At RM Sotheby’s latest auction held in conjunction with Germany’s Techno Classica Essen classic-car festival, two Lancia rally-car legends from the infamous Group B era sold for more than double their (clearly low) pre-sale estimates to set record prices for the two models.
The first was a 1982 Lancia 037 Rally Stradale, said to be one of the most original and lowest-mileage examples in existence, which sold for $873,950. The 037’s odometer showed just over 3,500 km (2,175 miles) and had just three owners from new—that’s not a lot for an honest-to-goodness homologation special that practically begs to driven. This car was the 22nd of 217 examples ever built and full-fledged rally-spec versions won the 1983 World Rally Championship with such drivers as Walter Röhrl and Markku Alén behind the wheel.
Based on the central tub of the Lancia Montecarlo (that’s the Lancia Scorpion for those Stateside), the 037 featured unique front and rear tube-frame extensions that served as mounts for its suspension and a longitudinally oriented supercharged 2.0-liter ‘Lampredi’ inline-four engine. Incidentally, the 037 was the last rear-wheel-drive vehicle to win a WRC championship. Most 037 Stradale (stradale designating ‘street’ versions, versus the rally racer) sell in the $350,000–$550,000 range, even that being a significant bump from the $50,000 or so they cost new in 1982. (The price translates to roughly $90K today.) The 037 Rally Stradale was never sold officially in the U.S., though several have now found their way here by means of the 25-year exemption in Federal importation laws.
Meanwhile, a 1985 Lancia Delta S4 Stradale brought an even more impressive $1,180,400—well over the high estimate of $624,250. The S4 was loosely based on Lancia’s new Delta Integrale hatchback and was the car that replaced the 037 Rally in the new all-wheel-drive era of Group B rallying. While the streetable Delta Integrale was a front-engine, all-wheel driver, the Delta S4 had its engine located just ahead of the rear axle, making it a mid-engine car. The engine itself was a 1.8-liter inline-four related to the 037’s engine but fitted with both a supercharger and a turbocharger to make some 500 horsepower in race spec. The record-setting auction car had traveled just 2,200 km (1,367 miles) from new and came with its original books and tool kit.
The Delta S4’s all-wheel-drive system was complex and inccorporated three differentials, including a central unit which split torque 30/70 front/rear. Just 200 Delta S4 Stradales were built for homologation purposes, and somewhat like the 037, the S4 was a tough sell when new. RM Sotheby’s claims that several cars were still unsold in Lancia showrooms well into the 1990s.
Times have obviously changed, and now the Delta S4 Stradale is one of the world’s most sought-after classic rally machines, as indicated by its world-record bid at Essen. Despite its legendary status, the S4 does have a major dissimilarity with the 037 in that it never won a WRC championship, though subsequent examples of the Delta Integrale did bring home titles for Lancia in the post-Group B age.