► An open letter to Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne
► 'Don't let Lancia wither on the vine'
► A personal plea from CAR reader Corran Helme
Dear Mr Marchionne,
As an owner of a homologated version of the most successful rally car of all time, I am saddened to be informed that Lancia is to be sold only in Italy, and fear this to be an omen of the eventual demise of this illustrious brand, once considered globally to be the epitome of style, engineering excellence, innovation and unrivalled motorsport success in the world of rallying.
This is an appeal to you, Mr Marchionne, to revive the brand and I wish to take this opportunity to explain to you, through CAR magazine and as best as my words allow, why.
Before I go on, a little information about myself. I am passionate about cars and have been so for as long as I remember. I like to think I know a little of what makes a car ‘special’. My first car, bought with my hard-earned money years ago, was a 105 series 1975 Alfa Romeo 2000 GTV. I am certain you will understand that for the price paid, I could have bought a Brera, or a modern Guilietta, but instead I opted for a rear-wheel drive classic to understand Alfa Romeo. I dearly loved that car and I am glad to see that thanks to you and your team of respected engineers, Alfa Romeo is once again emphatically responding to the passion of Alfisti all over the world. But I digress.
Having sold it with a broken heart following a minor accident, I wanted a car which could match or exceed the level of feedback and sensory stimulation the Alfa provided. It was important for me that the car performed well, was dynamically excellent, that it looked, sounded and felt ‘just right’.
The holy grail: Lancia Integrale!
After searching for a replacement car, I believe I have been acquainted with the holy grail of motoring; the Lancia Delta Integrale Evo 2. Mr Marchionne, unless you have already done so, I respectfully invite you to go for an extended drive in one of these cars, because you will know what I now know, though was certainly not expecting.
This car is complete. As you approach it, you will see its purposeful Giorgetto Giugiaro-penned design, with origami angles exuding muscular aggression and a delicacy of form. Get closer, open the door and take a seat. You will appreciate that the seating position is perfect, with the Recaros hugging you in place while the controls – Momo steering wheel and leather-clad gearlever- fall perfectly to hand. I imagine you would have worked out a route, combining city and countryside. Turn the key to let the Aurelio Lampredi-designed twin-cam turbo come to life and you will immediately hear the sweet purr and whine of this engine. I let the oil in mine warm up a little, but you may wish to slot the gearlever into first immediately; a decisive click, muted, but with enough expression to give an impression of a rifle bolt smoothly slotting in place.
This is how Lancia feels
Minutes into your drive, you will immediately sense from the base of your seat the perfect balance of this car and notice too, the steering wheel, a tactile delight, delicately writhing between your fingers as you begin to press on and sense the turbocharged engine take its stride from 3000rpm to its 6200rpm, the rear of the car squatting down as you surge from 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds.
Along a narrow winding country road, the car will remain absolutely stable, balanced and pivoting around you. You will feel the perfectly judged damping, the car able to soak up undulations foursquare and utterly unflappable, yet maintaining a level of feedback which is extraordinary. As you will take a slow corner fast, the car will speak to you in greater volumes; the steering wheel making you feel the quality of the tarmac through the tips of your fingers as it loads up perfectly whilst the tyres grip harder, encouraging you to take the next corner, faster, harder and with more confidence, with time, allowing you to take advantage of the turbo boost to catapult you out of corners ferociously. There will be moments with your heart in your mouth, speechless and with a broad grin at what you were able to achieve with this car.
Whilst driving back through city streets, people will stop, look at your car, smile and gesture positively. Some may even approach you, greet you, expressing their desire and admiration for your ‘Queen’ and showing you respect for owning one of the greatest hot hatches of all time. They will crowd around the car, take photographs, ask you questions about what it is to own and drive what is arguably one of the most impressive mechanically engineered modern cars of all time.
Every time I drive this car, responses like these follow. The Lancia Delta Integrale Evo 2 may represent the culmination of all what Lancia stood for; style, engineering innovation and excellence, heritage and motorsport success, all rolled up in one complete package, but it is not the only example to be revered, need I mention the Aurelia and the Stratos?
Lancia: a plea
Mr Marchionne, the Lancia brand remains strong in my opinion and the opinion of thousands of members of owner clubs from the USA, to Europe, Asia to New Zealand. As someone who once advocated in a motoring forum for the consolidation of Ferrari Maserati and Alfa Romeo to share resources to help bring the latter two brands back into the global arena, and I am pleased to see this being realised.
The same could be achieved in respect of Lancia. During the 2007 season, the cumulative worldwide TV audience for ISC's World Rally Championship programming was 816 million. The programming was available in over 180 countries, and was broadcast on over 250 different TV channels. Moreover, with the WRC attracting participants to use cars like Porsche and Lotus, not to mention the fact Hyundai, Proton, Nissan, Subaru and Mitsubishi, are all reportedly considering their future rally activities, I anticipate this sport may well become even more popular; an opportune moment to re-introduce Lancia, the Legend back into global motorsport.
The motoring world has not forgotten Lancia and if successfully reintroduced, the world would be richer for having it back, perhaps with limited exclusive numbers of sports cars that can be sold to those who know and understand the value of this brand.
Please do not let this brand be consigned to history, but allow a select few within the fiat group to embrace its values and produce once again, cars that are loved, revered and respected by motoring enthusiasts.