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For those of us “of a certain age,” the four wheel drive monsters that dominated Group A and Group B rallying during the ’80s will always hold a special place in our hearts. Images of Audis, Lancias, Porsches, Peugeots, and even fast Fords catching air as they spit out giant gravel rooster tails and roar directly toward the herds of spectators close enough to reach out and touch them are indelibly etched into our brains. Unfortunately, the homologation versions of those cars by and large never made it to the US but there are rare exceptions to that rule. This column has previously featured an Audi Sport quattro which was for sale in the US, and today we balance the scales with the opportunity to feature a Lancia Delta HF Integrale.
Although it would eventually rise to fame and dominate Group A rally, the Delta had humble beginnings. Introduced in 1979, it was based on the Fiat Ritmo, and was also sold in Sweden as the Saab-Lancia 600. Styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro, it carried some of the same hallmarks of clean, angular design that he had made famous with cars like the Volkswagen Golf and Scirocco. It carried a choice of 1.3 liter 75HP or 1.5 liter 85HP engines, neither of which gave it the kind of performance that would eventually win races. In 1986, though, Lancia got lucky. They had just introduced the Delta HF 4WD, which featured a turbocharged 2 liter engine making 165HP and an all wheel drive system, and at the end of that racing season, Group B was abolished leaving Group A as the top level of rallying and the Delta HF 4WD suddenly positioned as the most capable car on the grid with the new rules.
Lancia quickly capitalized on this and introduced the Delta HF Integrale 8v for the 1987 year and the rest, as they say, is history. Lancia went on to claim 35 wins with the various iterations of the Integrale from 1988 until 1992. One of the best parts of this, for the fans, was that Group A homologation rules required the manufacturer to produce at least 5000 (after 1992, 2500) units of their car for sale worldwide which meant that you could watch a Delta Integrale win a race on the weekend, and then walk into your Lancia dealership on Monday morning and buy one. Or, at least you could if you lived in Europe. Those of us in the US weren’t so lucky, and have been left pining for these special cars with no way to put our hands on one.
Now that the Integrale is getting on in years, however, the rare one or two of them have occasionally made it into the US, usually by being imported first to Canada and then across our northern border. One such car is currently listed on Craigslist in Portland, OR. According to the seller, it had 52,000 km (32,311 miles) on the clock when it was imported into Canada in 2004 and has covered just another 10,000 km (6,200 miles) since then. While it appears that the car is a little rough and could use some cosmetic work (a repaint of several of the body panels appears to be in order) and some basic upkeep (a new headgasket) the interior appears to be in very good shape and the seller also seems to be quite forthcoming about the condition of the car and what it might need. He has even included a video of a walkaround of the car and starting it up. Buying a car like a Delta HF Integrale in the US can be an interesting proposition and carries a certain amount of risk, but it’s not an opportunity that comes along every day, and whenever we see one up for sale thoughts giant boxed fenders and of bombing along a twisty gravel road are hard to put out of mind.