The Group A Lancia Delta Integrale could have been the marketing team’s worst nightmare: slower than its rallying predecessor, and based on a seven-year-old shopping car that was close to pensionable. But the people behind its creation had been responsible for such icons as the Stratos, 037 and Delta S4, all amazing rallying machines and delectable road cars. And so the road-going Delta Integrale matched its chunky, square-edged styling with a fistful of competition-bred brio, and did it all for a bargain price compared with its closest rival, the Audi Quattro.
Between 1987 and 1992, the Integrale utterly dominated its branch of motor sport, winning 46 rallies and six constructors’ championships outright. And to keep the rally car at the sharp end of the results table, the road car went through a number of iterations, each more potent than the last. Even though Lancia closed down its official works operation at the end of the 1991 season, privateer teams continued to campaign the Integrale successfully for years. It really was that good.
To begin with however, the Delta was never designed to be a competitive rally machine. Launched in 1979, the original Delta was Lancia’s first stab at producing a small conventional hatchback model under the control of parent company Fiat. With the help of Giugiaro, the Delta offered a relatively spacious interior with compact and efficient use of space. Small 1.4 and 1.5-litre engines initially powered the Delta, and not even a glimmer of a thought was given to the possibility of a performance variant.
There were signs that something interesting might be brewing at the 1982 Turin motor show, with the unveiling of the prototype Delta Turbo 4x4. Although signs were promising, an all-wheel drive Delta wouldn’t actually be seen until 1986, with the launch of the HF Turbo 4x4. This is what then developed into the Integrale, thanks mainly to the the fact Group B had been banned, and the company needed something suited to the incoming Group A regulations – which required a rally car based much more around a road-going model.
As a road car, the Integrale was a truly joyful experience. Although it was only offered in left-hand drive form throughout its life, it was quite a success in the UK – especially in the early days. As with the rally stages, its big rivalry came in the form of the Audi quattro. Although the German competitor was significantly more expensive to buy, the Delta was smaller, quicker and much lighter on its feet.
The Integrale is a true drivers’ machine then, and delivers a huge amount of feel and feedback that makes them irresistible. Much cheaper and more reliable rallying thrills can be had in the form of the Subaru Impreza today, but there is something about the way that the Integrale drives that makes it just a sought after today. Prices have continued to rise due to the Integrale’s collectability too, with Evolution models (especially in special edition form) making huge sums at auction.
Which Integrale to buy?
Earliest 8 valve Integrales are still the most affordable, although they are also significantly rarer than 16v and Evo models. As they are the oldest of the Integrale family, they are also often in poor shape, although as discussed further down they are actually among the most resistant to rust.
Later 16v Integrale models featured lowered suspension, and a more rear-biased four-wheel drive set-up. Perhaps confusingly, some European-market cars (Germany and Switzerland) were sold in 8-valve ‘Kat’ form, using a lower-powered more environmentally friendly engine in the 16v’s body.
Evolution models, both 1 and 2, are significantly more sought after, and the wider arches adjustable spoiler and bigger wheels all add up to a much more aggressive looking package. There are many various special edition models (see below for more details), and these generally carry a fairly hefty premium over standard cars. While each model generally features a number of unique features, they generally use stock engine and aren’t great value unless you are after the ultimate collectible.
The other question is of course standard or modified. Perfect and completely standard cars are generally the most sought after, but if you fancy a little bit more performance and few tweaks, buying a car with (professionally fitted and set-up) upgrades already fitted is often the most cost-effective option.
As no right-hand drive cars were built from the factory, conversions are fairly common. The only problem (aside from potential quality issues around home-built examples) is that the conversion uses the steering rack from lesser Delta models, losing the Integrale’s fantastically feelsome and quick steering. As a conversion is likely to make a car harder to sell in future, and potentially less valuable, we’d stay away from them unless you’re set on one.
