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Lancia Delta/Integrale

Lancia Delta/Integrale Published: 19th Feb 2015 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Lancia Delta/Integrale
Lancia Delta/Integrale
Lancia Delta/Integrale
Lancia Delta/Integrale
Lancia Delta/Integrale
Lancia Delta/Integrale
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Lancia’s Delta was like an Alfa, insofar as it offered exotic motoring for the masses. And, you don’t need an Integrale to have fun, either! words by Staff Writer images by magiccarpics.co.uk

If it hadn’t had been for the Beta debacle, just how successful would Lancia’s ‘Escort’, the hatchback Delta had been? Launched in 1979 and voted Car Of The Year for 1980, the Delta was the right car at the wrong time for this upmarket Italian brand in the UK, because, just as this sharp- styled family car was starting to find favour, stories of Betas rusting away and engines falling out (not true) hit the red tops and Lanica all too hastily capitulated and bought back cars owners didn’t want, and so effectively killed off the marque in the UK.

Okay, so we know just how great the Delta Integrale is, but don’t overlook the models that paved the way in the range. The Delta was Lancia’s ‘Alfasud’ and, while they had nothing in common apart from Fiat ownership, it was also a car that added a touch of colour in a market full of grey porridge. And, best of all, they can now be superb value.

WHICH MODEL TO BUY?

For many there’s only one choice and that’s the Integrale. Launched seven years after the Delta débuted, it was initially an eight valve turbocharged 185bhp offshoot of the earlier 4x4 HF. Just two years later, the engine gained a 16 Valve cylinder head, raising the power stakes to 200bhp. But this was just the start – the Evoluzione arrived in 1991, ironically around the time Lancia withdrew from the World Rally Championship. Only 10bhp extra was wrung out but virtually everything on the car was uprated to suit and this included aerodynamics, where an adjustable tail spoiler was fitted.

Lancia had a thing about two-year revamps because, while the car was more than adequate for many, yet again in 1993 the company brought out the Evo II, this time yielding only five brake more, but this was due to a catalyst being fitted. The turbo was a smaller item to improve throttle response.

It was more a cosmetic makeover this time, with larger wheels, Recaro seats with red stitching, Momo steering wheel, Alcantara trim, air con and larger wheels. Not unexpectedly, with each car numbered by a centre console plaque, these are the most desired Deltas of all and truly immaculate ones have been valued at over 50 grand, in the case of the special edition ‘Martini’ and Final Edition examples, although in the main around £30,000 is the marker for top cars.

Reckon on spending about half this for a similar Evo I, and perhaps half again for the initial 8v cars, which we have to say sound the best value of the lot. Ropey cars can sell for £5000 or so, but will need much work and cash spent on them.

However, there is a route to buying a great and great value alternative and that’s not to get too hung up on the Integrale badge and seek out the car that started it all – the Delta HF. This was launched as a 1600cc front-wheel drive sportier take on the mainstream Delta hatchback, either as a normally aspirated 105bhp (108bhp fuel injection) GT or the 130bhp Turbo i.e., the latter which evolved into the HF 4WD which eventually morphed into the more wanted 2-litre Integrale.

Sans their macho bodykit, and fatter tyres (essentially a sop to homologate the car to accept rally hardware), the HF revels in its much cleaner, crisper styling, especially in white with Martini stripes. Another benefit for some will be the fact that they were made in UK spec right-hand drive, whereas Integrales officially were not; conversions were carried out but experts say it spoiled the steering feel as the saloon car (Fiat Regata) steering is lower geared and stodgier.

These lesser Lancias are considerably cheaper, if you can find one. The best cars cost little more than £5000 and average examples around half this. Want something even cheaper? Then there are the ‘cooking’ versions in 1.3 (64bhp) and (85bhp) 1.5-litre guises. It’s a sort of ‘Lancia Escort’ albeit with more flair and fittingly there’s a booted saloon range called the Prisma which, naturally, is the least loved Lancia of the lot

BEHIND THE WHEEL?

Chalk and cheese doesn’t come to mind, but there is a world of difference between an Integrale and the Delta. The reason, of course, is the former’s superb all-wheel drive system which provided grip and feel far in excess of Audi’s ground-breaking Quattro concept.

In its day, the Integrale was judged to be one of the greatest handling cars ever made and the car lived up to it – so much so that more than 25 years on and only the best moderns can live with a well-driven Evo. Add a wonderful engine and even being left-hand drive can’t dilute the excellence of the car.

The Delta was based upon the replacement for the Fiat 128, called the Strada and, while it was praised in its day, it has to be said that the car was second stringer to the superb Sud, made by Alfa. That said, these front-wheel drive models are entertaining and considerably better than most rivals of the same era, with sharp and tidy handling coupled to manageable understeer and tuck in; with suitable changes to the dampers and brakes and you may not miss an Integrale after all?

