1972’ish – The infant Pimblett noted that a female colleague of his mother’s used to cut a dash by driving around in a white Fulvia. This dedication to style was held in some awe by all her Austin 1100/Hillman Imp/Ford Cortina-owning contemporaries. The fascination with this little piece of exotica (the car that is, not the owner) was undiminished even when driving past its smoke-billowing stricken form on the way to school one day.
1984-85 – A taste for spectating rallying develops. Stages of the RAC Rally are within easy reach from my student base in Manchester. The fearsome Group B cars are spectacular, but none more so than the exotic Martini liveried Delta S4’s.
1986 – Accept a lift from a friend to South Wales and back in his Fulvia. The car goes into self-destruct mode on the way back to London as bits of trim, bodywork, and finally engine components fall off. End up abandoning the car in a London side street, but perversely conclude that the car for me is a Lancia…
1987 – Accept invitation to drive a ‘Cannonball’-style event around England and Wales. Manage to talk Len Street, Chelsea, into lending me their HF Turbo demonstrator for a <ahem> test drive. I pick it up after work on a Friday, and return it first thing the following morning having put on nearly 1000 miles overnight (they were good enough to do no more than raise a quizzical eyebrow). Great car! Only beaten on the event by a 205Gti fitted with a supercharger.
1988 – Fabuloso! – Pictures in Car magazine show a new Delta with 4wd, turbo, 185bhp, and hyper-cool quattro style arches. Manage to convince myself that it’s within my budget, and order one from HR Owen. Was advised to run it in gently and then start to raise the revs 500 at a time. Decide the best way to do this is to take it over to France for the weekend. Fortunately it’s fully run in by the time we realise that we’ve got an hour to cover over 100 miles back to Calais (including driving through Calais town centre itself) to get to the return hovercraft. Made it – and begun to realise what an amazing bit of kit I’d just bought myself…
1988-1991 – Lots of fun driving the 8v all over the place, always at improbable speed. Convinced the future Managing Editor of Auto-Journals that he should get one too. Attended the Penti Arrikala course. Used it as a wedding car when I was best man at a mate’s wedding (complete with white ribbons from bonnet vents to top of the A pillars). Turned Donington’s grass car park into a rally Super Special (with the aforementioned future Managing Editor). Demolished about an acre of crops at Goodwood when I overcooked it and decided that the smart way back onto the circuit was by keeping my foot hard down and waiting for the circuit to come back to me. Oh, and used it to go to Sainsbury’s to get the shopping.
1991 – A dispute over road-ownership between fast moving Integrale and a slow moving milkfloat results in heavy damage to the rear quarter after I end up half spinning into the back of him. Despite trying to convince the insurance company that neither of us were to blame (as, in effect, we’d both run into the back of each other), the premiums rocketed. Sadly, the ‘Grale, once fully repaired, had to go.
1992-1994 – Ran around in a Beta Volumex Coupe. Great car, but couldn’t help think that it wasn’t an Integrale, no matter how much I closed my eyes and pretended.
1994-2003 – ‘The wilderness years’. Got married, had kids, drove the sort of cars you expect a married bloke with kids to drive. Nuff said…
2003 – Still not quite sure how, but managed to convince Mrs P that we needed a second car. Not entirely sure that a 1993 Evo II is quite what she had in mind when I suggested a hatchback to go with the people carrier, but she took it well all the same. Car was sourced from Zagato in London, who sold me the (then ten-year-old) car with a comprehensive three-year warranty…
2003-present – Fantastico! – What a car, what a joy to own! I’m nowhere near as reckless now as I was when I had the 8v, but the car is superb, attracts (positive) attention wherever it goes, hoovers up the road like nothing else, dispatches lines of traffic with impunity, and it’s been a l-o-n-g time since another road-user overtook me!
You’d expect a highly-strung Italian prima donna to be a nightmare to live with, but I can honestly say it hasn’t (touch wood). The wife’s blue-French-MPV-thingy has been more trouble. True, the (German) alternator packed up, but this was replaced under warranty, and the cooling fan decided not to play at one point (if you’ve ever seen how little space there is under an Integrale’s bonnet, you’ll understand why the fan is a vital piece of kit). Other than that, where I’ve spent money, and I’ve spent a fair bit, it’s been largely discretionary on prettying up the car, preventative maintenance, polish, and CDs (remember them?).
In terms of regular costs, insurance (limited mileage classic policy) costs me just under £500 a year, the most recent service was just under £300, and I’ve got no idea how many miles to the gallon she does, although my intuition tells me its not many (in reality an Integrale is merely a means of transporting a fuel tank from one petrol station to another) – although it could be much greater if I drove it sensibly from time to time… yeah right!
I enjoy driving the car every time I take it out, so it would be unfair to single out any particular drive, however a superb Summer’s day run back along the Vale of the White Horse from north of Swindon to Reading stands out for the simple reason that it’s not that often you get a chance to get airborne in cars these days. Then there was a pre-dawn blast from London to Goodwood on deserted roads, up over the South Downs with Stevie Nicks’ vocals blaring out of the CD player (my taste in music, like my taste in cars and clothes, is stuck in another era), and times in the wet when it’s done something that only Integrales do that’s not in the book (it’s not understeer, it’s not oversteer, it’s not four-wheel drift, it’s …I dunno…it’s a bit like it’s stuck four bloody great talons into the tarmac and yanked its way back into the corner against centrifugal force – ‘physically ironic’, as it used to say in the rear window of the aforementioned future Managing Editor’s Skyline), or the time it crossed most of Norfolk in [time deleted in case I incriminate myself], or…or…or actually, the number of times you get out of the car and just smile inanely.
The Integrale is also one of those unique vehicles that is equally at home hammering around a track or a Special Stage, or putting on its gladrags and being a film star for the day. A case in point is the studio photography that accompanies this article. These were taken by photographer Tom Wood at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, for a feature that appeared in Practical Classics. The car was then driven straight from Beaulieu to Brands Hatch where, still looking immaculately concours, it proceeded to see off Porsches, Subarus, and all manner of more modern machinery.
The last few years of ownership have been great fun. I hope the old girl continues to shine so that there are some good stories to share in the months and years ahead.