So revered is the Lancia Delta Integrale and its many variants, it’s easy to forget there was an entire range of family cars beneath the snarling homologation specials in Lancia’s range. But forgetting them wouldn’t have been a problem in early 1985 when this advertisement for the Delta HF Turbo went to print.
The car that would come to dominate the latter half of 1980s world rallying did not yet exist. The first Delta HF 4WD made its debut a year later at the Turin show, and its Group A equivalent, replacing the Delta S4 when Group B was banned at the end of 1986, took its first victories on the Monte Carlo Rally in 1987.
On its debut in 1984 then, the HF Turbo was top dog. It might have powered only its front wheels, but those HF letters on the grille – last seen on the Stratos – still carried plenty of cachet. And its 1.6-litre turbocharged engine could still boast 128bhp, only 2bhp down on the more unruly Ford Escort RS Turbo launched the same year.
Coincidentally, both offered Recaro seats; the Italian brand’s foothold in the automotive OEM sphere has clearly never really gone away. And between them, the Delta’s useful turbo punch and comfy pews were the focus of the copy in this 1985 ad, with the tagline “121mph in your favourite chair”.
There are no shots present of said chair – just a pulled-back, scenic shot of the HF Turbo and its driver enjoying a blissfully empty country road. No doubt its pilot is enjoying several of the other features mentioned, such as the Delta’s independent suspension, or the crystal-clear beams from the boxy headlights courtesy of headlamp wash-wipe.
He seems to be all alone, so the benefits of the five-door layout would be lost on him, at least on this drive. The extra practicality would surely be welcome in comparison with that RS Turbo, particularly as the Delta was by this point already an ageing design next to the Ford – Giugiaro’s shape had debuted way back in 1979.
In a decades-long battle between the Escort and Delta to discover which would return to the earth the quickest, it was probably a draw – though Lancia, conscious by the 1980s of its atrocious record in rustproofing, made a point of pointing out the Delta’s 74lbs, or 33.5kg, of anti-corrosion material.
In this pre-Integrale world, Lancia probably needed to crow about the less obvious aspects of the Delta’s attributes; Car magazine placed the entire Delta range, Turbo included, in only the “adequate” section of its Good, Bad & Ugly data pages. “Modern, pretty car” they wrote, but “misses the mark, somehow.”
The eagle-eyed will spot that this Delta HF Turbo was the Martini special edition – celebrating its association with the mighty Delta S4 and its iconic livery. It would set you back £7990, or around £30,500 in today’s money. That’s squarely in the price range of a modern hot hatchback, though sadly you won’t find such a thing from Lancia in 2022.
On-road performance and the world of rallying were soon to change, but for just a year or so, the HF Turbo was the hottest Delta, and one of the hottest hatches, you could buy.