∙Pampered car with comprehensive history file ∙Great condition ∙Lowering springs and OMP exhaust ∙Fresh cambelt, service and MOT
Although most famously and fondly remembered for its later rally successes in four-wheel drive Integrale guise, the Lancia Delta was a refined and successful model with just two driven wheels as well. Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Italdesign, it was conceived as an upmarket, front wheel drive small family car and came with fully independent suspension and rack and pinion steering, both uncommon features on cars of that segment at the time. Winner of the 1980 European Car of the Year title, it was also initially sold in the Nordics, badged as the Saab-Lancia 600, a fact so obscure that it’s not even likely to be useful for pub quizzes. What is of more relevance is that Saab apparently lent a hand in the design of elements of the car including, crucially, the rust proofing, which was important given Lancia’s infamous problems with its Beta model and means that the Deltas have fared a lot better in the long term.
The more sporting editions of the Delta came after the Saab-badged versions, with the HF launched in 1983. HF in this case stands for ‘High Fidelity’ and was a name that had been applied to various sports and racing variants of Lancias since the 1960’s. Featuring a turbocharged version of Lancia’s 1.6 litre engine, the car’s appearance was relatively understated but the sales and marketing approach looked to maximise the reflected glow of the Group B rally car which shared its name and some styling features, although, it has to be said, not much else.
Everything changed for the Delta with the end of Group B rallying and the switch of focus to group A meant that the Lancia WRC team successfully pushed for the four wheel drive system from the S4 be included in the top spec production model when the car was revised in 1986. With the arrival of the Integrale, this meant that the HF turbo model was no longer the top dog in the range but it did continue in production right up until 1992. Later versions included many of the equipment upgrades of the Integrale and it remained a more affordable hot hatch which was still well-regarded against the competition.
The specification of the late-model HF turbos, as we see here, included a 140bhp 1.6litre fuel injected turbocharged four-cylinder engine which was canted forwards by 18 degrees to lower its centre of gravity. Driving the front wheels via a five speed gearbox, it was good for 0-60 mph in 8.7 seconds and Car Magazine described it as having ‘matured with age’. Another 20 years later, the maturation process has continued and, to our eyes at least, the design has fared well with the classy, understated styling cutting an attractive dash.
This particular example originally hails from Italy and was imported by a specialist in Aberdeen in 1998, though its condition isn’t consistent with it spending much time in Scottish winters so it was likely sold to an owner elsewhere. Since then it’s spent some time in Northern Ireland and is now back in the UK with a seller who, although having acquired it recently, sadly has too many other cars to keep it.
This car has clearly been in the hands of enthusiasts as the extensive set of documents includes a membership card for the Lancia Motor Club, together with very specific instructions on how best to clean the wheels! There is a substantial file of receipts and invoices which show that it’s been consistently pampered and also treated to a number of subtle upgrades including lowering springs, Powerflex bushes, braided hoses and a cat back OMP exhaust.
Aside from routine maintenance and the upgrades, the most significant invoice is for a new turbo in 2001. A rolling road print out shows 150bhp which is a little more than stock. Last year it was treated to a new water pump and brake master cylinder.
It has just received a full service including a new timing belt and will come with a full year’s MOT.
Inside the car, the upholstery sports the distinctive striped fabric which was very much a signature design of the performance end of the Delta range and everything is generally in very good condition. If the set of OMP replacement pedals is a nod to the kind of driving enthusiast that has owned the car, then the driver’s seat pays tribute to the hours of enjoyment that must have been experienced behind the wheel. The outer bolster has worn through to the foam, though the current owner has had previous experience with Lancias and apparently the fabric is still available to enable this to be re-trimmed. Elsewhere, everything is very original with the dashboard showing no marks or cracking and a lightly patinated three spoke leather Momo steering wheel. The headlining is showing some signs of sagging but the carpets are all good and rear parcel shelf is uncut which makes it valuable in itself, with many Integrale owners keenly seeking them out. The face-off Sony stereo still has the carry case in the glovebox. Crucially, all of the buttons and switches function as they should and all of the gauges are fully operational. Two original pairs of keys are included and the boot which is very clean contains the Lancia toolkit and space saver spare wheel.
The Grigio Quartz paintwork is in very good order and, together with the grey Cromodora telephone dial alloys, the overall impression is of a very smart and well-cared for car. The panels are very straight with tight panel gaps and it pulls off the small luxury car feel that it aimed for in period. Given its age, naturally there are a few blemishes: there’s some surface rust around one of the wiper arm mounts, a tiny dent in the roof above the B pillar on the passenger side and a couple of areas that could use a touch up: a wheel arch stone chip and the rear of the passenger side wheel arch. Looking underneath, the good news continues with a very solid floor pan and no sign of ever having seen a welder. A fastidious new owner would probably want to replace the faded grille badge and tidy the window trims a little but the wheels are in great condition and wear Toyo Proxes T1-S tyres with 4-5 mm of tread remaining. All of the tinted glass is original and the Lancia shield on the rear window is believed to be a factory option, though not confirmed. Overall, though, the car is a credit to its former owners.
The engine bay is in very good order with the red ignition leads adding a splash of colour. The K&N sticker is also believed to be for decorative purposes only as the air filter is a standard item. It starts first time and performs well with a torquey delivery that also boosts hard towards the top end of the rev range and a smooth gearchange. The lowering springs provide tight handling and the exhaust plays a sonorous tune with no other untoward noises from the transmission or suspension to distract from it. With a fresh timing belt, it is very much ready to be enjoyed.
While the Delta Integrale in all its incarnations has headed off into the stratosphere, price-wise, its two wheel drive brother has remained at very affordable levels though that is starting to change and prices are on the up. With a left-hand drive example in particular appearing to the casual onlooker to be an Integrale anyway, the future owner of this car can have the best of both worlds with (almost) Integrale looks and a much more reasonable entry point. But there is also a very desirable and usable modern classic here in its own right. If Group B rallying had never been banned, the HF turbo would likely have remained as the top of the Delta range and would still be remembered fondly for it.
If you’re considering a hot hatch of the era then this is certainly a left-field choice but in our opinion all the better for it. The Germanic solidity of a Golf is reassuring but also predictable and when you can have some Italian flair in this condition, with this level of maintenance record, surely it’s the more compelling choice? If you’re inclined to agree then give the bid button a tickle and get your application in to the Lancia Owners Club.
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