‘Never meet your heroes’ is pretty solid advice. Chances are ignoring this rule has hit one or two of you with a vengeance in the past. Recently though, crankandpiston may have found the exception to the rule.
Few of you will need much of an introduction to this automotive gem. In the early 1990s the Lancia Delta Integrale effectively ruled the World Rally Championship, winning the Driver’s Championship four times in five years and taking a staggering 46 rally victories. Now that may only be of mild interest to the non-motorsport elite amongst you but there is a significant point to this. In order to qualify for manufacturer points, Lancia were obliged to produce at least 5000 units of a road-going Delta Integrale. Adding a couple of rear seats and a bit of upholstery here and there, and in the early 1990s Lancia was effectively selling a WRC-spec hot hatch for the road.
Which is why, when I was handed the opportunity on a velvet cushion to spend some time with a Delta HF Evoluzione II – thanks to owner Nadim Majzoub – I jumped at the chance. And, simultaneously, prepared myself for the worst.
Let me explain. The Lancia Delta Integrale remains one of the greatest rally cars of all time and – just to add some Hollywood-esque drama – one of my particular childhood favourites. Consequently, a drive in a car I’ve adored for more than two-thirds of my life could either be one of the biggest thrills of my life, or a crushing disappointment. What if the Delta is not the car I imagined it to be? What if the car currently occupying a slot in my dream garage actually proves to be a nightmare? What if one of my heroes doesn’t give me an autograph? Come the end of the day, I’ll either be over the moon or inconsolable.
Having spoken with Nadim earlier the previous evening, I stiffen my lip and head out to the crankandpiston offices, where the Delta has already spent the night. It’s waiting for me as I pull into the parking lot, shrouded by a protective tarp to keep the unforgiving sun at bay. The shape alone is enough to give me goosebumps and I actually hesitate before pulling the covers back VERY gently. This is it…