‘Great’ is a poorly used word often chosen as a misplaced form of flattery. Today’s subject, though, is fully deserving of the title. The Lancia Delta HF Integrale was born from humble beginnings as the Italian company’s new happy shopper hatchback, launched in 1979.
Things soon began to hot up, with the Delta HF (the go-faster designation saved for all cooking Lancia’s since the ‘60s) following in 1983 and the 4wd homologation for the firm’s assault on Group A rallying appearing in 1986. This featured cutting-edge technology, such as a Torsen rear differential, to complement the turbocharged 2-litre, twin cam engine. This was a very shrewd move, which led to a period of unrivalled motorsport success and the spawning of a true icon.
From 1987 to 1992, Lancia won six consecutive World Rally Championship Constructors’ titles and four Drivers’ Championships with various versions of the HF: two apiece for Juha Kankkunen (’87 and ’91) and Miki Biason (’88 and ’89). The Delta S4, which was developed for Group B, shared almost nothing with the previous cars and is a story for another day.
In total the HF Integrale achieved an incredible 46 WRC victories. Not bad for a four-door hatchback originally intended for trips to the mercati. The road-going homologations went through a continual evolution, generally centring on more power, grip and girth. Developing through the HF Turbo, through 4wd versions, 8- and 16-valve powerplants, the pinnacle was the Delta HF Integrale Evoluzione I and II.
The 1991 ‘Evo’, as it became known, had a wider track than ever before and more power thanks to increasingly advanced engine management and fuelling technologies: up to 207 bhp and 220lb.ft of torque, which with 4wd grip and short-gearing was good for 0-60mph in around 5.5 seconds. The Evo II, launched in 1993, gained slightly more power and a few additional styling touches, such as different wheels, and ran through until the end of production in 1996.
Nearly all Delta HF Integrales are left-hand drive, with the few right-hand drive conversions generally not as well received due to the slower steering rack that was necessitated by the swap. We wouldn’t turn our noses up at either.
Whether it’s a fast run down a dark Fosseway on a murky Monday morning, or standing in a welsh forest enjoying an Italian four-cylinder symphony, we’d love to read your Integrale experiences below.