European roads in the 1980s offered plenty of excitement for rally enthusiasts as two words became increasingly commonplace in manufacturer sales talk: Homologation Special. As a result, many dealerships had a purposeful, motorsport-inspired beastie in their showroom alongside the mundane offerings typical of the era.
Almost overnight, ubiquitous family cars became sexy. The general public was offered muscled versions of familiar snooze-boxes, giving us the VW Golf Rallye, BMW M3, Ford Sierra RS Cosworth and Lancia Delta Integrale, to name a few. All came thanks to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) and the new Group A regulations that replaced the banned Group B cars.
To compete, all a manufacturer had to do was produce 5000 units of any car they wanted to run in the rally championship. If you could afford the price premium and insurance costs, these race-inspired road cars were in plentiful supply.
Inevitably, the homologation cars have become valuable collector’s items today, treasured for nostalgia as much as their cash value. One of the most sought after is little known outside Europe: the boxy Lancia Delta HF. Of all the homologation specials, this five-door had the greatest claim to glory in its rally days.
Based on a slightly unloved hatchback, and renamed Integrale, the 4WD, wide-arched racer dominated its era of rallying, winning a total of six consecutive WRC constructors’ titles (1987-92) and four drivers’ championships (1987-89, ’91). In doing so, the Lancia is regarded by many as the most successful rally car of all time.
The homologation version was monumental as a road car, creating an enthusiastic fan base that continues to this day. Variations and special editions abound, increasing the Integrale’s mystique and tying it to the model’s continual rally success all those years ago.
While scoring victories from Monte Carlo to Argentina and Australia, the Lancia became synonymous with the evocative Martini racing livery. Limited edition street versions celebrated with flashes of Martini’s red and blue color scheme, but for maximum effect, an Integrale in total WRC guise is impossible to beat.
This example belongs to 39 year-old David Jorge from St Albans, UK. It’s a ’93 Delta HF Integrale 16v Evolution II model, and the last in the line before production ceased in ’94.
It began life as one of four promotional cars that were produced by Lancia for Magneti Marelli Developments, the Italian company that provided the Integrale’s engine management systems.
Being a special edition of a special edition, it’s the sort of Lancia aficionados desire most. Dressed in full factory colors and sponsorship, the Evo II was fitted with ABS, air con and, of primary importance, the most powerful engine the model ever had: a 215hp 16v version of the Garrett turbocharged inline-four. To put things in perspective, for its year the five-door Integrale was firmly in Porsche 911 performance territory.
The interior was wrapped in black alcantara with red stitching and seatbelts – features typically found on the earlier Evo I Martini 5 special edition cars, produced to celebrate the model’s fifth world championship. In fact, the only noticeable thing missing compared to the rally cars is a rollcage.
Its rarity was part of the appeal for Dave, particularly as it was the most desirable and valuable Evo II variety. “I bought it three years ago in its current condition, with only a few jobs needed to tidy it up,” he said.
“I’ve got a thing for Italian machines and remember watching the Integrales when they were competing. I thought they were incredibly cool and always wanted one. I enjoyed it so much I also bought an Integrale Evo I for track use, plus I have a Ducati 998R and two MV Augusta superbikes.”
A passion for all things Italian is commendable, but the Integrale is far from subtle when blasting around the local English countryside. In fact, David admitted a touch of reluctance when buying such a head-turner. “I wasn’t sure about the full Martini livery, but it was painted by the same company that did the factory rally cars – Nitro C – so the quality was excellent,” he said. “Every time we go out in it, people ask if it’s real. They film it, photograph it, and I’ve even been stopped by the police just so they could look it over.
“However, my wife hated the car until the snow came. Then we were one of the few cars that didn’t get stuck thanks to its 4WD!”