1984 Lancia Delta HF Turbo
Oldest road-going example
Ex UK press car
Famous Martini livery
Restored in the 90s
Certificated by Lancia Classiche
The Lancia Delta HF Turbo
In May 1984, UK Lancia distributor, Lancar, registered 27 sequentially numbered Delta HF Turbo’s in Saratoga White with commemorative Martini Sportline stripes specifically for press and dealer use at the upcoming launch event to introduce the car to the UK.
The reason behind the cars being kitted out in the famous Martini livery was made clear in the press kit - to honour Lancia’s 037 winning the 1983 World Rally Championship. Little did anyone know at this point that the 037’s single victory would pale into insignificance to the Martini-clad Lancia Delta’s six straight WRC titles between 1987-1992!
The press fleet cars were loaned out to specialist and general interest media for short and long term tests and reviews as well as to Lancia dealers who were able to sample the car pre-launch. Not all of the fleet cars have been found to be represented in the press, but some featured heavily in the print issues that followed the June 1984 launch event, including all of the major motoring titles.
Today the most famous of the original Press Fleet is A231 RKJ – just a simple google search of “HF Turbo” verifies this - but this wasn’t always the case. By far the most recognised and featured car was A250 RKJ, which was ‘the car in the photograph’ which was the subject of a few ‘preview’ features.
Another heavily featured car was the Red with grey decals A261 LKR, which although not part of the Martini-liveried fleet was owned and loaned by Lancar and adorned with the same ‘Lancia Press Fleet’ number plates as the White / Martini cars. This car was also featured in Lancar’s catalogues, press advertisements and supplement advertorials to promote the new HF Turbo. Intriguingly, it is probably the first RHD HF Turbo to reach the UK, having been registered on 1 February 1984, according to the DVLA – three months earlier than the Martini Fleet arrived.
This Lancia Delta HF Turbo
This is the oldest HF Turbo in the UK, and probably the oldest RHD version in the World. It is well known to the UK Lancia Owners Club and in enthusiast circles as a car of significance. The HF Turbo represented the genesis of true sporting Delta’s – an evolution that encompassed six consecutive World Rally Championships and culminated in a legend, the Integrale, a car now truly regarded as a modern classic.
Originally part of a 25+ car Press Fleet operated by UK Lancia importer and distributor, Lancar, A231 RKJ was loaned to media for reviews and evaluations during mid to late 1984 to promote the introduction of the model to the UK market. It also performed the same role with Lancia authorised dealers until it had covered approximately 9,000 miles, after which it was allocated to a dealer within the UK network to sell as an ex-demo car.
Among confirmed loanees to feature this particular car were Autocar Magazine for its ‘first look’ review in June 1984 and Country Life in its July edition of the same year. Sold by Surrey-based Lancia dealer Jack Rose Ltd in early 1985 after completing its promotional duties, the car saw 90% of its current mileage recorded in the first ten years of its life. Aside from a Lancia Dealer’s press advert from late ’84 and a DVLA-confirmed list of owners after the sale by Lancar, not a great deal is known of the car from February 1985 until October 1987 after which the car’s history is fully documented. What is evident, is by the time the car appeared at Lancia Main Dealer, Warstones of Wolverhampton in late October 1987 for a full service, it had covered 41,250 miles. From this point onwards, a comprehensive history file documenting the car’s provenance, maintenance and mileage has been meticulously compiled by successive owners.
After changing hands a few times in its first decade, A231 RKJ was subjected to a complete top-end engine rebuild by Lancia specialists Penley Classic Cars in 1992 to resolve some overheating problems and a little over a year later underwent an extensive photo-documented body restoration in 1994 which included substantial areas of welding, strengthening and new panel fitting before a high quality respray was carried out. Combined, these substantial overhauls cost the then-owner more than £4,500 at a time when a ten-year-old Delta was worth much less than half this amount. However, it was already evident to those in the know that this car had provenance; two independent valuations commissioned for insurance purposes before the car went into long-term storage in 1994 identified A231 RKJ as “an ex-press fleet early Martini model, complete with documentation”.
By the time it went into Rudler’s Car Storage for almost three years, the car had 74,000 miles on the clock and has seen very little in the way of action since, covering around 8,000 miles since 1994, about 300 miles annually, on average. A Lancia enthusiast bought the car in 1997 and proceeded to take it to classic car shows and club events, where ultimately it would be recognised at the 1999 Lancia Motor Club Concours awards held during the society’s AGM. Since the turn of the millennium, A231 RKJ has not often graced the roads, instead spending its days in dry storage, though properly maintained throughout.
Most recently, as well as regular service work and the replacement of critical parts a number of important body and mechanical overhauls have been carried out to preserve the high standard of the car’s appearance and running order. Practical modifications have also been made to keep the car on the road, not least the decision to switch from Michelin’s TRX tyres (totally obsolete since the 1990’s for the HF Turbo’s Metric rim size) to more accessible 14” wheels, still in the same Cromodora style with modern tyres. Suspension, braking and electrical upgrades have also been carried out, most often with hard-to-find New Old Stock Lancia and OEM parts from original providers such as Bosch and Magneti Marelli.
After an extensive overhaul in 2018/19, the car was displayed at a number of shows during 2019 including the Italian-focused Classics at the Villa (May) and Lancia Motor Club AGM (August) where it won the Concours Best in Class award for Deltas & Prismas (class 14).
The car has its own ‘spares’ pack which includes a number of obsolete body panels, body fittings and cabin / cockpit parts, original Ermengildo Zegna cloth, sourced direct from the last-known stockist in Italy. Offered with a 12 month MOT having flawlessly passed this week.