The first factory prototype
1980 Lancia Rally SE 037 Prototype Group B Competition Car
Chassis no. SE037-001
Engine no. 232 AR4 00176
First of the Group B rally cars
Chassis number '001'
First owned by Abarth, then Ing. Sergio Limone
Restored in 2013/2014
Following in the wheel tracks of the legendary Lancia Stratos, the Rally - better known by its Abarth in-house code number 'SE 037' - would make almost as big an impact in international rallying in the 1980s as its illustrious forebear had in the preceding decade. It seems hardly credible today, but after Lancia had built the 400-plus examples of the Stratos needed for homologation, most gathered dust because few people wanted to buy one. Within a very short time however, the Stratos was recognised as one of the great cars of its time; they were snapped up and prices soared. In retrospect it seems obvious that the Stratos was a great car; it came from one of the most distinguished marques in automotive history and was very successful. Despite the Stratos, people have yet to wake up to the potential of its successors as investments or as thoroughbred classics that are delightful to own and drive. The Lancia Rally has an impeccable pedigree and record - it won the 1983 World Rally Championship - yet has still to be fully appreciated.
When it made its competition debut proper in 1982, the 037 Rally was as revolutionary as the Stratos had been in 1972. It was the first of the Group B supercars and owed more to circuit racing practice than any other rally car of its time. For a start it was a mid-engined, two-seater coupé with strong links to the Group 5 Lancia Monte Carlo that would win the 1981 World Endurance Championship. Its four-cylinder, 2,111cc engine was derived from the Aurelio Lampredi-designed 2.0-litre FIAT 131 unit, considerably reworked by Abarth and fitted with a light-alloy, 16-valve twin-cam head and Abarth R10 Roots-type supercharger. In works trim this formidable unit produced 325bhp, which was transmitted via a ZF five-speed transaxle. Abarth also developed the complex multi-tubular front and rear subframe extensions to the unitary body/chassis, which featured parallelogram-type indepen¬dent suspension and Brembo disc brakes all round.
Lancia's new contender had first taken shape in the form of sketches prepared by Abarth engineer/designer Sergio Limone in April 1980. The car offered here, chassis number '001', was under construction at the Dallara factory in Varano by September 1980, Gian Paolo Dallara's company having been chosen because of its experience in building Lancia's Monte Carlo Turbo racers. '001' first ran at the Campovolo airfield, Abarth's favourite test site, in December 1980, albeit in normally aspirated form as there had been problems with the 'blower'. More serious development started after the Christmas break, on this occasion with the supercharger in place. On 26th January the car was sent to Pininfarina for aerodynamic testing in the wind tunnel, where it was found that the body needed to be closed in at the tail. More intensive testing of '001' ensued, this time at Pirelli's test track at Vizzola. The first sneak photographs of '001' undergoing testing appeared on 12th March in the UK's Autosport magazine and Autosprint in Italy.
'001' was then fitted with a large rear wing for further testing at Pininfarina, and was later used to evaluate Michelin tyres, the first trials having been conducted on Pirellis. By this time chassis numbers '002', '003' and 004' had been completed and were also undergoing tests, as was the first pre-production Stradale (road) model. On 10th November, '001' became the first of the prototypes to experience off-road testing, and by the time of the second such test a week later had been fitted with Pininfarina's new front bodywork. Once its development duties had ended, '001' passed into the ownership of its creator, Sergio Limone.
In December 1981, the Lancia management officially announced its much rumoured Group B contender, displaying chassis number '005' at parent-company FIAT's La Mandria test track, resplendent in the livery of new sponsor, Martini. Team manager Cesare Fiorio confirmed that it was to be called the 'Lancia Rally'. Production of the 200 'homologation specials' stipulated by the then current 'Group B' regulations commenced the following year.
During the period 1982/83, Lancia, in conjunction with Pininfarina and Abarth, completed approximately 220 examples of the Rally. The factory then took cars from the inventory as required for conversion to Group B specification. Subsequently, 'Evolution' models were developed throughout 1983-1985. Only some 150-or-so emerged as road cars.
After suffering the inevitable teething troubles in its debut season, the 037 Rally dominated the World Rally Championship in 1983, securing Lancia the manufacturers' title having won the Monte Carlo, Tour de Corse, Acropolis, New Zealand and San Remo rounds. The Lancia 037 Rally was the last competitive two-wheel-drive rally car and its defeat of the Audi Quattro confounded the experts, especially since the Lancia team was operating with far fewer resources.
As the first the factory prototype completed, '001' has been featured in numerous books including Peter Collins' seminal work on the subject, '037, published by Veloce. The car has also featured in the Italian racing magazine Grace, the Italian magazine La Manovella, and the October 2009 issue of Viva Lancia (the magazine of the UK's Lancia Motor Club). '001' has also been on display at the Museo dell'Automobile in Turin.
Comprehensively restored in 2013/2014, '001' is presented in generally excellent working order, retaining its original interior. The car comes with a current UK V5C registration document, FIVA papers, and Registro Lancia passport (stating that the previous owner was none other than Sergio Limone, development engineer of the '037' project). The fascinating file also contains numerous in-period photographs of this car undergoing development, including some taken on the aforementioned tests and in the Pininfarina wind tunnel. Also in the file are photographs of the body restoration dating from 2012.
Since its restoration the car has been campaigned sparingly; it is said to perform very well, and was used by the current owner on the 2010 edition of the famous Vernasca Silver Flag hill climb. A powerful reminder of the brief but glorious Group B story, '001' represents an opportunity not to be missed to own an important piece of Lancia and rallying history.