This Lancia Delta Integrale Prowls Russia’s Backroads
Photography by Andrew Smazhilo
Do you remember life as a little kid? Many of us, I’m sure, had car posters hanging on the wall, and we would dream about those cars at night. Sometimes, it was possible to dream about a Ferrari Testarossa, a Lamborghini Countach or a Porsche 911. If you were luckier, you would have a die-cast model to play with or to put on the shelf beside your bed.
Today, we realize that those cars helped us self-develop as car enthusiasts. We are who we are because of our childhood dreams and memories. It was no different for Georgiy, the owner of this white Lancia Delta Integrale, who had a poster of such car flying high in the air during some rally stage hanging ob his bedroom wall, back in 1992. Remember when I mentioned he had another car in the process of restoration besides a gorgeous red Jaguar E-Type Coupe? Well, this is it. Twenty-four years have passed, and his Integrale dream has finally come true.
Restoration took more than a year due to some difficulties, but it was worth it. The result is simply staggering when you look at it, and my breath was taken away from me when I rode shotgun in this white Delta. For sure, it would have been easier, faster and possibly cheaper to find and buy an unrestored Integrale in a close to perfect condition. However, when trying to import such a car to your home country, you would probably stumble upon various laws that prohibit you from doing this.
Russia is no different, so to make his dream come true, Georgiy had to deal with cars that had been imported years before, had gone through hands of several owners…and were in a condition very far from perfect.
He spent a couple of years searching for the right car. The problem with Deltas is that for more than a decade here in Russia, they were perceived as a “poor man’s” Lancer Evolution or Impreza STi, which in turn led to poor service and a mean attitude towards them. Sadly, not many have survived through years in this “violent” Russian climate.
But: the world is now a global village, and word spread that there was a car in St. Petersburg worth taking a look at. Georgiy contacted the owner, and bought the car after a quick negotiation. However, the purchase story did not end there.
Back in 2003, Georgiy was enjoying driving an Alfa Romeo 166, and took part in an event called ‘Deltas Day’. Several days after the purchase of his Delta, he was looking through photographs from that 2003 event, and imagine his astonishment when he realized that he’d parked next to the car he would later buy. It could not have been a coincidence, it must have been fate!
Shortly after the car arrived to Moscow, the restoration process begin. Some would call it a rebuild but it was a restoration, no less, because despite the fact that Delta Integrale is not that old, it is becoming harder and harder each day to find new parts for it. Those that were still possible to find were replaced and those which are not available anymore were meticulously restored and rebuilt.
Some improvements were necessary to enjoy the car on the road in modern traffic. The result of these changes is a car that he refers to as an ‘Evo 3’, or a vision of what the Integrale might have become if its development had not stopped back in 1994.
It sports a modern Garrett GTX2863R turbocharger, accompanied by a custom intercooler made by a Swiss company called Speedshop, which specializes in performance kits for Integrales. He replaced the old and laggy turbocharger system, with its fuel injectors and pump, head gasket and studs, clutch, cooling, and exhaust systems also upgraded to match the Delta’s improved performance.
Its suspension was also upgraded with a KW coilover kit, modern Brembo 4-pot-caliper brakes from a Ferrari 550 Maranello, matched with custom-made Tarox brake discs.
The result is mind-blowing. For sure, modern cars would most definitely outperform the Integrale, and from the financial point of view, it might have been more rational to buy a new BMW M3 from the nearest dealer.
But would it give Georgiy and everyone who took part in the restoration process the same amount of joy and fulfillment as rebuilding this old but still mighty rally legend? I doubt it.
Speaking of the people who took part in the restoration, there are two very important men worth mentioning. One of them is Juha Kankkunen, a Finnish former rally driver and four-time World Rally Champion. In 1991, he won the WRC driving a Lancia Delta Integrale, so Georgiy decided that his autograph would be a nice addition to the car’s upgrades.
Thus, straight after purchase, he sent the glovebox cover to Laukaa village in Finland, where Juha lives—asking the Champion to sign it. Crazy it may sound, but Juha liked the idea, signed the cover, and his son sent it back to Georgiy!
I met the other man who is very important to this story. Unfortunately, Georgiy was not able to give me a drive in the Integrale, so he asked his mechanic Armen, who did most of the job of restoring this Lancia, to take the car out for a photoshoot. If you take a closer look, you will recognize him behind the wheel in the photographs blasting through corners and enjoying the unexpected sunlight on a cloudy autumn day.
As it happens, some of his restoration work is worth featuring in the future. Until then…