A delightful phrase appears on the first line of the Wikipedia entry for the Lancia Delta: “The Lancia Delta is a small family car…” Yes, maybe, but not the Integrale.
The first-generation Delta dominated the World Rally Championship during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Homologation of these cars required production of road-going versions of these cars; thus were born the Lancia Delta HF 4WD and HF Integrale. A total of 44,296 Integrales were produced.
The Delta was developed as an upmarket front-wheel-drive car positioned below the larger Beta. It was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Italdesign. The Delta offered unusually advanced features for this segment, such as fully independent suspension, rack and pinion steering, air conditioning, an optional split-folding rear seat and a height-adjustable steering wheel. Its three-piece body-coloured bumpers made from polyester resin sheet moulding compound were claimed by Lancia to be a first in the industry.
The first properly performance-oriented Delta was the Delta HF, introduced in July 1983. HF stands for “high fidelity”, and had been applied to sports and racing variants of Lancia cars since 1966. This front-wheel-drive Delta was powered by a turbocharged version of the 1.6-litre engine from the Delta GT.
A feature of the HF, still evident in this Snapshot of the even more sporting Integrale, was it understated exterior. Those not in the know would certainly accept the description of “small family car”.
The turbocharged 2.0-litre and four-wheel drive Delta HF 4WD was unveiled at the April 1986 Turin Motor Show. New enveloping bumpers, with integrated fog lights in the front ones, gave a more modern appearance. In September 1987 the HF 4WD was replaced by the Delta HF Integrale; the 16-valve Delta HF integrale 16v was launched in March 1989.
What was so special about the Integrale? Its four-wheel-drive system was based on the one developed for the 1985 Lancia Delta S4 Group B rally car, albeit in a transverse front-engine instead of a longitudinal mid-engine layout. Both systems used three differentials, the central one being an epicyclic gear-set controlled by a Ferguson viscous coupling, whose task was to transfer torque from the faster to the slower rotating axle—which is usually the one with better grip. When that difference in rotational speed became extreme, it locked up completely and transferred the maximum amount of torque.
The HF integrale has characteristic bulging wheel arches for the wider section 195/55 VR tyres. The bonnet incorporates air louvres and the restyled bumpers wrap around to meet the wheel arches at front and rear. There were only 50 RHD factory-built cars, none of which were officially imported to the UK. This example is the normal LHD – if any Integrale can be called ‘normal’…