In the world of FIA World Rally Championship, the Group B era was the Golden Age. In all reality, it was a touch of insanity. Introduced in 1982, Group B had very few restrictions on technology and design. Furthermore, only 200 cars were required by manufacturers for homologation. Weight was as low as was attainable, new construction materials were permitted, and there were no restrictions on boost. With so few constraints, some manufacturers went a little crazy. Just in regard to power, the unrestricted boost allowance resulted in horsepower increasing from 250 in 1981 to over 500 by 1986 -- the final year of Group B.
Lancia had come off of great success with the Stratos before Group B was formed.The 037 Stradale was the foundation for their next rally car iteration. It was a purpose built homologation car that would allow them to compete with as much advantage as possible in the Group B class. As such, it featured all the attributes of a no-compromise race car, while still complying to passenger car regulations.
Lancia entrusted development of the 037 to Abarth. The name 037 comes from the project number Abarth assigned to the effort. The new car was visually and structurally similar to an earlier Lancia design called the Beta Monte Carlo, with its central tub and large steel front and rear space frames.
The 037 Stradale was built with no compromise, even for the street. It was fitted with large Brembro Brakes, double wishbone suspension, two shock absorbers in each rear corner (!!), two 35-liter fuel tanks, ZF five-speed gearbox, and a 2.0L Abarth-supercharged engine. Even the body panels were constructed and mounted in a way to allow maximum access for repairs. Pininfarina was charged with the design of the car, and took full advantage of the loose material restrictions. They formed the bodies out of Kevlar reinforced fiberglass.
Despite Audi's success with all-wheel drive, Lancia decided to stick with the same rear-mid engine / rear-wheel drive layout that had served them well in the Stratos. Since it was not carrying the added weight of all-wheel-drive, that enabled the 037 to weigh in at just over 2500 pounds. So although it only produced 205 hp, it had commendable power to weight ratio for the time. The 037 could reach 60 mph in just 5.8 seconds. That's sprightly even today, let alone for 1982. And the competition version weighed 2160 pounds, and produced 350 horsepower.
The competition version of the Lancia 037 had a sporadic first season in the 1982 World Rally Championship. Unfortunately it suffered too many mechanical maladies in that first year. However, there was hope, because when it didn't break, it won. Despite serious competition from Audi, Lancia won the 1983 WRC Constructor's championship. That Championship would be the last time a non-all-wheel drive car would win. They attempted to campaign another evolution of the 037 in 1984, but the Audis were beyond reach. Lancia ultimately conceded, and moved to an all-wheel drive platform with the Delta Integrale.
Only 207 copies of the Stradale were built for 1982 to meet the minimum requirement. After homologation was granted many were converted to full-on competition cars. All the Stradales were painted in Red and some came with a matte black rear wing, while others came with no wing at all to increase rearward visibility.