It’s the same when it comes to outright performance. Integrales are fast and scintillating in Evo tune, whereas even the 1600GT is little more than a lively Latin (0-60mph in 10secs) but typically Italian with its sharp rev-happy nature. The bulk of models have five- speed transmissions by the way, although the change quality isn’t anything special.

The HF Turbo is special, however, in its own particular way. While not as thoroughbred as the Integrale, it’s a true hot hatch, and a good substitute to the more common Golf GTi/Escort XR3i. The power delivery is excellent and, despite not having its power fed through all four tyres, displays little torque steer or fight like the Ford, Vauxhall’s Astra GTE and Austin-Rover’s frightful if thrilling MG Maestro Turbo.

DAILY DRIVER?

A fair percentage of Integrales are used daily and, fun factor aside, we can understand why. Their performance is such that they exceed that of many high-performance moderns, while the 4x4 system ensures tremendous grip and security. The interior is roomy enough for four and the hatch makes it one of the most practical performance cars ever.

Economy is good at around 25mpg although tyres don’t last long and are expensive to replace. The HF costs a little less to keep and some may find its RHD format more to their liking.

Bear in mind that Fiat also launched a hot Strada called the Abarth 130 TC, which kicked out the same power as the HF Turbo in normally aspirated form, and offers even more thrills than the Delta HF and also carries an evocative name.

OWNING AND RUNNING

If anything, Integrales are easier to keep sweet than their lesser Latin relations, if for no other reason that there’s far more interest in them. Parts supply is quite reasonable and there are enough specialists around to make running one relatively painless. The trick is also to buy a good, well-historied one from the outset, and not some track day crashed and thrashed cast-off.

The HF uses different body panels and has more in common with the Delta and its rarity means scarcity of body parts, although mechanically, as the car is essentially Fiat Strada, you are in more luck – but not much! It’s reckoned that Deltas aren’t so well rust-proofed and so rot more readily than an Integrale – when did you last see one on the road? There are a lot of hidden areas underneath. Oh, and an HF’s wheels, grille and particularly headlamps are unique, just like the interior trim, but we’re sure that seek and you shall find, just like any other classic!

BUYER BEWARE

* It’s Italian so naturally watch for rust, but with Integrales the danger is more landing a car that’s not honest and may have been stolen or crashed – or both! A HPI check is therefore essential.

* Does the car look as though it’s been repaired – check panel gaps, evidence of spraying, new suspension parts, odd tyre wear etc. Being left-hand drive, check off-side for ‘swipe’ damage.

* As for the rust, check the usual places, paying special attention to the underside and suspension location points. If anything, Deltas are more rust-prone.

* The Fiat-sourced Twin Cam is generally robust. On Turbo’s check for general abuse and wear. If the oil level is allowed to get too low, the turbo becomes starved of lubricant before the engine suffers. Also track day driving can cause oil starvation of the crank bearings. Water pumps are other fail points and cost £400 to replace.

* The transmission takes a pounding and third gear usually suffers most. If the gear change feels floppy and loose then it points to a hard life.

* As the car entices very hard use, expect to find general wear in the suspension bushes and dampers – bad vibes by the clutch foot suggest worn out anti-roll bar bushes.

* Ditto the brakes will undoubtedly have led a hard life so it’s not unexpected to find warped and worn discs. Has uprated hardware already been fitted? The type of tyres fitted are a good pointer to how the car has been maintained; cheapo stuff usually means penny pinching elsewhere.

TIMELINES

1980

Delta five-door hatchback arrives in UK, based upon Fiat Strada but more upmarket and uses 1.3/1.5-litre powerplants and five-speed transmissions. Car also sold as Saab 600 in some countries.

1983

Sportier versions filter through starting with HF (High Fidelity) 1600GT in carb and then turbocharged forms boasting 105 and 130bhp respectively.

1987

Top 4x4HF evolves into the 185bhp Integrale 8v and introduced to the UK albeit as left-hand drive only. Permanent 4x4 system boosted by Torsen rear differential were hallmarks.

1989

More potent 16V engine comes on stream, liberating an additional 15bhp and added torque. Car identified by raised bonnet profile to clear new head; revised 4x4 power split and wider wheels, tyres.

1991

First of the Evos. Wider track and wheel arches are extended along with new facial to improve cooling. Now 210bhp, Evo has an adjustable roof spoiler and front suspension bracing.

1993

Evo II. Little added power, but smaller turbo for better response. Styling revise has new wheels, air intake, body roof moulding, red cylinder head, Momo steering wheel and Recaro sports seats.

1994

Last year for this icon and Lancia marked it by way of several special editions, such as Gallio, Blue Lagos, Pearl White, Dealer Edition and Final Edition.

WE RECKON

If we can ignore the Integrale for a minute, if you are after a cheap and cheerful Escort-sized classic that’s practical and fun then dig out a Delta. While they may not have the flair and appeal of an Alfasud they are a bit classier. The Delta HF is a great yet ignored hot hatch that’s as good as a Golf GTi while Integrales are incredible. But you don’t have to go that far…



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