When car fans hear the name Lancia, their hearts beat faster. Lanica had been for many years one of the most legendary and impressive names in all motoring. The fact that the brand is now practically defunct is a great source of sadness among gearheads and car enthusiasts. Because Lancia built some of the best cars in the world, like the Stratos, the 037, the Fulvia and the Delta Integrale. And all of these cars would make their mark in the world of rallying, and they are all among the greatest classic cars money can buy.
The 037 in particular holds a special place in the hearts of many people. The car first emerged on the World Rally scene in 1982 and won the World Constructors’ Championship in 1983, beating the might of Audi and its four-wheel drive Quattro. It would be the last time a rear-wheel drive car wins the World Rally Championship title. The 037 Rally is perhaps even more of a rally icon than the Stratos, a car many consider Lancia’s greatest and most famous. But the 037 is the one that will take your breath away every time you see it roaring across the world’s rallying stage in archival footage.
A street car for the World Rally Scene
Of course, like its predecessors, the 037 wasn’t just a rally car. But it was also a road car. The road version of the car was called the 037 Stradale and, as expected, it was similar to the rally version, but of course it was lighter. The first versions of the 037 had the 2.0-litre four-cylinder Lancia supercharged engine based on the long-stroke twin-cam engine that powered earlier Fiat Abarth 131 Rally cars.
However, the 037 Rally made its championship debut in 1982 at the Costa Smeraldo Rally in Italy. Lancia entered two cars but both retired due to gearbox problems. This would become the story of the season for Lancia as the 037 would be plagued by several retirements. However, the car showed great promise and claimed many stage wins before winning the UK Pace Rally to claim its maiden rally win. While it debuted in 1982, it was the 1983 season that the 037 will be remembered most, when Lancia looked to rival the might of Audi.
Take on the Quattro and win
The Audi Quattro had already held the upper hand in 1982, and one would hardly scoff at the fact that Audi would easily sweep to the title in 1983. But Lancia didn’t think the German manufacturer would have it that easy thanks to its 037. Under the Martini Racing banner, Lancia fielded several cars, most notably Walter Röhrl and Markku Alen at the wheels. And it was these two who would lead the team’s attack. And soon the battle between Lancia and Audi became bitter.
Over the season, Audi and Lancia would win 10 of the 12 events and sit on 30 of the year’s 36 podiums. Remarkably, thanks to some clever Lancia tactics and often sheer speed, the 037 took on the might of the Quattro and won as Lancia clinched that year’s Constructors’ Championship. Röhrl also had arithmetic chances of winning the drivers’ title, but since he missed the last two races of the season, Audi and Hannu Mikkola at least got that title. But the constructors’ victory was the first time Lancia had won the World Rally Championship since the mid-1970s. Jeremy Clarksons The Great Tour segment about the 1983 season is well worth seeing. If you have Amazon Prime, you must check it out.
Become a real Lancia classic
Lancia bravely tried to defend the title in 1984 with the Evolution 2 037 with its 325 hp engine. This was an increase over the initial 265 hp of earlier 037s. However, the onslaught of four-wheel drive competition meant Lancia lost again to Audi in 1984 before losing again to the Peugeot 205 T16 in 1985. However, the 037 had done its job well when 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 true David versus Goliath battle
However, what the 037 achieved in 1983 should not be underestimated. What Lancia was able to achieve with the 037, for a car that wasn’t as technologically refined as its rival, was real David vs. Goliath stuff and a sheer delight to behold. Looking back now, the car is just a reminder of how good Lancia was and the magic they were able to create. Today Lancia is quite anonymous and only produces one model, the Ypsilon, only available in Italy. The company is a sad shadow of its former self and its cars like the 037 remind us how great Lancia used to be.
Sources: The Coolector, Girardo & Co, Supercars, Pinterest, Car Throttle, Car Buzz
That’s how much a 1974 Lancia Stratos costs today
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