While not as special, the earlier Delta HF Turbos and HF 4x4 are also a lot of fun, although the chances of finding one of these is even more difficult than early Integrales. Not many remain, although the option of original factory right-hand drive is appealing to some.
Performance and specs
Lancia Delta Integrale 16v Evo 2
Engine 1995cc, 16-valve DOHC in-line four, turbocharged
Power 207bhp @ 5750rpm
Torque 220lb ft @ 3500rpm
Top speed 134 mph
Fuel consumption 19.1mpg
Gearbox Five-speed manual
Dimensions and weight
Kerb weight 1300kg
• The rear crossmember on the Evo 2 models was strengthened by double-skinning. The problem is that water gets in, meaning the later crossmembers corroded more than the early ones. People are making replacement panels now, which makes things a little bit better.
• Some Integrales are rusty, and some aren’t. The secret to maintaining a rot-free Delta is to keep it garaged regardless of the weather. If you don’t condensation builds up in the box sections, setting it off rusting from inside.
• While a fully-stamped service book is great, you should buy a car with more emphasis on the condition than service history.
• You can do anything mechanically, but if you don’t have a good body to start with, you’re in trouble. Check for holes around the windscreen – if there are bubbles, it needs proper renovation by removing the screeen.
• The back of the roof also needs looking at – the tailgate has a piece of rubber that stops water running in when the hatch is opened. It rubs, removes the paint, and causes corrosion. Most cars have had some paintwork done now in that area.
• You need to look in the wheelarches, especially around the rear. There can be lots of corrosion hidden from view. The panel behind the rear bumper can be bad, and the slam panel beneath the tailgate can corrode. The edges of the floor around the jacking points and the sills are often not nice, and the front corners of the chassis rails can be rust hot-spots.
• As well as general rot, you hear about the bodyshell cracking. The later cars seem to be worse, and the section near the top of the A-post where it meets the roof rail can soon reveal cracks. Another area is in the footwell – here they just crack instead of rusting. This can also happen around the handbrake area as well. Fitting ultra-hard springs and dampers won’t do the car any favours, putting additional stresses through the shell.
• Standard engines that have never been tuned are bulletproof. There were many cases of cambelt failures a long time ago – early 16-valves used the 8-valve cambelts, and they could break at just 12,000 miles. All the cars are on modified belts now, and the service interval for this is 60,000 miles according to Lancia, although specialists recommend 30,000-mile intervals.
• Due to the ease of upping the boost pressure to free up a bit more power, tuned Integrales are not uncommon. In most cases, if done correctly to safe levels, there isn’t much to worry about but caution is always advised when buying.
• Generally the earlier 8 valve engine is stronger, and is actually a safer bet when tuning, although these are now among the rarest Integrales.
• The transmission is strong too. If you have 400-500bhp, you can break anything, but most cars use standard transmissions with no issues. It’s all down to the driver – and every car has had several owners now.
1986: Delta HF Turbo 4WD is introduced, with Thema’s 2-litre twin-cam ‘four’ and Garrett T2.5 water-cooled turbo. 165bhp on tap, along with 210lb ft of torque. Torque split is biased 56:44 front:rear while top speed is 130mph. 0-60mph in 6.6 seconds; 5298 built.
1988: Integrale arrives, with boxy wheelarches housing bigger wheels and brakes. T3 turbo is bigger, as is the intercooler, so there are now bonnet louvres for extra cooling. With 185bhp and 224lb ft of torque, it’ll do 135mph and 0-60mph in 6.2 seconds. 9841 made.
1989: Now 16 valves and car sits closer to ground. ABS is optional and torque split is now 47:53 front:rear. Power is 200bhp, top speed 137mph and 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds. 12,860 produced.
1991: Evo 1 launched, with even bigger ’arches and wider track. There are also stronger brakes with ABS, and rear wing is adjustable. 210bhp but performance is same as previous 16-valve model.
