A visit from a 959.
2 Italian rally royals descend upon Jay Leno’s Garage
The Group B days of rallying birthed monsters, and nothing highlights that more than parking the Lancia that brought the end of Group B racing beside a Fiat from five years earlier. Who else but Jay Leno could bring these two great cars together, on the latest episode of Jay Leno’s Garage?
The guest who ushers in these two significant cars is an Irishman with an interesting history surrounding his fascination with rally cars. John Campion was looking for inspiration to bring some optimism to his life in the 1970s when he heard the story of a farmer named Billy Coleman. Coleman left his farm, went rally racing in England, and won. He became a hero to Campion, and the memory cemented rally cars in Campion’s mind.
The first car of the Campion pair is a 1978 Fiat 131, an angry buzzer of a car sporting a two-liter inline-four that cranks out 275 horsepower. The silhouette remains largely unchanged from the production car—something Leno prefers. “The fun thing about it that it’s close enough to stock that, if you had one, you could identify with them,” he says. Which is the opposite of the second car Campion brought to show.
A race car from the start, the 1986 Lancia Delta S4 doesn’t trace its roots to a factory that supplied cars to dealers. The twincharged engine is a feat of engineering. The turbochargers of the era took time to spool up and created a difficult-to-drive car, so Lancia bolted on a supercharger to help the bottom end of the rev range. As the turbo began to build boost, the supercharger’s wastegate would open and bleed off its boost to prevent over-boosting the engine. Did we mention it also wears one of the greatest liveries of all time?
Of course, out on the road, the pure-bred Lancia racer is noisy and keeps Leno from doing his normal continuation of the interview. That is okay with us, though, because the 1.8-liter engine’s roar as Leno stomps the gas is music to our ears.