Lancia is undoubtedly one of the most iconic automobile manufacturers of all time. Just like the Italian-based Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, and Lamborghini companies, Lancia also has a colorful history with many rallies and track racing wins under its belt.
Lancia produced many remember-able cars within the last few decades.
Lancia Delta is one of the most renowned Lancia cars of all time.
Lancia Delta followed the footprint of its predecessors, keeping a performance-oriented driver enthusiasm as the first priority. But Lancia was desperately in need of a volume-selling car, not just first place rally wins.
Lancia Stratos was an accomplished rally racer with 82 international rally wins within its racing career. But Lancia Stratos was a financial failure for the company as the road-going version didn’t sell well enough to make a profit.
To stay afloat. They needed a car that is more approachable to the mass market, not just the niche market that they were focusing on this far. Lancia Delta was the answer and it was successful as a rally racer, as a road car. Lancia Delta is one of the few cars known for offering the best driving experience that you could ever imagine.
Delta shaped the Lancia into a stronger contender against the likes of Alfa Romeo. Lancia Delta is more than 40 years old and still, it is one of the most beautiful road cars ever built.
Let’s take some time to admire its beauty and elegance.
In the 1970s, due to the high demand from the customers, Lancia management decided to engineer a new entry-level model for their product range as most of their cars were too expensive for many. The relatively powerful and expensive Lancia cars were targeted at the upper-middle- and upper-class buyers who wanted something luxurious, iconic, and fun to drive, just like the Alfa Romeo did at the time.
The Lancia Beta was aimed at the middle-class people who were looking for fun to drive, luxurious yet not that performance-oriented compact car with iconic looks. It was a small car but offered a memorable driving experience without compromising the looks or luxury.
Japanese, German, and British manufacturers were selling fun to drive compact cars like this and made a good profit as they sell in high volumes.
Beta was successful financially and the public endorsed it with wide-open arms.
The Lancia Y5 was developed to be a rival to the Volkswagen Golf, the best-selling compact car of its time. Giorgetto Giugiaro the designer of the original first-generation Golf, was asked by the Fiat Group who then owned the Lancia, to design a worthy rival to the Golf.
Lancia Y5 is a four-door hatchback with a boxy look and body proportions similar to the Golf and shared only a few styling cues of its predecessors or the other cars that Lancia offered.
The Lancia Y5 is a front-wheel drive and offered only in four doors, unlike the Golf that also came in two-door only variants.
The Lancia Y5 was christened as the Delta.
Delta was offered alongside its more expensive and more powerful siblings, the beta and Gamma.
Delta was unveiled at the 1979 Frankfurt Auto Show. The entry-level model came with a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine with a maximum output of just 77 horsepower. The more posh and expensive variants came with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine delivering 84 horsepower.
In some markets, the entry-level model came with a 1.1-liter four-cylinder engine, delivering just 63 horsepower.
Delta was well received and helped Lancia to make some real profit to stay afloat. It was voted for the European Car of the year in 1980 even bypassing the likes of Peugeot 505 and Opel Kadett D.
The fit and finish were praised by the media as the previous Lancia cars came with a bad finish and touch. The Delta came with excellent quality and luxurious features and well-priced as well.
Swedish Saab, a renowned company for building reliable and safe cars, ended up forging an alliance with Lancia as it was mutually beneficial for both of them.
Saab wanted to offer a new entry-level model to replace the outdated 96 models, but they wanted to save the massive cost of developing a new car from scratch. Fiat company wanted to learn the renowned dust proofing techniques used by the Saab.
Since this alliance allowed both companies to nourish their knowledge and engineering prowess, they decided to sell a new car called Saab Lancia 600, which is actually a badge-engineered Lancia Delta. It was offered in Sweden and Norway in the 1980s, where Saab had a big brand value and market share.
The Saab Lancia 600 was proved to a menace in disguise. It was supposed to be a priced war stallion but ended up becoming a Trojan horse.
