06.12.2009 Top Gear drive two of the most recognised rally cars: Fulvia and Delta HF integrale


Given the task of looking for very special cars from a brand that is no longer represented in the UK, the BBC Top Gear researchers probably thought that the Lancia film that was broadcast last Sunday might be a challenge even greater than Lancias unbeaten 10 World Championship titles. Following extensive communication with Club LanciaSport, the cars, names, telephone numbers and interesting Lancia facts soon started arriving on Top Gear desks.

Mark James - owner of Fulvia Coupe tested by Jeremy Clarkson

"The little Fulvia Coupe is still a rorty little growler today - but it's seldom recognised at many events. Those in the know however remember that this innocent looking little car won most major rallies across Europe in its heyday and brought Lancia its first world championship in 1972.  With pilots such as Munari and Davenport, this little Coupe started a new era for Lancia: The World Rally Championship.

"Today, its cute looks and clean lines ensure it finds plenty of fans from both sexes. And until the late summer of 2009 - that was pretty much that until Ďthe callí. After closing the garage doors on fully fuelled and fettled Fulvia - the very nice BBC people sent over a specialist transporter to pick up my car. Thirty minutes later all loaded up, paperwork signed and my little Fulvia disappears into the night.

"Itís at this point it dawns on me, where is this film going to be shot and more importantly, given previous episodes, what the hell are they going to do with my precious little baby? After checking the paperwork and discovering the Fulvia is heading for a rally stage in the mountains NBO836P is finally delivered back to me damage free, safe and sound - and completely emptied of petrol. A fine layer of dust, covering its elegant lines, suggesting that my little Fulvia would have a story to tell a few months later.

"And what a story. Set in a backdrop of the Welsh countryside in early autumn, it's an eerie feeling seeing your car in it's element storming a country road - driven by an enchanted Jeremy Clarkson no less. Months of waiting and eager anticipation canít hide the joy seeing that my Fulvia is fully appreciated and described as only a truly passionate admirer can."

Simon Pimblett - owner of Delta HF integrale Evolution tested by Richard Hammond

"Clarkson and Hammond, many of you will have noticed, have something of a 'reputation' when it comes to car care, and despite words of reassurance, as the day approached I couldn't help harbouring mixed feelings. Due to tight schedules, the only time the car could be collected was at a time when I was not going to be at home. So there was nothing for it, I decided to take it out of its garage, leave it parked somewhere where someone (anyone) with a trailer could get access to it, and leave the keys with an elderly neighbour (I know: even now as I re-read this, I find it all hard to believe myself!). As with Mark's Fulvia, my nagging doubt as to whether or not this was such a great idea was further heightened when I studied the delivery acceptance closer: Walter's Arena Rally Special Stage, West Glamorgan. 'If that car is thrashed round a gravel Special Stage and comes back with so much as a scratch, I will personally come round and cube the head of the Director General unless the BBC pays to have it put right,' is precisely the sort of thing I should have said if I was bigger and braver, but instead, after a polite enquiry, I was assured that the Special Stage was purely going to be used as a photo location but the driving itself would be confined to the public road.

"And so it was, after four nervous days the 'Grale was delivered back. It had, in the words of Basil Fawlty, been given 'a damn good thrashing', as evidenced by the thick layer of brake dust that now coated the front wheels. Suction cup marks adorned the windows where cameras had been, cast-off Velcro patches gripped the carpet in the footwells where recording equipment had been secured, and as evidence of its two famous former inhabitants, there was a Clarkson-sized boot print on the driver's floor mat, whilst the driver's seat had adopted 'the Hamster position' and had been left so far forward that I couldn't get behind the wheel.

"So was it worth it? You bet it was.One very noticeable fact is the extent to which the car has gone up in my children's estimation. As you probably know, Top Gear is h-u-g-e amongst school-kids, and for my ten-year-old son, the playground bragging rights that go with 'My Daddy's car is on Top Gear' can only be compared to the kudos I would have if I wandered into the office on a Monday morning and announced to my male colleagues that I'd spent the weekend with all of Girls Aloud...Suddenly, The Old Man's car is kool (with a lower-case 'k'). Such a fantastic automobile. I can't believe that more of you haven't cottoned on and got yourself one yet..."

by Jean-Pierre Lihou

Photos: Mark James, Hot Chilli Studios / © 2009 Interfuture Media/Italiaspeed