Is the Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evo II the best hot hatch ever?
The story of the road-going version of a rally championship winning car.
We are back with some Italian royalty. Meet the hatchback that attracted Porsche drivers, the car that was one of the most successful in rally racing, the sports car that became an all time icon. This is the Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evoluzione II. It may have a name more complicated than a WiFi password, but these designations are just here to prove how good this little Delta really is. In fact, it may just be one of the greatest hot hatches ever.
Remember when I told you that Lancia had a great rally heritage in my Lancia Fulvia Zagato article? Well, I wasn't joking. Between 1987 and 1992, Lancia won six consecutive World Rally Championships, and this record is still standing today. Building on the success of the Stratos and the 037, the Delta was an extraordinary racing car that destroyed all competition. Therefore, the road-going version just had to be excellent.
By the end of the mythic Group B category, Lancia needed a new platform to develop their new rally car. Even though there was nothing quite special about the Delta, the small family hatchback would soon become an absolute monster. The first homologation special car that rolled out of the Lancia factory in 1986 was the Delta HF 4WD. HF stood for High Fidelity, nothing to do with your good old audio systems, it just meant that the car was more powerful. The Delta had four-wheel drive and the engine made 165 horsepower thanks to the help of a turbocharger, and it proved to be an already potent piece of kit.
Then, things went quickly as Lancia kept on upgrading their little hot hatch. After the HF Integrale 8V and the HF Integrale 16V came the HF Integrale Evoluzione in 1991. At this point, things started to become very interesting. The Evoluzione was supposed to mark the end of the homologation cars as Lancia retired from rally racing. Think of it as the cherry on the cake, la crème de la crème. The exterior was heavily revised with wider fender flares, aero scoops and a large adjustable rear spoiler. Now, it really looked like a rally car for the road. Inside, you would find a beautiful Momo Corse steering wheel, Alcantara and velour seats, and you could also opt for the optional air-conditioning system, or the electric sunroof. It wasn't all show, the 2.0-litres four-cylinder engine made 210 horsepower and all elements like the suspension, brakes, and steering rack (just to name a few) were strengthened to improve the driving dynamics of the Delta. The Evoluzione was supposed to be the last exciting thing that came out of a Lancia factory. Yet, things did not go as expected.
In 1993, Lancia launched the last and final version of its homologation-special Delta, even though it never raced. Another cherry on the cherry on the cake. Dubbed the HF Integrale Evoluzione II, it marked the end of an era and is regarded as one of the greatest hot hatches ever. Visually, it was quite similar to its predecessor, and only minor changes were added such as new 16'' alloy wheels, an aluminum fuel cap, a new Momo Corse steering wheel and full Alcantara Recaro seats. The 2.0-litres 16V Turbo engine now made 215 horsepower! Enough to go from a standstill to 100 km/h in only 5.7 seconds and reach a top speed of 220 km/h (137 mph). This is fast, even by today's standards.
Everyone wanted a piece of it, and I remember reading somewhere that even Porsche drivers were flipping their cars to drive a Delta HF Integrale Evo II. Only 2'481 units were produced and after that everything changed for Lancia, a company that is now known for only selling one car, the Ypsilon. However, for all of us petrolheads, we all remember the Stratos, 037, Delta, Fulvia etc. These cars have become myths , childhood's dreams. Today, they have become quite pricey, and it seems that only collectors with a lot of means will be able to buy one. For those on a tighter budget, there is always the possibility to go with "normal" HF Integrales. These are cars that have a lot of character, and are still homologation-specials.
The Delta has become so iconic that it got revived by a small coach builder in Italy called Automobili Amos. Just like Singer modifies 911s, the company launched a modern interpretation of the Delta HF Integrale Evo II called the Delta Futurista. However, then again it's a £270'000 car... It just means that for many of us the Delta will remain a dream car. A dream car that immediately reminds us of the good old days when constructors were crazy, and things didn't make much sense. Because who doesn't want a small family car that looks, sounds and drives like a rally car?
I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Drivevintage.ch and V. Luzuy for making this possible. Drivevintage.ch is car conciergerie that takes care of some of the most exclusive cars ever made, and we can't wait to do some more work with them. http://drivevintage.ch & https://www.instagram.com/drivevintage.ch/.
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Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evo II