It was structurally unviable for Scandinavian winters and badly paved roads. It was a Lancia after all and came with bad reliability issues that people were not expecting to find in a Saab branded car. This is partly due to Lancia’s failure to apply dust proofing technology that they learned from the Saab in the first place.
Only a few Saab-Lancia 600 cars were made and not many survived the harsh winters of Norway and Sweden, thus making it one of the rarest European cars of the 1980s.
Saab, unlike Lancia, wanted to come with a reliable car and ended up unveiling the Saab 90, a compact executive car with sporty looks. It was powered with a 100 horsepower 2.0-liter Saab H engine and was available with either a five-speed manual or a five-speed receiving closer gearing transmission. Only 25,360 were made and sold in limited numbers in European countries only.
Due to the demand for a compact executive sedan, Lancia decided to create a Delta variant with more boot space, a three-box structured layout. It was called Prisma and shared all the mechanical components as the Delta did but was 10 inches longer in length thanks to the rear boot. The Prism was one of the most popular Lancia models of its time, especially outside the local market.
Lancia Delta GT 1600
The original Lancia Delta received several significant updates in the fall of 1982. The exterior received some styling tweaks and a new engine option was also made available with a new trim variant.
The newly available naturally aspirated 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine made 104 horsepower, a significant power increase over the older 1.1-liter, 1.3-liter, and 1.5-liter engines. The turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine delivered an excellent 128 horsepower.
The Delta variants powered with these new power train options also came with the same front-wheel-drive architecture but made it sportier and fun to drive.
Lancia Delta S4
The Lancia Delta was chosen to be the basis for the development of a new rally car to achieve the former glorious unbeatable king of the rally level fame the Lancia Stratos achieved with 82 different international rally wins. Lancia 037 was the last rear-wheel-drive to ever win a World Rally Championship in 1983, and it wasn’t capable enough to win against four-wheel drive Audi Quattro or other rivals.
Almost all the major automotive companies were building four-wheel-drive rally cars and Lancia 037 could not compete against them.
Though it shares the looks of Lancia Delta, it shares nothing in terms in the terms of construction with the road going front-engine Delta.
Unlike the production car which is a front-wheel-drive front-engine car, the Delta S4 was a rear mid-engine four-wheel drive car.
It was powered with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with either turbocharged or supercharged specifications with delivering at least 450 horsepower to a massive 600 horsepower considering the fact that the whole car weighed just 890kg.
It won its first rally at the 34th Lombard RAC Rally in 1985 in the hands of Henri Toivonen. Markku Alen became the second in the Driver’s championship the following year.
In 1986, the Delta S4 won the Monte Carlo Rally in the hands of Henry Toivonen, Rally Argentina in the hands of Massimo Biasion, and the Olympus Rally in the hands of Markku Alen.
It also won the European Rally Championship with Fabrizio Tabaton.
The last ever win for Delta S4 was the 1986 Olympus Rally. In 1986 the Group B class was disbanded and the Group B cars were banned from competition completely by the FIA following the tragic deaths of Henry Toivonen and his co-driver Sergio Cresto during the 1986 Tour de Corse Rally. Henri Toivonen was behind the wheels of a Lancia Delta S4 Stradale when the accident happened and this incident led to FIA enforcing manufacturers to provide better safety standards in their products.
This car is known as the car that ended the Group B rally racing due to the aforementioned reasons and received nefarious fame for being a hard to handle and overpowered car with not enough safety provided for the drivers.
Lancia Delta S4 Stradale
To comply with Group B rally homologation rules, Lancia had to make 200 street-going cars sharing the Delta S4 architecture.
The S4 Stradale was also powered with the same 1.8-liter supercharged or turbocharged engine but it was detuned to deliver only 247 horsepower.
Though it bared the Delta name, much like its Rally going S4 variant, it had nothing in common with the road going front-engine front-wheel-drive Delta other than the front fascia grille, windscreen, rear lights.
It is unlikely to believe that Lancia produced 200 cars, the estimations are that the production is between 50 to 120.
