The Lancia Rally 037 is one of those classically proportioned sports car designs that simply doesn’t age. Straightforward, purposeful and unblemished by frivolous aggressive features, the 037 represents the nexus of form and function. That’s unsurprising, considering the road-going 037 Stradale was built for homologation purposes, and is truly a competition rally car at heart.
It’s for those reasons that this particular 037 prototype, set for auction in Milan this coming June by RM Sotheby’s, looks so jarring. If you’ve never seen this test car before, it makes for a stunning inflection point on the path to Lancia’s first Group B hero — not to mention a far cry from that one Lancia you could destroy by turning the steering wheel at the wrong time.
You can detect hints of the 037’s final form here and there, but certain cues reveal that all isn’t quite as it should be. The prototype’s headlights are the first and most noticeable tell. The outside lamps dip into the bumper in an awkward way. They push the turn signals down toward the lip of the splitter, which itself is far less pronounced than it would eventually appear on the road car.
The squarer, flatter cutouts for the front-wheel arches are another quirk that wouldn’t make it to the finish line, nor would the bodywork divot below the A pillar. The rear quarter panels are especially odd, flaring out roundly compared to those on the slab-sided production car.
At the back, things get especially weird. There are a couple curious details here. The taillights appear to be lifted from a Ferrari 308, and the “Abarth” and “SE 037″ labels are extruded just underneath that gigantic rear wing. Abarth indeed headed up the 037’s development, despite the car wearing Lancia badges and liveries once finally let loose on special stages. The presence of red-painted metal obscuring the engine underneath the plexiglass cover is another oddity special to this mule.
All told, Lancia built approximately 220 examples of the 037, including road-going and racing incarnations. This example — chassis #001 — rolled out of Dallara’s factory in September 1980 according to a Bonhams listing from 2016, the last time it went up for auction.
Lancia announced the 037 program in December of 1981, and homologation road cars entered production in 1982. In 1983, Lancia won the World Rally Championship manufacturers’ trophy with the 037. To this day, it’s the last rear-wheel drive rally car to claim a WRC title.
Chassis #001 was restored in 2014. Hagerty notes that the car didn’t sell the last time it fell under the hammer, then projected to sell for between $380,000 and $470,000. The car is reportedly still owned by Sergio Limone, the 037’s lead engineer who also oversaw development of some of Lancia’s other rally cars, as well as Alfa Romeo’s cunning touring car and GT programs throughout the ’90s.