In the 1970s, Italian automaker Lancia had become a force to be reckoned with in the World Rally Championship series with cars like the Fulvia and Stratos, the latter winning three overall WRC championships consecutively in 1974-’76. By the end of the 1970s, the FIA had announced that a new rally car class would lead the WRC series starting in 1982.
The class was the soon-to-be-infamous Group B, and the machines that would be realized from its less-stringent (yet still production-based) build regulations would earn notoriety as some of the fastest and most spectacular ever produced before the class’s cancelation for safety reasons in 1986.
In 1980, with just two years to develop an all-new car for Group B, Lancia chose to use its Montecarlo road car (sold as the Lancia Scorpion in the U.S. ) as a basis, just as it had done with the Lancia Beta Montecarlo Turbo Group 5 endurance car.
As mentioned, the primary impetus behind the development of the Lancia 037 was to contest the WRC’s Group B rally car class. The 037 represented about the last of the competitive rear-drive cars in the series, facing tough competition from the new all-wheel-drive Audi Quattro race cars.
As it went, Lancia’s 037 often excelled on tarmac and gravel rallies, while the Quattro cleaned up in looser conditions and in inclement weather. Nevertheless, with drivers Walter Röhrl and Markku Alen, Lancia won the 1983 WRC Constructor’s Championship. By the end of the 1984 season, even more all-wheel-drive competition began to render the 037 obsolete, and it was replaced with the all-wheel-drive Lancia Delta S4 by the 1986 WRC season.
Ironically, a fatal Lancia S4 crash with driver Henri Toivonen and his navigator put the final nail in Group B’s coffin.