Lancia Hyena Zagato: The Delta's Cooler Sibling

Lancia Hyena Zagato 8 photos
Photo: Alexander Babic courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
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Started by Vincenzo Lancia and his racing buddy Claudio Fogolin in 1906, the namesake automaker from Turin was acquired by Fiat in 1969. The peeps at Lancia were forced to make a lot of compromises in the ‘80s by cutting back costs with the help of Fiat and the Swedes at Saab. With the dissolution of the Lancia Martini partnership in the World Rally Championship following the conclusion of the 1992 season, it was pretty clear that Fiat’s executives would never offer Lancia any freedom again.
Depressing stuff, for sure! On the upside, the Delta-based Hyena we’re covering today came to fruition despite these depressing circumstances. Rather than Fiat, styling house and coachbuilder Zagato was responsible for this model’s outlandish looks. Penned by Marco Pedracini in 1990, the coupe-bodied commission was originally presented to Lancia’s top execs.

They said no, which is understandable given that Lancia couldn’t do anything without Fiat’s blessing. Not long after this refusal, a very ambitious guy discovered the stillborn project. Paul Koot, who headed the automaker's distributor in the Netherlands, made things work in record time.

Without any sort of financial help from the automaker that controlled – and still controls – Lancia, the aforementioned gentleman presented the Zagato-bodied Hyena in January 1992 at the Brussels Motor Show. Based on the Delta Integrale Evoluzione and officially dubbed Lancia Hyena Zagato, the sophisticated-looking coupe was initially planned to number 500 copies.

Unsurprisingly for a Lancia with Zagato styling cues, expressions of interest were – dare I say it – few and far between. Paul Koot and his crew revised the run to 75, but even this number would prove to be wishful thinking.

Lancia Hyena Zagato
Photo: Alexander Babic courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
The Hyena was tremendously expensive to make. For starters, Dutch distributor Lusso Service Holland purchased Delta Integrale Evoluziones from Lancia, then shipped them for conversion to Zagato in Milan. Once fitted with the sexier aluminum bodywork and more sumptuous interior, these ultra-collectible automobiles were transported back to the Netherlands, where Lusso Service Holland applied the finishing touches.

Care to guess how much a Hyena used to cost in 1992 when the first example of the breed was finished? Approximately thrice the price of an Evoluzione. That’s $75,000 or just over $150,000 adjusted for inflation.

Tipping the scales at 1,148 kilograms (2,531 pounds), which is roughly 15 percent less than an Evoluzione, the all-wheel-drive Hyena is four-tenths of a second quicker to 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour). The bodyshell may not appear slippery, but it’s undoubtedly more aerodynamic than the squared-off Evoluzione. The lower weight and revised panels, of which none were shared with the Delta Integrale Evoluzione, improved top speed from 220 to 230 kilometers per hour (137 to 143 miles per hour).

Some car enthusiasts falsely believe the Hyena is nothing more than a Delta Integrale Evoluzione donning a nice suit. However, Lusso Service Holland went much deeper than that. For example, the inline-four turbo had its electronic brain remapped and boost pressure improved to generate 250 metric horsepower, up 40 ponies from the 210 horsepower of the Delta Integrale Evoluzione. Torque stayed put at 220 pound-feet (298 Nm).

Lancia Hyena Zagato
Photo: Alexander Babic courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
Gifted with composites for the bumpers, doors, and outer sills, the Hyena is understandably stiffer than its bone-stock cousin. Headlights from the Alfa Romeo SZ, a sloping hood with a NACA air duct on the driver side, a ridiculously short rear end, and rectangular taillights are featured. The Lancia Hyena Zagato usually features a drive-side outlet, yet cars equipped with the 300-horsepower upgrade flaunt a twin-piped central exhaust.

Somewhat unexpected for a hatchback-based car, there is no trunk whatsoever. Even the Alfa Romeo SZ has one, albeit only for the spare tire and toolbox. The rear seats/rear-seat delete option had to suffice in this regard. Shipped with 15- by 7.5-inch alloys or Evoluzione wheels, the Zagato-bodied collectible is rocking Weber IAW engine management.

A Garrett-supplied turbocharger also needs to be mentioned, along with anti-lock brakes. Other highlights include an optional 90-liter fuel tank, a MOMO three-spoke steering wheel, and a SONY aftermarket stereo.

In addition to its ridiculously high price, the Hyena was doomed right off the bat due to the recessionary wasteland of the early ‘90s. The Italian lira’s conversion rates against other European currencies made things worse, which is why only 24 units were finished in two years of production.
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About the author: Mircea Panait
Mircea Panait profile photo

After a 1:43 scale model of a Ferrari 250 GTO sparked Mircea's interest for cars when he was a kid, an early internship at Top Gear sealed his career path. He's most interested in muscle cars and American trucks, but he takes a passing interest in quirky kei cars as well.
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