Blog : Oh, I love a car collection caper

Lancia Delta

Sorry I’ve been quiet the past few weeks. Blame sheer weight of work, the closing in of the nights and a lack of spare time, which I am sure affects many of you, too. Whenever my energy levels take a dip, a quick pick-me-up is to go out and buy a new car, especially if whatever I have on the go at the time is causing problems, or not inspiring me in the way it should.

A couple of weeks back, I put out a message on social media that I was looking for a new set of wheels for 2022. The requirement was something that’s capable of covering a 250-mile trip at the drop of a hat, while not costing me a fortune in fuel. I’d like to do a few trips in my own car (I rely too much on the new cars that pass through my hands as the Editor of Parkers), too – and do them in something that’s not knackered in some way with bits hanging off…

An interesting reply came from my old friend – and former serial Rover owner – Tim Burgess, who offered me his 2012 Chrysler Delta. With 75,000 miles on the clock, this SR-spec diesel promised great economy, looks fantastic and, most importantly, has the correct Lancia badges fitted to it. Ah, yes, this Italian-built hatch has been given an identity change which suddenly makes it a whole lot more appealing to me – especially considering my soft spot for the brand and the fact I’ve already owned a couple of Deltas, a Thema, a Beta and a Dedra in the past…

A deal was done, money was paid remotely, and I then considered how I was going to collect the car. Yes, that’s because Tim lives 380 miles away in beautiful Scotland. I initially considered getting one of my sons to give me a lift up, then realised it would be an act of cruelty to do it soon after I did the same, picking up a Skoda Fabia vRS from Cumbernauld recently. I looked at weekend trains, but at £120+ one way from Peterborough, plus the prospect of delays caused by engineering works, actually getting there in a single day would probably have been a sheer miracle.

In the end, I decided to take a day off work after it transpired that taking the train from Peterborough to Helensburgh would cost £60. That’s why I found myself sat in an almost-empty Azuma as it rapidly accelerated out of Peterborough on a cold, damp morning and headed north towards my first stop in Edinburgh. With my work ‘phone switched off, and mindful of the fact that the eye of Storm Barra was heading towards my destination, I was keenly excited about getting behind the wheel of a new car.

As the miles rolled by, the skies darkened, and my thoughts turned to AROnline, where I could write a new article in the near-silent carriage I almost had to myself. What luxury, and a sheer contrast to the  stress I might have been facing on the A1(M) had I chosen to drive.

Three and a half hours later at the end of a pleasant journey. Yes, there’d been a slight delay and I missed my connecting train, but given the battering the north was receiving at the hand of Barra, I’d take that – especially as there’d be another train to Helensburgh within the hour, and I could take the time to pop my head around the door of Waverley Station and take a look at Princes Street. A shame it was sleeting and perishingly cold!

The second train of the day was almost as quiet as the first. Okay, it wasn’t as nice as the Azuma, but it was warm and chugged along at a reasonable rate, even if it felt like it stopped a million times between Edinburgh and Helensburgh. While I was on the train, looking out at the grey and rapidly darkening sky didn’t look that appetising, so I researched a little more about the Chrysler Lancia Delta and what I could expect during its ownership.

The news seemed quite good – mixed reviews when new, no horror stories used, and a punchy diesel engine which should, when driven gently, deliver around 55-60mpg. Okay, so that all sounds rational, and hardly enough to set the pulses racing, but I really wasn’t buying this car for those reasons – quite simply, I wanted something a little left-field which drives well, serves up some luxury and stands out from the crowd. Let’s face it, it would have been a Rover RDX60 has its maker not crashed in 2005.

Night was well and truly with me as the train rolled into  Helensburgh, and Tim was there to meet me and drive us over to his place for the big reveal of my new Chrysler Lancia Delta. I wished it had been daytime – it felt like I was missing some spectacular scenery on the way to his gaff – but those are the breaks when travelling in the middle of winter. Still, it was a pleasant journey to his home in his new car – a lower mileage Chrysler Lancia Delta. Nice…

Once safely back to Tim’s, it was time for the big reveal. And what a nice example it was! The paint looked flawless, the interior unmarked, and everything worked as it should. That’s what comes with buying a car from a bodywork specialist, who’s also a car enthusiast, and a perfectionist. Nice…

A quick refuel for me thanks to Tim and Ailsa, paperwork exchanged, and it was time to head south and make myself at home in my latest purchase. Surprise number one is how roomy this car is – I assumed it would be similarly commodious to a Ford Focus Mk3 or Volkswagen Golf MkIV. Nope, it’s roomier than an Audi A6 in the rear, and has a quite excellent driving position.

