Welsh Wizardry 1987 Lancia Delta Integrale Group A
Paul Davies is lucky enough to own two Italian rally legends: a Lancia Delta integrale Group A and a genuine Fiat Stilo Abarth Trofeo. We’re lucky enough to drive both in his homeland of Wales. Story by Richard Aucock. Photography by Michael Ward.
LANCIA ON THE LOOSE AMAZING DELTA INTEGRALE GROUP A
Flat out in a very special rally car
Lockdown was hard for Jez Macwhirter, owner of Macwhirter Motorsport in Neath, West Glamorgan. With no rallies running, business had dried up. This brilliant young motorsport engineer was, like many of us, facing challenging times: a garage full of Mitsubishi Evo rally cars and nobody to drive them. Enter Paul Davies, with a fascinating project: to bring his seven year labour of love, a turn-key Lancia Delta integrale Group A homage, to life. One that would be convincing enough to take anyone back to the 1989 San Remo Rally.
Paul is, in a way, our very own Miki Biasion. Lockdown was the opportunity to finish creating this most remarkable skunkworks project, ready to wow the world when it opened up again. Socially distanced they may have been, but Jez and Paul worked tirelessly as one to mastermind this masterpiece.
Originality takes a back seat to perfection. At Rally-legend in San Marino, even the Italians were amazed
Paul has been a rallying fan for as long as he can remember. “One of my first memories was watching a Lancia Delta S4 blast off the line in 1985. I remember thinking, ‘What was that?’” He had the bug. Life gradually took over but, after a few decades as a diehard fan, Paul decided to take the next step. He bought a rally car to learn his craft: a Broom Yellow Fiat Stilo, an original and super-rare Abarth Trofeo competition car. These two Italian racers are how Paul came to live his dream.
The build-up for the Delta took years and, while rallying the Stilo, involved diligently sourcing and gathering original parts, rather than starting with a complete car. Paul’s unique approach saw him take time and wait for the right period pieces to come to him. Only once his haul was suitably comprehensive did he think about building a car. “It was no-compromise, if you like: I aimed to make it as authentic as I could, and to create a running rally car replica, not just a show car.”
This Delta was sourced from Stefan Burkart in Germany – of Delta Parts fame – and was originally prepared by Auto Integrale. A rush of work for the Reading specialists saw the car transferred to Macwhirter Motorsport, with Jez continuing the build with technical support from Auto Integrale. This is where the magic really started to come together.
It was a ground-up build, with the shell stripped of all paint and underseal. Pleasingly, no rust was found, while the Sparco rollcage was replaced with a Group A item, as Paul recalls: “We used the original homologation papers and built it as near to factory-spec as new rulings would allow.” This also required the fitting of harness bars, while Jez insisted that twinprong jacking points to the front wings be fabricated, and sill tubes fitted, to aid servicing during events.
The engine was built by Keith Turner and Auto Integrale. It’s got a forged bottom end, Integrale Developments race-rally cams and valve springs, Group A head gasket, 12mm head bolts, T34 turbo and a Walkers baffled sump and windage tray. A dyno run on Carless racing fuel rated it at 404.8hp and 370lb ft of torque, although the car will probably be mapped to keep it to around 370hp for now.
Electronics, and the wizardry behind them, are a key part of this car, unlike on original Deltas. You see, Jez is a MoTeC evangelist. The Delta has a MoTeC M84 ECU, which he painstakingly linked to quality motorsport-type wiring and connectors. This replaced the entire original wiring loom, a task so time-consuming that it was only something he could have considered doing during lockdown. It also saved 4.5kg in wiring.
Now, whenever there’s a problem, Jez simply plugs in his laptop. Hundreds of feeds mean he can drill down issues in minutes, as he recounts: “Deltas tend to fluff a bit on idle when hot and start running lean as the fuel evaporates. With MoTeC, I can dial in some hot idle enrichment, which literally takes 10 seconds. On the old set-up, it would have been there forever. If you know what you’re doing, you can do anything.”
To create the perfect car for Paul to go rallying, originality clearly takes a back seat to perfection. Model historians, look elsewhere. One example is the Bacci Romano five-speed dog ’box, with Bacci strengthened casing, all pre-built at the factory, including the selectable middle differential. Making it all but impossible to drive for novices, but oh-so-effective in competition, is a Tilton full race-spec twinplate clutch, which is either in or out, but never in between. Rather like the gearbox, you need to be firm with it: you can’t mess about.
The interior is breathtaking. Paul amazed even Jez with some of the parts he sourced. “He just kept dropping me a line, week after week, saying look at what I’ve found! I’ve no idea where he got most of it – when we did Rallylegend in San Marino in 2020, even the Italians were amazed.” Details include Abarth dials, a works Abarth brake bias valve, Abarth steering wheel, Group A-spec Halda timer, period Motorola CB radio, Sparco heritage Martini seats, Sparco door storage bags and – the crowning glory – a Sparco timer fitted to the door.
“It took me 10 years to find the timer: it’s so rare, even Sparco itself couldn’t help me find one. But then I heard about someone who used to work for Sparco: turns out they had one. ‘It’s very sentimental to me,’ they said. But it can’t have been that sentimental, as they sold it to me!” Jez shakes his head. “Seriously, I don’t know how he does it.”
If you weren’t yet convinced what a remarkable machine this is, Paul then takes me though the other original Group A elements it wears. The lamp pod with its original SIEM lamps. The carbon airbox. The Kevlar heater box housing. The radiator fan and housing. The water header tank. The finned Safari Rally-type steering oil tank. There are also Safari-type Group A oil and water radiators, a quick-release exhaust system, and front and rear anti-roll bar kits. Not to mention the titanium Bilstein suspension and adjustable top mounts, which benefit from Walkers front wishbones and upgraded Macwhirter Motorsport mountain kits.
And there’s more – lots more, far too much to detail here. “I can’t help myself,” says Paul. “I’ve aimed to make it what it should be like, rather than using parts that cut into the car.” Even the headlights are set slightly back into the car, like the originals, to let in more air – geeky, brilliant detailing.
The modern-retro blends are fantastic, too. Jez points to the RCD breakers, which sit where the car stereo normally would. They look period but conceal 21st century electronics. There’s even a heated windscreen, switched on using the original dash button for the heated rear window.
Our enjoyable day in the Welsh hills was flying past. With the focus on the Delta almost complete, Paul asked: “Anyone hungry?” It was lunchtime and, with the sublime preparation you only get from motorsport crews, he unpacked a coolbox full of delicious food. With this sort of attention to detail, it’s no wonder the Delta is such a masterpiece (and I’m now addicted to Welsh cakes). As we chomped, we planned the next part: special stage action in the Stilo.
Very special interior parts include works Abarth brake bias valve, Halda timer, period Motorola CB radio and Sparco timer. Amazing Keith Turner-built engine delivers over 400hp. Settings are easily changed thanks to MoTeC.