Lancia 037 Group B Represents Last Era of Racing Romance
Imagine yourself in Lancia’s position in the early 1980s. Your Stratos has recently won three consecutive World Rally Championships (1974-76) but you can see the writing on the wall, writing which reads “all-wheel-drive.” How do you build on this past success and continue to be competitive in the new decade? For Lancia, the answer was the 037, which would ultimately become, in 1983, the last rear-wheel-drive car to win the WRC Manufacturers' Championship before AWD competitors like the Audi Quattro and Peugeot 205 T16 completely changed the sport forever.
To compete in Group B events, Lancia was obliged to meet homologation rules by producing 200 street versions of the 037. While visually striking and invigorating to drive, the 037 Stradale remains, at heart, a race car and is thus anything but comfortable. This, however, is precisely what appeals to owner Philip Toledano, who grew up watching Lancia–more specifically, the Stratos and 037–dominate European rally racing.
“It’s not like [the 037] was just a sports car designed for people who wanted to go fast,” says Phil. “This was designed for a purpose, and I love things that were designed specifically for a purpose, like a tool–except it's a fast tool that scares the crap out of you.”
The interior of the 037 Stradale belies the car’s racing heritage: the dash contains a circuit board, conveniently located for periodic resets by the navigator; a navigator’s light stands at the ready; and the oil temperature gauge is located on the far right side of the dash, in front of the navigator’s seat. The 037's exterior is similarly eye-catching. Sporting a Pininfarina body and a 2.0 liter, supercharged Abarth engine that, as Phil puts it, makes Star Wars-like noises as he revs through the gears, the car attracts onlookers wherever it goes.
Usually, however, this 037 is but a screaming red blur, leaving those onlookers little time to realize what they’ve just seen.