Less powerful than its rivals and with only rear-wheel drive, the Rally 037 - in the magnificent Martini Racing livery - won Lancia the world constructors' title in 1983 thanks to a close-knit official team which concentrated all its efforts on agility and double-fast servicing.
The story of the Rally - or the 037, as all motorsports enthusiasts call it - is one of a partnership between excellences in the Italian automotive world, since the car was the outcome of a joint project involving Lancia, Abarth and Pininfarina, which joined forces to create a new, unbeatable weapon for rally racing, a car destined to emulate the successes of the Fiat 131.
Having decided to use the core of a car already in production to speed up development times, the team of engineers captained by Sergio Limone opted for the Lancia Beta Montecarlo, a compact mid-engine coupé with a sporty imprint. The "Montecarlo" was already competing with great success in the World Championship for Makes, where the Turbo version - a Silhouette Gr. 5 car - won the title in two consecutive years, in 1980 and '81.
Two tubular steel ladder subframes were built onto the Montecarlo's centre section. The chassis was "dressed" by Pininfarina, which came up with bodywork which was aggressive yet elegant, able to generate an aerodynamic load that created an effective down force and held the car stable at high speeds.
The architecture was standard for a 1980s racing car: mid-mounted engine, ZF gearbox, rear wheel drive, independent suspension and two lightweight fibreglass bonnets that, together with the tubular subframes, afforded maximum accessibility to all the mechanical parts. After all, in rally racing, quick “pit stops” in the cramped service points can make the difference between winning and losing.
The engine, derived from the classic Fiat straight four and developed by Aurelio Lampredi, had a light alloy head, 4 valves per cylinder, fuel injection and a lobed volumetric supercharger developed by Abarth: the "Volumex" proved to be a stroke of genius, delivering immediate power even at low rpm, fundamental in road and trail racing. In three evolutionary steps, displacement was increased from 1995 cm3 to 2111 cm3, with a maximum output ranging from 260 to 305 hp in the 53 cars destined for racing.
In total, 200 units of the Lancia Rally 037 were produced between 1982 and 1983 to obtain the Group B homologation needed to compete in rallies. The road version was presented at the Turin Motor Show in 1982: it had 205 hp and a dual barrel carburettor and retained the volumetric supercharger of the rally car.
In 1982, the Germans won the championship with four-wheel drive, but also a drivetrain that was still too similar to that of an off-road vehicle. Time proved Lancia right, since by postponing the use of 4WD until it had evolved a less rudimentary technology - the one eventually used on the Delta S4 - it was able to race successfully with the rear-wheel drive Rally 037, in a 1983 season which brought it the world constructors' title, second place in the World Drivers' Championship with Walter Rohrl, and the European and Italian Championship with Miki Biasion.