Many believe that less than 100 Delta S4 Stradales were ever built. Most ended up rallying and got abused and neglected after their purpose was done, making it extremely hard to find a clean example.
The exclusivity and the rarity make it one of the rarest European high-performance cars ever made. A clean example turned out lately with a price tag of 1.5 million US dollars.
The Delta HF was unveiled in 1983 at the Frankfurt Motor show. It was also front-wheel drive and came powered with a turbocharged 1.6-Liter four-cylinder engine. The Garrette turbocharger with a wastegate valve and an air-to-air heat exchanger and a twin-choke carburetor and Marelli Microplex ignition with pre-ignition control completed the package. The oil system received increased capacity and an oil cooler to withstand additional stress caused by the turbocharger. The gearbox was a ZF 5-speed transmission system. R 340 alloy wheels with Michelin TRX came as the standard. Only 10,000 Delta HF cars were made within the two-year production.
Lancia Delta HF 4WD
In 1986, after the FIA enforced a ban of Group B cars from any sort of competition, Lancia decided to use their rally-winning four-wheel-drive architecture on the Delta car.
The decision for this was taken after considering the success Fiat Panda 4X4 achieved in the mountainous regions and rural areas around Europe.
The Delta HF 4WD was powered with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder eight-valve engine, producing 163 horsepower at 5250rpm and 192 lb-ft of torque at 2750rpm.
The weight distribution was 56/44 front to rear.
McPherson strut type independent suspension was used on all four wheels with helicoidal springs and dual-rate dampers.
Agnelli Prisma 4WD
Lancia Delta-derived Lancia Prisma was also made available with a four-wheel-drive layout.
The Prisma never received the high-performance engines that were offered for the Delta.
However, this changed when Gianni Agnelli of Fiat motors decided to commission its own performance branch, Abarth to make a high-performance Prisma.
Abarth tuned 2.0-liter turbocharged engine delivered 197 horsepower and the four-wheel-drive architecture made the car highly desirable.
The dark blue car with steel wheels mixed with the other Prisma cars without drawing too much attention, making it an ultimate sleeper.
Agnelli used this car as his personal car and used to travel around Turin and suburbs without attracting too much attention, being one of the wealthiest and most famous men in Italy at the time.
Delta HF 4WD Rally
After the Group B rally event and Group B rally car ban enforced by the FIA following the tragic deaths of Henri Toivonen and his co-driver Sergio Castro while driving a Delta S4, it was decided to retire the rally winning Delta S4.
Lancia Delta S4 or the road going Delta S4 Stradale didn’t share anything in common with the production front-engine front-wheel-drive Delta other than the rear lamps, windscreen, and front fascia grille. All the other body panels were custom made, and the engines were different from the ones used in the other variants.
However, following the 1986 season ban in motorsport, Lancia decided to participate in Group A races for the 1987 season with a new rally car based on the actual road-going Delta, the Delta HF 4WD Rally.
The 1987 season starter, the Monte Carlo Rally was won by a Delta HF 4WD car and ended up winning nine out of 13 championship races.
It wasn’t aggressive or muscular like the S4 or the S4 Stradale but ended up winning in the 1987 World Rally Championship. It won the championship with a wide margin beating the Audi 200 Quattro and Renault 11 Turbo.
Juha Kankkunen won the World Rally Championship for Drivers behind the wheels of a Delta HF 4WD.
Delta HF4WD also won the first two races of the 1988 season but was replaced by the Delta HF Integrale.
Delta HF Integrale 8V
The Delta HF 4WD ended up becoming the world champion in the 1987 season and cemented its place among the successful rally cars built by the Lancia.
This is how Delta HF Integrale was born. It was unveiled in 1987 with an 8 valve 2.0-liter fuel-injected 4-cylinder engine with balancing shafts. It also featured new valves, a water pump, a larger oil radiator, and a more powerful cooling fan, and a functioning air cleaner. A large Garrett T3 turbocharger with an improved intercooler system and electronic fuel injection and ignition control unit and a knock sensor was used to increase the power output to 182 horsepower at 5300rpm and maximum torque of 224 lb-ft of torque at 3500rpm.
