Throwback Thursdays: Lancia Delta Integrale

I never got a chance to do a Throwback Thursdays post yesterday, so even though it’s a day late, I’m keeping with the routine.

This week I wanted to post up something a little bit different. The hot hatch may be something the Japanese do well, but its roots are in Europe. The continent’s narrow winding roads and crowded Medieval cities, provide the perfect play ground for the hot hatch. While companies from Renault to Volkswagen have brought the car into the modern era, my favorite without a doubt, is the Lancia Delta Integrale. The Delta came in multiple variations during it’s first generation of production (1979-1994), but the one you want is the Evoluzione II, which came out in 1993. The Evo II is probably most comparable to the Subaru WRX, with it’s 215hp turbocharged, 4-cylinder engine and AWD layout.

The unfortunate thing is the Impreza didn’t come with that body and a tan interior. This is the classic Italian color combo, for a sports car and it’s beautiful. With a set of Speedline Type 2015 Monte Carlos, it’s ready for a thrash down the coast to Portofino.

The Evoluzione II is a beautiful car and another, added to the list of ones we don’t get in the states. It was one of Lancia’s best cars, throughout their rocky history and won the World Rally Championship 6 times.

With the cars of today being designed for safety, rather than style, most current hot hatch offerings look like eggs with wheels. They just don’t build them like this anymore.

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3 comments

  1. After buying a vintage car, I have to say “character” loses its charm quickly. When you have a car and you don’t have the confidence it will start right up every time, it’s maddening. Modern cars are just better in every way quantifiable with the exception of working on them. Troubleshooting and fixing problems are just so much easier on vintage cars. Safety, quality, performance, comfort, and reliability is just better on modern cars.

    Yet, I want to encourage everyone who has the desire and the means, buy a vintage car. The Datsun puts a smile on my face just looking at it; it turns into a dopey grin when I actually drive it. You feel connected to the car in a way modern cars cannot offer. It is an analog experience full of subtle nuances. Everything is mechanical, you hear the carbs and engine noise, not just exhaust and turbo woosh, you feel the gears engaging during shifts, and even the bushings deflecting. There are no assists; no power steering, no brake booster, no anti-lock brakes, no traction control, no stability control. Partly because it is completely manual and partly because it is in a deteriorated condition, it requires your full attention when driving. What I tell friends is, I hate driving the Datsun but love the experience, with the Subaru, I hate the experience, but love driving it. It’s something that’s difficult to translate into words.

    I’m going to have to disagree about the styling vs. safety. First, aesthetics are debatable, do you like the sleekness of a Koenigsegg Agera or the hard, lines of a Lamborghini Aventador that modern cars have to offer? Or perhaps you prefer the simplicity of a Cisitalia 202 or the soft curves of the Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale that classic cars have. From an engineering and manufacturing point of view, the design and manufacturing tools are better than ever before. We can create cars to any shape we desire, but this option is too expensive to produce because it involves craftsmanship, rather than having a simple robot stamp it (part of the reason why supercars cost as much as they do). This is what modern cars lack, craftsmanship. Too many manufacturers are worried about how quickly and how cheaply cars can be manufactured, this is why concepts are always diluted. Look at how aggressive the FT-86 concept is and how much softer the lines got, and how many subtle details were lost after it got off the production line. Thank industrial and manufacturing engineers for that.

    Second, safety should never be compromised. Style and safety are not mutually exclusive. Sure, Europe has a mandated height for pedestrian safety, but almost all the best looking cars have come out of Europe. Other than a few size requirements, the design is largely open. As an engineer, we are responsible for the user. Peoples’ lives are at stake and I’d rather not have blood on my hands. If we didn’t compromise performance for safety and reliability, Ayrton Senna could still be with us today. The easiest way to add safety is by adding mass; this can spoil the performance. However, using advanced materials and manufacturing techniques weight can be kept down, but this increases costs.

    Lastly, blame marketers and designers who are constantly trying to create brand identities through design. Audi is doing it well with their LED light design, Alfa Romeo has always been identified by its grille, but then look at Subaru who has tried to reinvent its design identity with each generation for the last two decades, then releases a RWD car when their whole marketing campaign was based around the AWD system. Design evolution of cars at the macro level has traditionally cycled from geometric to organic but we are in a new “cyborg” era that combines the two and some companies are just failing to get it right but I’ll save that for another conversation.

    In my opinion, the combination of branding exercises and cost-cutting is what has led to ugly cars, not safety requirements.

  2. I’d love to have a discussion about the “cyborg era”. It’s interesting to get an engineer’s prospective on automotive design. Since I do graphic design, everything for me is aesthetic. I rarely consider the other factors that go into a design.

    I would agree with you that cars are designed by branding exercises. It’s almost a shame how gimmicky automotive design has become. While I tend to like styling features like Audi’s LEDs, I think it should be something that marks an iteration of a car model, not something that continues to find its way on every new version of the product range. For example, how Subaru only used the bugeye headlights for 2002-2003 and changed it up again, the following year.

    As for the classic car discussion. I’m well aware of the pitfalls of owning a vintage automobile, but it’s something I’m determined to do at some point in my life. Whether the reason is to gain a greater appreciation for the way cars used to be or how they’ve become today, it’s very appealing to me. I’m sure a Lancia Delta would spend most of its time on jack stands in the garage, but if I had the opportunity to buy one in this country, I probably would.

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