Given the long drive ahead, I filled it up with diesel,  bought a ‘phone mount, and headed for the border. Getting comfortable was straightforward and once used to being in a diesel again – throttle and turbo lag, narrow power band, and keeping it in as high a gear as possible – it settled into a gentle motorway cruise. Prodding and poking buttons as I drove had me learning the car’s functions.

Want to adjust the dashboard computer’s display? Press some buttons in the centre console. Want to turn the foglights on and off? Buttons in the centre console. Make the steering lighter? Yeah, you guessed it…

The roads were spookily quiet as I skirted Glasgow, and as I joined the M74 and clocked the sign telling me that Carlisle’s 100 miles away, I set the cruise for 70mph and settled in for the long night ahead. There’s not much to talk about here – it’s a night drive on the motorway, with just the radio for company, and I must admit that once again I kicked myself for not bringing any CDs or USB sticks, and lament the appalling content on our FM networks.

As Carlisle passed by, I felt at home in the Chrysler Lancia Delta, and was feeling pretty pleased with myself for this purchase. A few ‘phone calls made (it has built in USB) and I’m really getting bored with the radio – not just the content, but with the stereo’s inability to hold on to any FM stations, and decide the best thing to do is start talking to myself and count motorway signs.

Somewhere near Tebay services, boredom is soon alleviated with the arrival of Storm Barra – winds, rain and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse signal their arrival by battering us. Trucks waver, cars totter along at 55mph, and the Chrysler Lancia Delta just ploughs on unperturbed by what’s being thrown at it. Impressive. Thankfully, Barra doesn’t bother me for too long, and as I pass the M55 exit and my former home, the wind dissipates and the rain subsides to an annoying drizzle.

Somewhere past the Manchester/Liverpool M62 interchange, I consider stopping. The fuel situation is impressive – still more than three quarters of a tank left, but more for a coffee and a quick rest halt. I pull into Charnock Richard services to find all the shops in the service station closed, and the petrol station on night pay. How dull. Push on and stop at Sandbach services to find the same bleak outlook and nothing open or welcoming. How do truck drivers cope with this?

And with that, I push on to a 24-hour McDonald’s on the A50 near Uttoxeter, with the intention of grabbing that much-needed coffee. And yes, Ronald doesn’t let me down. It’s open and the staff are welcoming, even though it’s now 1am. The good news is that I’m an hour or so from home and my trusty Chrysler Lancia Delta hasn’t missed a beat, and my list of grumbles remain in single figures, as I consider what I’m going to do with the stereo.

Pushing on, and one of my least favourite aspects of night driving comes to fore, as a pair of truck drivers decide to have a bout of elephant racing somewhere near Derby. Mile after mile, this pair sit alongside each other, neither giving way, and leaving me frustrated behind at 52mph. At least it’s good for the fuel consumption. It feels like it lasts forever, but in fact I reckon they play this game for about five miles, until one falls in dutifully behind the other and lets me crack on.

The rest of the journey is uneventful,  and home hoves into view after another 70 miles or so. At the end of the journey, I also reckon that if you really want to appreciate your next car, buy it from someone at the other end of the country and get to know it on a long night drive home.

Thoughts on the car? It’s certainly good, and now I’ve seen it in the cold light of day, I really like its unconventional looks and stylish, roomy interior. I also really like the fact I’m not likely to see another when I’m out and about. We’ll see how it pans out in the coming weeks and months but, for now, the Delta is going to be pretty useful addition to my fleet. More than that, though, it just has a little ‘something’ that you can’t say about a Focus or a Golf. Call it that magic Lancia difference…

Keith Adams
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22 Comments

  1. I remember Reviews at the time saying it was z good cruiser, but boy it was hit with the ugly stick. And to carry both the Chrysler and Delta names mean it was never gonna to be a bit hit as people were confused, which is probably why I can count how many I have seen on my left hand. However as my old man use to say about the Bug eyed Scorpio, you can’t see the car when you are in, and its nice jnside and drives well don’t worry, it’s better to be comfortable and in an ugly car than in a pretty car but uncomfortable!

  2. I’ve always had a soft spot for automotive oddities like this – I actually think it looks quite elegant. It beggars belief, the way that Fiat has allowed the Lancia marque to wither away.

  3. Hmmm, think you’ve cracked it Keith. Rarity, no big disasters in production, ‘thought about’ individual styling (at least it doesn’t look like a boring Golf!!!) and despite being just a badge – it has an historic thread running through it being from one of the cleverest car companies ever (if you read my Great Motoring Men series on this site).
    We’ll done you!

