Vincenzo Lancia began building cars in 1906, and this Italian car manufacturer (part of the Fiat Group since 1969) quickly developed a reputation for technical innovation. The 1913 Theta included the first built-in electrical system in a European car, the 1922 Lambda featured V4 power and independent suspension, and the 1933 Augusta was the first sedan with a load-bearing monocoque body. The 1936 Aprilia was one of the first mass-produced cars with a truly aerodynamic shape. The 1950 Aurelia was powered by the first V6, with its clutch, gearbox, and differential mounted in a single unit on the rear axle. Over the years, Lancia cars made their mark in road racing and, at times, dominated rally competition. When the Lancia family sold its interest in the company, Ferrari took over the Lancia team. Some of Lancia's greatest competition successes came from rally cars. The futuristic, wedge-shaped Lancia Stratos won the World Rally Championship three straight times in 1974-1976. Even more successful was the HF Integrale version of the Lancia Delta and its ultimate development, the Evoluzione. This powerful, four-wheel-drive hatchback won six consecutive Constructors Championships between 1987 and 1992.
1974 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale - Photo by leopauldelr
Few cars capture the imagination quite like the Lancia Stratos. No one-trick pony, the Stratos is famous for both its wild Bertone-designed exterior and also for being the very first rally car built from scratch to compete, rather than being a converted road car. Not to say that all Stratos competed—at least 400 were built as road-going homologation versions, running a slightly detuned Ferrari “Dino” V6. These Stradale (“road”) versions were only a few tweaks away from their wilder competition cousins, who dominated World Rally Championship racing from 1974-1976. Regardless of their success, the exciting combination of the short wheelbase, mid-mounted high-performance V6, and the distinctive fiberglass bodywork would have ensured the Stratos a place in the imagination of car enthusiasts. Best of all, the Stratos directly inspired the Group B racers of the next era of rally, which became some of the most exciting and hair-raising cars ever to rally. Nonetheless, the sweet-handling and very quick Stratos is as fun to drive as it is to look at, even decades later.
1982 Lancia 037 Stradale - Photo by JorgePinto
When is a road car not (exactly) a road car? When it is a homologation variant of something as wild as a Group B rallycar. The 037 Stradale is road-legal, sure, but under all of the road-approved gear like headlights, turn signals, and reflectors is the same space-frame, Kevlar-reinforced fiberglass, and competition-bred engine as the Group B car. Of course, the Stradale versions couldn’t be as wild as their racing twins, with additional weight and an engine tune that wouldn’t require a tear-down every few races. Located amidships in a longitudinal placement is Lancia’s competition-tested 2-liter four cylinder motor, supplemented with a supercharger provided by Abarth that adds extra power without the lag of turbochargers. As the last of the rear-wheel drive rally cars to see success in WRC, the 037 does have the advantage of lighter weight and less complexity than the early all-wheel drive competition, which helped propel the Group B 037 to a manufacturer’s championship in 1983. With a minimum construction of 200 cars to comply with racing rules, the 037 Stradale is exceedingly rare.
1986 Lancia Delta S4 - Photo by ForzaMad17
An F1 car for rally is one way to classify this robust, any condition, any surface racer. From a distance it resembles its distant much milder, yet still utterly capable cousin the Lancia Delta. Underneath the bloodline is pure purpose built racecar. A supercharger and a turbocharger lay rubber from all four wheels, try not to choke on its dust.
1992 Lancia Delta HF Integrale EVO - Photo by V Team SAKAL