A legend in rallying, the Lancia 037 marked the end of an era. It was simultaneously the first car to win the legendary Group B constructors' championship, but also the last non-AWD car to win an overall WRC title. And, it did so by defeating the juggernaut of Audi's VW-backed, all-wheel-drive Quattro, a feat few thought achievable. Now, the originator of that historic victory, the first Lancia 037 prototype, is up for auction.
Chassis 037-001 may not look like the 200 or so homologated 037 Stradales, but beneath the cobbled-together styling, awkward panel gaps, and kit car-like control panel, it has the basics that made its successors world champions. Power comes via a mid-mounted, supercharged 16-valve 2.0-liter four driving the real wheels through a 5-speed transmission. Based (very) loosely on a Lancia Montecarlo (AKA Scorpion in the U.S.), the the front and rear sub-sections are tube-framed, and the engine rotated 90 degrees for a longitudinal orientation.
This particular car was built by race car constructor Dallara, but you'll notice an Abarth badge on the rear deck. At the time, the Fiat tuning division was was in charge of Lancia's rally program, so it got some branding featured on the prototype that didn't make the final cut. Other stylistic differences on this prototype that didn't make it to the race car include its squared-off wheel arches, staggered headlight placement, and round taillights.
The prototype was originally red but eventually Lancia painted it in the white and blue Martini livery of the race cars, using it on reconnaissance runs. The current owner, Sergio Limone, restored it back to its original color and spec.
The 1983 WRC battle between the 037 and the Audi Quattro is the stuff of legend. Lancia stretched the rulebook to its limit to grab the win, focusing its efforts on the rounds it knew it could succeed in, flooding them with 037s to box Audi out of the podium (and points), while completely skipping rounds where it knew its RWD would be at a disadvantage. Ironically, it was another German, Walter Rohrl, along with Finland's Markku Alén (Finland was one of the skipped rounds) who delivered Lancia their WRC title.
In 2019 a Lancia 037 road car sold for about $867,000 at auction. While not as driveable, this prototype is arguably more significant, historically speaking. We'll know its true value when it crosses the block at an RM Sotheby's auction in Milan on June 15.