The spirit of competition in the automotive industry has always been present. The pursuit of speed and thrills on four wheels has been ever evolving. Lancia started as a means to satisfy the need for speed by a pair of FIAT racing drivers named Vincenzo Lancia and Claudio Fogolin in November of 1906. The two engineers would build the brand to fund the pair's passion for racing.
The catalog of cars leaving Lancia's Turin factory showcased the brand's passion for innovation and motorsports. One of the original sports cars would be the Lambda in 1922. Being a vehicle with many firsts, including being produced with unibody construction (The body and frame are made as a single unit), having a floor pan low enough to warrant a tunnel for the driveshaft to pass through the passenger compartment. The new design helped keep the center of gravity low, aiding in handling and performance.
The Lambda was also the first to use independent front suspension to increase road holding capability. Under the Lambda hood was an all-aluminum V4 (yes, you read that right and another first!), which was compact enough that the transmission also fit neatly behind it in the engine compartment.
The Lambda gave way to the next few decades of advancement to cars such as the Fulvia Sport. This unique hatchback debuted in 1965 and is based on the Fulvia Rallye coupe which was redesigned and rebodied in aluminum (one of the first with all-aluminum body panels) by Zagato. The side-hinged hood revealed a 1.2 liter (later 1.3 liter) V4 equipped with dual overhead cams.
The new Sport was meant to be more aerodynamic for road course and other track duties unlike the standard coupe whose preference was dirt. Due to their light weight and excellent traction, the coupes were excellent for rallying and won many titles in the International Champtionship for Manufacturers (IMC). However, Lancia was bit by the rally bug and that would soon not be enough.
The World Rally Championship (WRC) started its inaugural season in 1973 and Lancia was set to debut a new weapon along with it known as the Stratos HF. Built from the ground up with rally competition in mind. The Stratos used a steel backbone chassis with an integrated roll cage and a fiberglass body shell to keep weight to a minimum.
Thanks to a merger with FIAT a few years earlier, Lancia gained access to Ferrari and all of its technical knowledge. The Dino V6 was borrowed for the Stratos and placed right behind the passenger compartment for optimal weight distribution. The Stratos would go on to win the Championship for three straight years, becoming the sports car to beat on the open stages.
For the 1983 season, Lancia designed a new car to compete under Group B rules in the 3000cc class ( as they had a powerplant readily available to use). The new sports coupe was named the 037 and was based on the Beta Montecarlo (known as the Scorpion in North America). The racer became a joint venture between Lancia, Abarth (built and modified the powertrain), Dallara (developed and produced the chassis), and Pininfarina (designed the body). The outer shell was made in fiberglass with polyester resin and was impregnated with flame retardant. This particular car was the winner of the 1983 Rally Monte Carlo with Walter Rohrl behind the wheel.
He was known for piloting the Fiat 131 Abarth before it and achieving many victories with it. The 037 went on to win the manufacturer's championship for that year and would be the last rear-wheel drive car to win the title in the history of WRC. After the 83' season, Walter moved on to Audi, where he drove the Quattro coupe in fury to many more wins.
Audi's industry changing Quattro all-wheel drive system may have dominated the rally scene for the next few years following the 037's last win. Lancia decided not to take the losses sitting down. The new compact Delta emerged with a transversely-mounted 2.0 liter inline-four equipped with a turbocharger and four-wheel drive. The two cars would battle it out with each through stages across the world, with Lancia coming out on top. The Delta HF Integrale Evoluzione would be one of the final rally winners from the brand.
The "Evo" took all of the wild HF Integrale's unique attributes and turned it up to 11. Changes to the suspension, including chassis reinforcement occurred including larger brake discs and fixed calipers. New body panels gave the Delta a wider track (over 2 inches wider at each corner), complemented by a hood with additional venting for heat extraction and an adjustable rear hatch spoiler. The Delta "Evo" would go onto win both the drivers' and manufacturers championship for the 1991 WRC season and prompted the brands' withdrawal from further rally endeavors.
Many enthusiasts claim the end of the Delta's rule in competition as an end to the Lancia they knew and loved. The brand would unfortunately fade into obscurity, being reorganized under the FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) umbrella and later selling rebranded Chrysler products such as the 200 Convertible, 300 Sedan, and Town & Country Minivan in European markets until 2015. The brand is currently only available in the Italian market with a supermini based on the Fiat 500 known as Ypsillon. We hope that Lancia returns to its roots of innovation, style, and class in the same fashion its sister brand Alfa Romeo has seen in a renaissance of sorts.