01 September 2014

WHEEL OF FAME: Lancia Delta HF Integrale

A sensational performance road car that was also a huge success on the rally circuits. I've always wanted one of these...

ANYONE who knows me well enough will know that I'm a Lancia fan. For as long as I care to remember, I have always lusted after a Delta HF Integrale. It has been - and always will be - up there  in being one of my all time favourites.

Don't get me wrong, I like exotic supercars as much as the next petrolhead. Some may tell me these are the Italian cars I should have wet dreams over. But let's face it, many yearn to own one but these dreams become realities for a few people. Even if you do have one, you can't put a Ferrari or a Lamborghini through its paces on the public roads. Inevitably, you'll either end up losing your license or killing yourself.

This is where the Lancia Delta HF Integrale comes in. Is it sleek? A car that would adorn a schoolboy's bedroom wall? Is it a mid-engined supercar, with a roaring V-shaped engine having eight or twelve cylinders? The answer to all these questions would be no.

The Integrale has a neat trick up its sleeve. If you had one that wasn't yellow, your mother could be fooled into thinking that you've bought a car that's practical for everyday use. It's a five-door hatchback, but if you didn't tell her on how quick this car was. It'll get her approval.

But let's be honest here, practicality isn't the sole reason you'd buy an Integrale, though that can be part of its appeal. If you're a thrill seeking parent that wants an exciting car, that can also be up to the task of ferrying your kids around in, the Delta Integrale can (sort of) make a lot of sense.

The real reason you'd buy a Delta Integrale is the intoxicating thrills it gives. A seriously quick car with lusty 2.0 litre, turbo and supercharged 8 and 16-valve, twin-cam engines. Mated to a four wheel system that stuck to the tarmac, and ensured it put the power down to the road.

The Delta Integrale's crisp clean lines designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro look great that Eighties cars do. Along with the big wheels, the twin exhausts, the agressive flared wheelarches, but also a beefy (yet tasteful) bodykit and spoilers. May I add, those quad lights as well. It looks and means business. Excuse my language, but it's quite simply the dog's bollocks.

An Integrale driven hard on a B-road would make me feel special, and give me the illusion that I'm a rally driver. Like when I played those Sega Rally games at an arcade - every time, I chose the Lancia over the Toyota Celica GT4.

Come on! This is one of the very reasons you'd want a Delta Integrale.

But then again, the Delta HF Integrale was very successful in rallying. It dominated the rally circuit in the late 1980s and well into the 1990s. No other rally cars at the time came close. To this day, it still stands as one of the most successful rally cars. It's one that still consistently challenges the Audi Quattro in being the greatest rally cars from the Eighties.

I know there are plenty of four wheel drive, rally bred, performance road cars from the 1980s. Which some may say, is arguably the golden age of rallying. There's the Audi Quattro. From the 1990s onwards, there was the Ford Escort RS Cosworth, Subaru Impreza WRX STi and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evos. While they're all great cars and I grant you that. But I don't think they will stir the soul that the Lancia would.

Before you tell me to take off them rose tinted specs. I'm only too aware that the Delta Integrale has its flaws. They only them made in left hand drive. And being an old Italian car - it'll be brittle in a few places. But you know what? I'd overlook those foibles. If there's such a car you'd want badly, you're bound to aren't you? The Lancia Delta HF Integrale is such a car that has forever remained in my dream garage.

I've always wanted a Delta Integrale. It's looking unlikely that I will ever own one. They're very much a classic these days. There's only one way prices of Integrales are going...and that's up. One day maybe, just one day, I may drive one. For now, I can only dream of doing that.

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