1992: Special series of 400 with white wheel rims, Martini Racing colours along sides, black bonnet grilles and a black rear spoiler. Inside are Recaro seats, black Alcantara upholstery with red stitching, and red seat belts. Each car has a numbered silver plate on its centre console. Later that year comes another series of 310 special editions, in white with a Martini Racing strip along sides. They have Alcantara Recaro seats with red stitching, and HF logo on head restraints.
1993: Final derivative goes on sale: Evoluzione 2. Wheels are now 16in, tyres are wider and air-con is standard. Turbo is smaller to reduce lag while power rises to 215bhp. Number of Special Edition cars made to celebrate Integrale’s success: Giallo, Blue Lagos, Pearl White, Dealer Edition and Final Edition.
Lancia Delta Integrale special editions
There were many different special edition versions of the Integrale Evo throughout its life. Here’s a list of them all.
Club Italia – Based on the Evo 1, just 15 were built for members of Club Italia. Although all cars differ in slight detail, the cam covers are painted in Blue and yellow – like the famous Fanalone Fulvias
Hi Fi – Built for members of Lancia’s HiFi Club, existing to serve people who had bought a minimum of seven new Lancia models. 25 built
Dealers Collection – Painted in a shade of Candy Red, a GM colour, unique options incude a push-button start and passenger foot brace. 179 were built, each with a numbered plaque
Martini 5 – Evo 1-based special, built to celebrate the Integrale’s fifth consecutive World Rally Championship. It’s marked out by white paint, Martini stripes, and Black Alcantara with red stitching and red seatbelts. 400 built
Gialla Ginestra – These yellow Evo 2 models featured air conditioning and a black Alcantara interior. 515 built
Lancia Club – A mix of blue and red cars built for members of the Lancia Club. Just 8 built
Verde York – Special dark green paint and beige leather interior. 580 Evo 1 models built, with an extra 22 Evo 2 models produced in 1994
Bianca Perlata – Painted Pearl white, with a thin grey coachline. 370 built
Blu Lagos – A special new colour along with a thin yellow stripe along the flank. 205 produced
Martini 6 – Special edition Martini-striped edition car to commemorate the car’s sixth (and final) World Rally Championship win. 310 built
Final Edition – This run of red cars with a stripe running down the centre of the car was among the final batch of cars to leave the factory. Upgrades include a rear strut brace. 250 built in total
When it was launched, the Integrale offered an almost unbeatable combination of performance and value for money – not to mention Italian style. The Audi quattro was perhaps the most direct rival when the 8v was launched turbocharged, but at almost £10k more the buyers were very different.
As time moved on, the Integrale remained an exceptional road-going weapon, keeping the increasingly serious rivals like the Ford Escort Cosworth, Mazda 323 4x4 Turbo and Toyota Celica GT-Four honest. Today, Integrale values – specifically the Evo and special edition models – have pushed well beyond those of most contemporary rivals, making them less attractive to buyers looking for a track car or something to modify.
The Integrale’s spiritual successor undoubtedly came in the form of the Subaru Impreza Turbo. It was a huge hit in the UK, and today there’s still little to touch one in terms of getting that rally car for the road feeling.
Owners clubs, forums and websites
Summary and prices
The market currently values totally standard, original, immaculate cars the highest, with limited editions selling from £40,000, right up to £70,000 and beyond for the really special ones. Not so many use them for competition these days.
While any Evo you’d be happy to own will cost from £15,000, even £30,000 for a good Evo 2. Usable 8-valves start at £8000, but something in particularly good shape could command £15,000. Workaday 16-valves start around £10,000. Obviously there are bad examples out there, and the old ones can be manky – especially with corrosion – but nothing that can’t be sorted with time, patience and money.
Worried about the running costs? If you buy a good car, they all just have four spark plugs, brakes and parts like any other cars, and replacements and spares aren’t excessively expensive. They only cost a lot if you buy badly, and keeping them away from the salt-ravaged winter roads, you should keep corrosion at bay too. Deltas are no worse than any other cars. They’re getting old, and they’re not as bad as people say, so grab a sound example and enjoy!