Thirty-four years on from Didier Auriol tumbling a brand-new Lancia Delta HF Integrale 16v across Tuscany on 1989’s Rallye Sanremo, I didn’t expect to be standing staring at another brand-new one.
Yet here I am. And here it is. This is a Lancia. Sort of. And it’s a Delta. Of sorts. It does have the original 16-valve engine. Except that’s been fiddled with. And it’s no longer called an Integrale. It’s now called a Safarista.
Say hello to Eugenio. He’s the sharp-looking Italian who first dreamed this whole project up. His surname? Amos. Beside him is Carlo Borromeo – he’s a designer. On the other side, the engineering brain of the job, Luca Cancetti.
“He has four letters in his name,” Borromeo tells me, nodding in Eugenio’s direction. “His surname is Amos: A.M.O.S. that’s four letters. What could he do? He had to become a car maker like Fiat or Ford – all the best have four letters!”
Amos, the founder of Automobili Amos, smiles and slides in.
“We were three young Italian kids,” he said. “We were standing on our tiptoes and looking for a passion project. We had some limited investment, but we wanted to write a footnote in history.
“The first car we made was the Futurista. This is the road-legal car. Then we made the Safarista which is…”
Borromeo: “… the less road-legal car!”
Actually, both are built to run on the road. But Safarista comes with a cage and is a full-blown rally car.
Time for more detail. These resto-mod Lancias might look like Evos or Deltonas or whatever you want to call them, but they’re not. They’re based off that HF Integrale 16v road car. In original competition, this was actually Lancia’s longest-standing and most successful homologated model.
It won on its debut (obviously not Auriol, his rosso red Delta emerged from a rolling cloud of dust in a seriously twisted form) with Miki Biasion and went on to land 12 more victories at the highest level.
It was a good car. But it wasn’t an Evo. But that doesn’t matter to Amos.
“We want to protect the history of the 16-valve car,” he said. It might also have something to do with the fact the 16-valver is a touch more available and a chunk cheaper than the Deltona.
The road-going Futurista wears a carbonfiber shell shorn of two rear doors, and includes suspension modifications and a good few more bits and pieces. The boys then sold 21 of them at €350,000 plus tax (and you have to buy your own donor car).
It’s a thing of absolute beauty.
What happened then?
We were three young Italian kids; we wanted to write a footnote in historyEugenio Amos
“After we sold those cars,” grinned Borromeo, “we were ready to f*** up!”
Except they didn’t. Not even close.
“We wanted to make the car that would be the most fun between 0-140kph,” said Amos. “We did that with Futurista, but Safarista has gone above and beyond that. You can drive it on the road, but it’s a rally car – through and through.”
That. It. Is.
Does it sound like a Lancia? Not at all. There’s a slightly awkward-looking rear wing that adds an Evo-vibe, but the wheelbase and the view from the front remind you that it’s very definitely a HF Integrale from a few years before.
Did I fall in love with it? Yes. On the inside. Looking from the outside, it seemed sort of… gangly. Admittedly, it was running high in gravel spec.
No problem. Cancetti sold it to me.
“We take the original block from the engine,” he said. “And we refurbish it and reinforce it. Then we take new pistons, conrods, cams, pistons, everything. We make more power.
“For the transmission, we have used 3MO. It’s a French company doing lots of work now. It’s a five-speed gearbox with three mechanical differentials – it’s like a rallycross set-up. We also have a propshaft from GKN and Reiger dampers.
“The shell is an original shell with lots of reinforcements and modifications.”
Inside is where the modifications really show themselves. There’s a paddle shift and buttons for engine mapping and ALS and launch adjustments. It’s a very different world to the one Biasion won in 34 years ago.
Ten Safaristas will be made. Fancy one? All this rally-ready kit comes at a cost and this one’s €570,000 plus tax (and, yes, you still need to supply your own donor car).
Borromeo’s not going to get caught up in too much technical talk, but he’s pedaled one and he’s impressed.
“The original Delta,” he said, “even the Evo was known for understeer. Eugenio wanted to change this to an oversteering car. We did this with power but also with suspension, like the double wishbone at the front.”
Sensing there were more technical questions coming, he smiled.
“Not me,” he said. “Don’t forget, I’m just the one with the coloring pencils!”
Launched from Max Girardo’s impressive Oxfordshire showroom, the Futurista and Safarista are both very cool motors and both worthy of the Lancia badge they wear alongside the all-important four letters: AMOS.
Footnote? Complete. And written while having a whole lot of fun.