The early 1980s Group B era of the World Rally Championship produced some legendary cars, with the Lancia 037 among the most revered. Now a prototype of the championship-winning rally car is scheduled for a RM Sotheby's auction.
Conceived as a successor to the Lancia Stratos, the 037 retained that car's mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout. The 037 was the last two-wheel-drive car in the WRC, beating the Audi Quattro, the car that introduced all-wheel-drive to the sport.
Group B regulations were announced in 1979, and 1982 was the latest year that cars from the previous Group 4 rule set would be eligible. That didn't leave much time to develop a new car, so Lancia started with the Beta Montecarlo Turbo from the Group 5 sports-car category, itself loosely based on the Lancia Montecarlo sports car (badged Scorpion in the United States to avoid clashing with the Chevrolet Monte Carlo).
1980 Lancia Rally SE 037 prototype (Photo by RM Sotheby's)
This car—chassis SE037-001—was the first prototype. It made its first test runs in 1980, followed by a full testing program throughout 1981. Even after production cars were built and supplied to the rally team, Lancia continued using SE037-001 as a development mule, and it was also used as a reconnaissance or "recce" car at the 1982 Acropolis Rally, according to the listing.
The 037 won the WRC manufacturer's championship in 1983, and Lancia built 200 cars to satisfy homologation requirements, but the car's moment in the spotlight was brief. Audi had shown that all-wheel drive was the future, and the 037 was soon replaced with all-wheel-drive versions of the Lancia Delta hatchback. The 1986 deaths of driver Henri Toivonen and co-driver Sergio Cresto in a Lancia Delta S4 helped bring about the end of Group B, although Lancia continued through the following Group A era.
Chassis SE037-001 was slated to be scrapped in 1983, but it was saved by its designer, Sergio Limone, who restored the car to its original configuration. It's now in the hands of a Lancia collector, who is offering the 037 prototype for sale with complete documentation attesting to its authenticity, according to the listing.