It also came with a permanent four-wheel-drive system but shared the same engine and transmission unit as the Delta HF cars.
It came with a wider track and bulged wheel arches to fit the 15-inch 6J alloy wheels.
Only fifty right-hand drive Delta HF Integrale 8V cars were made but none of those were officially imported to the UK.
In the 1988 season, the Delta HF Integrale replaced the previous season’s World Rally champion Delta HF 4WD and came with a redesigned suspension, winder wheels, bigger heavy-duty brakes, and more power.
Lancia again won the world rally championship and ended up beating Audi Quattro and Ford Sierra RS Cosworth with a considerable margin.
Delta HF Integrale 16V
Lancia decided to capitalize on the idea that the Lancia enthusiasts would pay large sums of money to get their hands on one of the race-winning performance cars.
Delta HF Integral 16v was developed for rallying and was unveiled at the 1989 Geneva Auto show. It was debuted at the 1989 San Remo rally and ended up winning it.
The turbocharged 2.0-liter Lancia 16-valve engine delivered 197 horsepower at 5500rpm and reached a top speed of 137mph. It achieved 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds.
It also used a more responsive Garrett T3 turbocharger and a more efficient intercooler and the ability to run on unleaded fuel without any modification.
Alongside the Integrale 16v, the 8v version was also introduced. The 8-valve variant was equipped with a 3-way catalytic converter with a reduced power output of 175 horsepower. The 8 v variants were aimed at the European territories with tougher emission control.
Agnelli Delta Integrale HF Drop top
Gianni Agnelli, the head of Fiat Motor Group decided to commission another one-off car, just like the Abarth tuned Prisma. He loved cars and motorsports and occasionally drove around his wife, children, and friends while holidaying. He loved fast cars and therefore decided to commission Fiat engineers to make a Lancia Delta HF into a two-seater convertible.
This is a one-off car just like his Prisma and the Delta Integrale HF drop-top now displayed in National Automobile Museum in Turin.
By 1989, the Lancia Delta was in production for a decade with minor and sometimes significant modifications and improvements.
Delta HF Integrale Evoluzione
At the 1991 Frankfurt Auto Show, Lancia unveiled a limited production heavily revised Delta HF car. Built from the fall of 1991 and throughout 1992.
It had the same turbocharged 16-valve 2.0-liter engine used on the Delta HF Integrale cars but the maximum performance of the engine was now rated at 207 horsepower at 5750rpm due to the single outlet 60mm diameter exhaust system. It delivered a maximum torque of 220 lb-ft at 3500rpm.
An 8-valve catalytic converter equipped variant with the same performance was available in markets with higher emission control mandates.
The steering column was strengthened and a power steering oil radiator was also added. The suspension system was redesigned and strengthened.
Two piston Brembo calipers were installed at the front and the braking system featured larger discs and a vacuum servo.
Delta HF Integrale Evoluzione II
In 1993, the Delta HF Integrale Evoluzione II was unveiled due to the higher demand. It features an updated version of the 2.0-liter 16-valve turbo engine to produce even more power as well as a three-way catalytic converter.
An integrated engine control system (ECM) with an 8Mhz dedicated chip was installed to perform the timed sequential multipoint injection, engine protection strategies depending on the temperature of the intake air and many more features to improve performance.
The engine delivered 212 horsepower and maximum torque of 231 lb-ft.
It also came with 16-inch lightweight alloy wheels with 205/45 ZR tires and standard Recaro sport seats.
The Delta HF Integrale Evoluzione II could reach 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds.
The ABS, fog lamps, and Recaro seats were available with the Evoluzione II as standard with the only optional extra being the air conditioning. Evoluzione II was available in either Bianco, Rosso Monza, or Blu Lancia.
The interior was done in Alcantra with diagonal stitching on seat centers and door panels. The three-spoke MOMO steering wheel was leather-covered.
