Whenever car fans hear the Lancia name, their hearts skip a beat. For many years, Lanica had been one of the most fabled and evocative names in all motoring. The fact that the brand now is virtually non-existent is a great cause for sadness among gearheads and car enthusiasts. Because Lancia made some of the best cars in the world, such as the Stratos, the 037, the Fulvia and the Delta Integrale. And all of these cars would make their name in the world of rallying, and all of them are some of the greatest classic cars money can buy.
The 037 in particular holds a special place in many peoples hearts. The car first emerged on the World Rally scene in 1982, and then in 1983 it won the constructors world title, beating the might of Audi and their four-wheel drive Quattro. It would be the final time a rear-wheel drive car won the world rally title. The 037 Rally is perhaps even more of a rallying icon than the Stratos, a car that many regard as Lancia’s greatest and most famous. But the 037 is the one that every time you see it, roaring along the world rally stage in archive footage, will just take your breath away.
A Road Car Made For The World Rally Scene
Of course, like its predecessors, the 037 wasn’t just a rally car. But it was a road-going car as well. The road going version of the car was dubbed the 037 Stradale, and as you might expect was similar to that of the rally version, but naturally lighter. The first versions of the 037 had the 2.0-liter four-cylinder supercharged Lancia engine, based on the long stroke twin cam engine that powered earlier Fiat Abarth 131 Rally cars.
The 037 Rally though made its debut in the championship in the 1982 Rally Costa Smeraldo, in Italy. Lancia entered two cars, but both retired thanks to gearbox issues. This would go on to be the story of the season for Lancia as the 037 would be plagued by multiple retirements. The car did show a lot of promise however, taking plenty of stage wins before winning the Pace Rally in the UK to take its first rally victory. While it made its debut in 1982, it was the 1983 season that the 037 will be most remembered for, as Lancia looked to take on the might of Audi.
Taking On The Quattro And Winning
The Audi Quattro had already reigned supreme in 1982, and you would hardly be laughed at for thinking that Audi would easily sweep to the title in 1983. But Lancia didn’t think the German manufacturer would have it so easy thanks to their 037. Entered under the Martini Racing banner, Lancia fielded several cars, with most notably Walter Rohrl and Markku Alen at the wheels. And it was these two that would spearhead the team’s charge. And the battle soon became fierce between Lancia and Audi.
Across the season, Audi and Lancia would win 10 of the 12 events, and sit on 30 of the year’s 36 podium positions. Quite remarkably though, thanks to some clever Lancia tactics and often sheer pace, the 037 took on the might of the Quattro and won, as Lancia claimed that year’s constructors title. Rohrl also had a mathematical chance of taking the driver’s title, but as he missed the final two rounds of the season, Audi at least claimed that title with Hannu Mikkola. But the constructors win marked the first time Lancia had won the World Rally Championship since the mid-1970s. Jeremy Clarkson’s The Grand Tour segment on the 1983 season is very much worth watching. If you have Amazon Prime, you must watch it.
Becoming A True Lancia Classic
Lancia bravely tried to retain the title in 1984, with the Evolution 2 037 with its 325 hp engine. This was up from the initial 265 hp of earlier 037s. However, the onslaught of four-wheel drive competition meant Lancia again lost out to Audi in 1984 before losing again to the Peugeot 205 T16 in 1985. The 037 had done its work and done it well, though, as it handed over to the Lancia Delta S4 towards the end of the 1985 season. But the 037 had cemented its place as a true Lancia classic.
A Real David Vs Goliath Battle
What the 037 did in 1983 though can’t be underestimated. For a car that wasn’t as technologically refined as its rival, what Lancia were able to achieve with the 037 was real David vs Goliath stuff and a sheer joy to watch. Looking back now, the car just reminds of how good Lancia were and what magic they could produce. Today, Lancia is fairly anonymous, producing only one model, the Ypsilon, which is only available in Italy. The company is a sad shadow of its former self, and its cars such as the 037 that remind us just how great Lancia used to be.
Sources: The Coolector, Girardo & Co, Supercars, Pinterest, Car Throttle, Car Buzz
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