Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evoluzione

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By the early 1990s an onslaught of Japanese manufacturers had entered the World Rally Championship. The most successful had been Toyota whose Celica GT-Four driven by Carlos Sainz secured the Drivers Championship in 1990.

Lancia re-took both Driver and Manufacturer titles by the slenderest of margins in 1991 but to ensure they stayed on top in 1992 the Delta HF Integrale was given its biggest revamp to date.

When it was officially launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in October 1991 around 2000 examples of the new Integrale Evoluzione had already been completed. Lancia were confident the mandatory 5000 units required for Group A homologation would be produced in time for the 1992 season opener.

For this latest incarnation of the faithful Delta platform the Italian firm focused on improving stability, grip and handling as the two-litre 16-valve Aurelio Lampredi-designed engine was still considered among the best in its class.

The Integrale’s basic layout was unchanged: a steel unibody chassis with coil sprung independent suspension via MacPherson struts at the front and double transverse arms at the rear. Hydraulic shocks were installed along with anti-roll bars at each end.

Updates for the Evoluzione included reinforced struts and bushes, larger diameter dampers with extended travel plus bigger and stiffer springs. An aluminium strut brace was also fitted. At the back the geometry was revised with stronger struts, thicker transverse arms and dampers with extended travel.

The wider 7.5 × 15-inch alloy wheels featured a new multi spoke design to assist brake cooling plus five fixing bolts instead of four. Track was widened by 54mm at the front and 60mm at the rear.

Brake discs were enlarged to 281mm at the front and 251mm at the back. Fixed four-piston aluminium calipers were also installed. Steering became more responsive thanks to a larger steering box and the Evoluzione also benefited from a supplementary radiator to cool the power steering fluid.

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By re-mapping the engine management and fitting a more efficient single outlet exhaust system, output rose by 5% to 210bhp at 5750rpm. Otherwise the 16-valve inline four cylinder engine remained largely unaltered. Displacement was 1995cc thanks to a bore and stroke of 84mm and 90mm respectively. Compression stayed at 8.0:1 and Weber IAW fuel injection was again employed. Garrett supplied the T3 turbocharger and the torque rating was now 220lb ft at 3500rpm (500rpm higher than before).

Cosmetically Lancia made a variety of alterations that resulted in an even more aggressive appearance. Most obvious were bigger flared wheelarches now formed in a single pressing. Headlights were smaller but brighter and deeper body-coloured sills further updated what was by this time a 12-year old design.

Particular attention was paid to brake and engine cooling. The front bumper intakes were opened up and vents cut from the back of each front fender. Other new features included a wider bonnet bulge, adjustable roof spoiler, Group A-style fuel filler, a new back bumper with single outlet exhaust cavity and an HF badge on the front grille.

By contrast, interior updates were limited. A three-spoke leather-covered Momo steering wheel was introduced along with coloured instruments and a re-shaped gear shifter.

Weight rose by 8kg to 1300kg and because of the wider frontal area top speed stayed at 137mph despite the extra power on offer. 0-62mph dropped to 5.8 seconds. However, these figures belied the true scale of progress for the Evoluzione was a big step forward in terms of driveability, roadholding and safety.

Options included leather trim, air conditioning, ABS brakes and a sunroof.

Unfortunately, Lancia had still not developed a catalysed version of the 16-valve engine. This meant cars destined for markets like Germany and Switzerland had to run cat-equipped 181bhp eight-valve motors.

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Evoluzione production continued until early 1993 by which time 5619 had been built, all of which were left-hand drive.

Lancia secured the Manufacturers title in 1992 but lost the Drivers crown to Toyota’s Carlos Sainz. Integrales won eight of the 14 events that year but with Lancia drivers Didier Auriol and Juha Kankkunen taking points off one another Sainz was able to snatch his second Drivers championship in three years.

1992 proved to be the Delta’s final season as a works car and it retired as the most successful machine in rally history. Since its 1987 debut the unassuming hatchback had notched up six consecutive WRC Manufacturers titles. There were also Drivers titles for Juha Kankkunen (1987 and 1991) and Miki Biasion (1988 and 1989).

To boost sales and help recoup Lancia’s development costs four special edition Integrales were made on the Evoluzione platform.

First to arrive was the ‘Martini 5′ in January 1992. 400 were built to celebrate Lancia’s 1991 World Rally Championship, the fifth consecutive time a Delta had secured the Manufacturers title. Each car was painted white with body-coloured wheels and Martini stripes to the flanks and tailgate. New high-backed HF-embossed Recaro front seats were upholstered in black alcantara with red stitching. Red seat belts were fitted and each car received a numbered plaque on the central console plus a ‘World Rally Champion’ badge on the tailgate.

More subtly configured was the ‘Verde York’ edition of which Lancia built 200. All came with special dark green paint, high-backed Recaro front seats and tan leather upholstery. A ‘World Rally Champion’ badge appeared on the tailgate and a numbered plaque on the central console.

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Next was the ‘Club Italia’, 15 of which were built for members of the Italian Lancia Owners Club. All came painted Lord Blue with high-backed HF-embossed Recaro front seats. Upholstery was red leather. Other cabin upgrades included drilled alloy pedals and a push button starter. White ‘Club Italia’ text was located on the rear spoiler and leading edge of the bonnet plus there was an enamelled ‘Club Italia’ shield on each front fender. The cam covers were painted HF blue and yellow and the engine bay featured a plaque that bore the first owner’s name. An additional numbered plaque was located on the central console.

The last Evoluzione special edition was a second batch of Martini-liveried examples released to celebrate Lancia’s 1992 World Manufacturers title. Known as the ‘Martini 6′ edition, 310 were manufactured. Every ‘Martini 6′ came painted white with matching wheels. Martini stripes were applied to the sides and tailgate along with HF decals to the C-pillars, ‘Martini Racing’ text on the rear spoiler, ‘World Rally Champion’ text at the base of each front door and a large adhesive Lancia shield on the roof. Inside, high-backed HF-embossed Recaro front seats were fitted along with red seatbelts, a carbonfibre gear surround and a numbered plaque on the central console. Upholstery was light blue alcantara with red stitching and these cars also came with a ’6 World Rally Champion’ tailgate badge.

Despite Lancia’s works rally programme ending in late 1992, the Integrale’s commercial popularity meant there was sufficient demand one final incarnation. As a result the Evoluzione 2 was released in June 1993.

Text copyright: Supercar Nostalgia
Photo copyright: Lancia -
https://www.lancia.com