Better late than never, they say, and with prices of the legendary Lancia Delta HF Integrale of 1986-95 heading skywards, you could say the ‘elephant’ has well and truly bolted. But do not despair. Take your courage in both hands and buy an Integrale at auction and you might bag a tidy example of the less revered eight-valve version for around £15,000, as one bidder did as recently as last October.
True, it had been converted from the standard left-hand drive to right-hand drive, although by well-regarded specialist John Whalley. Also in its favour was a mileage of just 56,000, a good service record, with work done by respected Integrale specialists, and a full body restoration in 2008. The auction house rated it as being in very good condition.
The point is, there are still tidy Integrales out there for everyman money – reassuring when the only prices you seem to see these days are north of £40,000 for clean Evo 2 versions and as much as £150,000 for the very best last-of-line cars.
The model appeared first in 1986 in standard-bodied HF 4WD form, featuring a viscous centre diff and a Torsen rear diff and powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine producing 162bhp. Off road, competition versions were claiming all the silverware so, on a roll, Lancia upgraded the model in 1987, naming it the Integrale and giving it a wider body, a wider track and flared arches housing larger wheels. With its smattering of air vents, it looked on point, straight out of the box.
The first of this new breed was the 182bhp Integrale 8v but, emboldened by the model’s continuing success in rallies, Lancia replaced it in 1989 with the 16-valve version, producing 197bhp and with a revised torque split in favour of the rear wheels. It also sat 20mm lower and had larger wheels all round.
Then in 1991 came the first of the even wider-bodied and wider-wheeled Evoluzione versions. First out was the 207bhp Evo 1, followed in 1993 by the almost identical Evo 2, although it had 16in as opposed to 15in alloy wheels and, to counter the drag of its catalytic converter, 212bhp. Both spawned a host of special editions.
Integrales were never cheap to run when new, but now that most are pushing 30, you can throw in a refurb bill, too. Not only that but there are also rogues out there. For example, for a long time, they were bought by people who tried to pass 8vs off as 16vs, and Evo 1s as Evo 2s. Others bodged right-hand-drive conversions, although, saying that, even a proper conversion is not as quick or direct as the pukka lefthand-drive set-up.
There’s a good market for Japanese imports, even though it can be hard to check the car’s service history. Going in the other direction, Germany and the US are busily hoovering up our best cars and, in the process, driving prices higher still. So if you want one, don’t hang around.