An aluminum fuel cap and air intake grilles on the front mudguards, red-painted cylinder heads were added to provide further unique looks.
In the late 1980s, the Italian coachbuilder and designer Zagato was interested in producing a sporty two-door car based on the Delta Integrale platform, but nothing came of the project. However, Paul Koot, an owner of a Lancia dealership in the Netherlands got to know about the project and funded the development of it to make it become a reality.
At the 1992 Brussels motor show, the concept car was unveiled and it was called the Hyena. The Hyena came with a two-door fastback design with a double-bubble roof to provide maximum headspace. The body was made with aluminum and carbon fiber components were incorporated to keep the weight as low as possible. Weight-saving technologies and the low-weight materials used to construct the car ended up making the Hyena 205kgs lighter than the stock Delta.
Lancia and Delta originally planned to make 500 cars and Lancia promised to supply mechanical components, but the plans fell off when Lancia backed away from the project. Paul koot and Zagato then decided to proceed on to make the project happen but instead of building 500 cars as they planned before, they settled for a limited production of just 75 cars. Only 24 were made and were sold in the European market and in Japan. This is one of the rarest Lancia models ever made.
The end of Lancia Delta Racing Career
Lancia Delta’s racing career ended after the 1993 season. It had won 46 international rally races and helped Lancia to win the World Rally Championship for six consecutive years.
Production of the stock street car ended in 1994 due to falling demand and being outdated.
Before the production of the 1st generation Lancia Delta ended, a new second-generation Lancia Delta was announced at the 1993 Geneva Auto show.
Lancia wanted to become a high-volume luxury sports car manufacture and Delta was designed with that kept in mind.
The second-generation Lancia Delta shared many styling cues with the first-generation car, but it was modern and a complete redesign in many ways.
It didn’t receive the appreciation and attention from the public as its predecessor did partly because Lancia never took it to rally stages and many criticized its design language as it wasn’t as iconic or graceful as its predecessor cars.
The second-generation Lancia Delta came with high-performance variants but none of those were capable of enchanting the heart and mind of the driver.
In 2000, production of the second generation ended completely and Lancia decided not to replace the model with a new one due to financial difficulties.
Eight years after the production of the second-generation Delta ended, Fiat decided to resurrect the iconic Delta nameplate.
Lancia wanted to capture the market for a compact luxury car with performance in mind, but they never had enough financial resources to develop a car from scratch. Fiat decided to use an already existing architecture to develop the Lancia Delta.
Eventually, a second-generation Fiat Bravo was chosen as the basis for the new Lancia Delta. It also shares many mechanical components with the Fiat Bravo.
The third-generation Delta was well received and still, it is one of the top-selling compact hatchbacks in the Italian market, but the rest of Europe didn’t embrace it with open hands due to the ever-fading brand presence of Lancia in many European markets.
It didn’t offer the same emotional driving experience that the old Lancia cars offered. It was too Fiat than an actual Lancia.
Between 2011 and 2013, Lancia Delta was offered in the UK as a Chrysler but sales were not good enough.
Lancia considered offering the car like a Chrysler in the US market, but the project was eventually canceled.
Delta was eventually canceled from the 2014 model year without any information about a possible successor.
Amos Delta 2018
It is not clear whether the Lancia will unveil a fourth-generation Delta at all. It is even possible that Lancia won’t even survive past this decade due to falling demand and ever-shrinking brand presence.
In 2018, an Italian coachbuilder Automobili Amos decided to develop a worthy successor to the Lancia Delta by retromodding the first-generation Delta. This car was named Futurista.
A first-generation Lancia Delta HF Integrale car serves as the basis for this new car. Automobile Amos replaced the old four-door body with a new aluminum-made two-door body with carbon fiber panels installed to further reduce the weight.
The original engine was given many performance-oriented modifications to increase the maximum power output to 325 horsepower.
Automobili Amos planned to make a limited production run of just 20 cars. A car is priced at 270,000 Euro.