a car designed for rallying, and as such, it had to evolve. That’s why the Integrale has those wide, box arches. It would have had bigger wheels, too. In the case of this car, those wheels have been upgraded to the magnesium items found on the later models.
This car, which marks the origins of the Integrale name, has been cared for fastidiously over the years. The current owner just last year had a new water pump and timing belt fitted along with tensioners. At the same time, Powerflex upper stabiliser bushes were fitted, as was a new turbo oil feed gasket, a sump gasket, rocker gaskets, the auxiliary belt, oil, filter and of course, oil. And that’s just recently. As you can see from the images of the included paperwork, this car has lived a life of wanting for nothing. It has been regularly serviced by respected specialists. Service items, wear and tear items like the suspension, and even a complete engine rebuild in 2007 to cure previous issues - it’s all been done.
Mechanically, there can’t be many Integrales as ‘dialled in’ as this. There certainly can’t be many with as much rich, detailed and specialist service history.
In the case of a classic Lancia, there is one thing to always be aware of, and that’s rust. While the Delta was much, much better than the cars before it, it was still a known hotbed for rust. And with that in mind, we were sure to check all the known weak areas when photographing this car and we found… nothing. The scuttle, the A pillars, the sills, the boot hinge area, the boot floor, the door bottoms, the arches - all are rock solid and show no signs of rust, but furthermore, they show no sign of repair. It’s quite remarkable that it has survived so well. Furthermore, at the front the seam sealer is still in place, the inner chassis rails are still straight, there is no indication that this car has hit anything other than a stiff breeze. Crash damage is a very real concern on these cars, but everything is arrow straight by the looks of things.
The paint is still deep and hasn’t been bleached by the sun, as is often the case for red ‘80s cars. Of course, this is a car that’s driven - as well it should be - so there are signs of ‘life’ like some slight swirling in places, a small scuff on the offside rear arch and some general road weathering at the front. But this is a thirty-two year-old car. We’d be more concerned if there was no wear to report. The engine bay is clean and well presented, including the addition of some Samco hoses and a boxed enclosure for the air filter. The bonnet, again, is free from any rust or damage.
Inside, this Integrale is a welcoming place. The seats, carpets and headlining are all free from damage. The dash, too, is free from any cracking or warping - a common issue on these cars. There is of course some wear to the suede on the bolsters of the front Recaro seats, but it is only slight and the fabric is in no way holed or damaged. And the bolsters themselves are still firm and retain their shape. An OMP steering wheel has been fitted, which fits right into the rally car’s appeal with red stitching. As does the billet alloy gear shifter.
Moving back to the exterior, the current owner has fitted those magnesium 16-inch Speedline alloys, which are in excellent order -though one does have some slight scuffing as pictured. Other changes also include the motorsport-inspired decals, which we think set the car off just right. However, if they’re not for you, a head gun would soon have them removed.
The Rosso Red paint, the Recaro trim, those wheels and the inspired inclusion of some period decals make this one wonderful-looking car. The condition really is excellent, especially when you consider this is a car for driving, not endlessly polishing. Over its life, this Delta Integrale has amassed some 106,000 miles (168,000km indicated) but it doesn’t show. What does show is that this car has been cared for from day one.
The service history alone points to this car being excellent from a mechanical standpoint. But of course, with a car like this, it’s the drive that matters. Happily, we can report that this Delta Integrale pulls away cleanly and with a pleasing urgency. There is no sip from the clutch, there is no smoke to be seen from the stainless exhaust system, and the driveline seems to be free of any significant rattles or clunks. This car has been so very well cared for, and it shows on the drive.
180bhp might not seem like a lot by today’s standards, but in a car that weighs little more than a ton, it’s enough.
As we push through the Oxfordshire countryside the Delta moves through the gears cleanly, pulling the boost through without the excessive lag you might expect. As the revs build and the boost comes on, the all-wheel drive system makes light work of putting the power down. The suspension, which has been renewed according to the car’s history, keeps the Delta impressively flat and composed through the bends.
It’s a fun, exciting, engaging car. One that you feel a part of, rather than just the person controlling it. Admittedly, sitting on the left-hand side may take some getting used to, but thanks to the brilliant visibility, you soon do. After that, it’s just a case of enjoying the drive, and you will. And while doing so, you’ll soon come to realise why drivers like Juha Kankkunen, Didier Auriol and Markku Alen so heavily fell in love with it.
Do we really need to sell you on the notion of a Lancia Delta Integrale? No, of course not, you’re here because you’re already in love with the car, and rightly so. It’s an icon of the motoring world, a car that started the villain in S4 guise only to emerge as the hero in a specification like the one you see here. It’s a car that was never meant for such greatness, it was just a hatchback family car, but circumstances thrust it into a new life and it grabbed the chance, quite literally, with all four wheels.
The car we have here is the perfect embodiment of that. This is it, this is the first Delta to wear the Integrale name, this is the complete car, the full box-arched, all-wheel drive package. And this car is such a pure, honest, un-bodged, original example of that. The exclusivity and market have been the prop on which many a sub-par restoration have leaned in the case of other cars. But not here. This car has clearly been cherished, it’s been loved and it’s been enjoyed. And it will continue to be enjoyed, but will it be by you? There’s a ‘bid’ button this page that can make sure it is.