Featured: From Video Games To Reality: Bringing The Last Homologated Lancia Delta To America

From Video Games To Reality: Bringing The Last Homologated Lancia Delta To America

By Daniel Piker
November 8, 2018
111 comments

Photography by Daniel Piker

Light, fast, four drive wheels, and (preferably) turbocharged. These had always been part of Kevin’s criteria when selecting cars to drive via video game controller. Exposed to the wide open possibilities inherent in driving cars on screens instead of on race tracks, he was spoiled for choice but began to build a certain affinity for the cars built by Lancia for the WRC. He chose the cars not just because of their driving dynamics though, and like so many fans of rallying Kevin became enamored with the history of the unique Italian marque.

It wasn’t the Stratos nor the 037 that really got to him though, as there was just something about the boxy Delta and its squared-off flares, whether it was in its monstrous S4 spec in Group B, or the closer-to-the-road Integrales that went on to build an even stronger record in the Group A years that followed. With these cars, Lancia won the World Rally Championship for manufacturers six times in a row between 1987 and 1992 and tallied up 46 wins in the process, a remarkable feat, and a selling point for Kevin when it came time to consider purchasing a piece of the Delta legend. For 15 years he lusted over Lancias, and the fact that they were more or less unobtainable in the US only made the yearning worse.

Knowing that the 25-year-rule clock was ticking to an end in terms of importation, Kevin began thinking seriously about whether he wanted to really buy an Integrale to use in the US, and if so, which model. Even though the Evo 2 is considered by some to be the pinnacle of Integrales, for Kevin it was the Evo 1 that stood above the pile of special editions and variants—this was the very last of the Integrales to be made for homologation purposes. By the time the Evo 2 came out in 1993, Lancia was no longer racing the Integrale, so these models weren’t actually needed in order to support the racing effort like the Evo 1 was. Even though the Evo 2 came with five more horsepower (for a total of 215), an updated engine management system, and a host of other revisions and additional comforts, it was the homologation aspect that set Kevin’s mind on the Evo 1.

Having made up his mind, Kevin began researching and talking to importers about where to buy said cars, the question of how to move them and fill out their paperwork would be a different story. It became clear that Japan was the best place to look, as models in Europe had already skyrocketed in price and many had questionable histories. The Japanese models were fairly priced in comparison, and in much better condition than the European variants. The economy in Japan back then was growing at a rate it hasn’t since returned to, so it’s no big surprise that a car-loving land experiencing a financial bloom would import a lot of enthusiast and investment-type vehicles—many cite the Japanese interest in the Ferrari F40 for driving up its values before the supercar was produced in greater numbers and prices came back to reality.

Kevin was looking for a different right-angled Italian though, and his Evo quest involved keeping eyes on auction sites and for-sale aggregators from time to time, and he had actually initially bid on a Lord Blu Evo 1 but lost the auction at the last minute when the bidding went just over his limit. However, soon after, a 1992 Madras Blu model popped up. He began researching this car with the help of a friend from Japan named Yohei.

They figured out that the car had only two owners in its life, and that the “current” owner (not counting the shop that had simply imported it to the US), was a collector who’d kept the car for over 15 years. The car had always been serviced at a well-known shop in Tokyo that goes by the descriptive name of World Rally Shop (they work specifically on rally cars, surprise!). As luck would have it, Kevin had a business trip already scheduled that would put him a mere five miles from where the car, which was being stored in California since its importation.

The car was even better in person. Not a hint of rust anywhere, which is rare for most Integrales. What’s funny is that this car has a special “Rust Protector” that sends a small electrical current through the chassis which then supposedly interferes with the charge between the oxygen and metal that prevents the formation of rust. Perhaps this gizmo had actually worked! After taking a quick test drive, Kevin was hooked, and the decision was made in the driver’s seat. From the sound of the straight-piped four-cylinder, to the addictive whoosh of the blow off valve, the analog driving experience is perfected in cars like these that are just old enough to not have the computer take over the tricky stuff for you. 

This car was everything he had dreamed of while racing their virtual counterparts all those years in preparation, and after returning home from the trip to see it in person, Kevin was determined to win the auction for it. In a bout of nasty bout of déjà vu though, the bidding soon reached his set limit, and he walked away from the auction as it ticked down. Thankfully his wife quickly got online in his place and made one final bid. You already know what happened next.

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