  4. Both the Delta & Ypsilon were highly distinctive cars and the decision by FCA to market them as Chrysler’s was ill advised to say the least,surely it would have been better to reintroduce the Lancia name to UK, No one was fooled that these had any connection to Chrysler at all and sales were very poor here which wast perhaps to be expected,not long after both the Chrysler & Dodge ranges were pulled from sale in Europe.Since then Lancia have reduced the range to just the Ypsilon and only sell cars to the home market which is a sad end for one of the great Italian car manufacturers

    • I was surprised when Fiat dropped Lancia from the other European markets, I can understand UK sales weren’t enough to keep making RHD ones.

      I still see the odd Ypsilon, but I’ve not seen a Delta for a while.

      My local Chrysler dealer now sells Teslas,

  5. Looking at your pic of the two artics side by side, the right hand one vying to pass the other (Hamilton and Verstappen it was not!), I see the police – upset because drivers took photos of an RTA that also happened to be a collision as they drove past (disrespectful!!!) are now on the look-out for anyone taking pics while on the move. Not that I ever did that.

    During my decades of commercial van and lorry driving, I came across the creeping overtakers time and again – and that was before speed limiters were the norm. Perhaps the reason A took so long to overtake B was that both had speed limiters fitted, and A was empty while B was laden.

    Other drivers were aggrieved when I was driving a laden 7.5 tonne horse box, and needed to slow for bends and junctions more so than if it had been empty or was a lorry not carrying a live load.

  6. Keith, pre-Covid there were some limited stop services between Edinburgh and Helensburgh which cut the journey time usefully. Now the reduced frequency trains stop at all stations and there are about twenty of ’em on that line. The views are quite scenic from Dumbarton onwards where the line skirts the north bank of the Clyde. And yes, the class 334 isn’t really best suited to an hour plus journey, but far from unbearable.

  7. I was sorely tempted to buy one of these – and do the identity change to make it a Lancia – a car marque I have a huge affection for. I have seen the odd one for sale with Lancia badges – although the last one I spotted didn’t have the steering wheel centre swapped out. How does this fare with the DVLA – is it a Lancia or Chrysler in their eyes? Either way these are really nice cars. I checkered out in the finish and bought an Alfa Giulietta……..

    • The identity change is remarkably easy. Other than the Image on the MFD, Grille and front head rests, the rest is literally badge engineering and readily available.. The handbook is still littered with Lancia logos and even the battery is still a Lancia branded item. The ownership experience is also pretty painless due to the sheer amount of parts in common with Bravo II and Giulietta.

  8. I quite liked the styling of this Delta

    A big car though, over 6 inches longer than a Mk3 Focus for example, not helped by that rather long front overhang (as with the Pug 407)

  9. I like these cars due to their rarity in the UK for starters. I always think of them as Lancia’s despite the Chrysler re-badge. If memory serves, they featured heavily in the film “Da Vinci Code” with Tom Hanks. In profile view it does look rather similar to a Focus MK3 like mine. Good luck with this one Keith.

  10. Another ‘orphan’ saved and given another chance of a better life. Yes this a an ugly duckling, but if mechanically sound will be good for those daily runs and even the occasional long haul, perhaps you will have this for more than a few months until another attack of CHPD.
    I have encountered in the USA the same ‘elephants passing’ problem as many trucks (HGV’s to you) often have speed limiters for safety and fuel use reasons usually at 62-68 MPH when the speed limit is 60-65 MPH. It is very annoying when only 2 lanes

  11. Call me odd — go on, you won’t be the first — but I was rather hoping Fiat would add this car to the U.S. Chrysler lineup after the ink dried on the takeover, I mean merger, contract. Sure, it could have used a bit of work on the nose, but it was so different than anything Chrysler had done on its own to that point that it stood out from the crowd. Fit and finish were surprisingly good, the interior was comfortable and reasonably luxurious, and it suggested a direction Chrysler could take across the board that would modernize its image and allow it to carve a new niche. Of course, the car wasn’t U.S. legal, and would have taken a bit of time and money to update, it had a dreaded hatchback instead of a more formal roof and trunk, and Fiat didn’t have anywhere near money to do the things Marchionne said it would. Other than bribe United Auto Workers officials with luxury watches brought into the country under bogus paperwork, that is.

    If anything, this car was a harbinger of what was to come. It debuted at the Detroit show, anchoring one end of a massive show stand that was at once both tasteful and obscene. There it stood with the driver’s door open, attended to by a single model sewn into a form-fitting frock comprised of small metal rectangles stitched together and painted the same color as the car. Though both revolved on the turntable, theirs was a static existence promising both action and inaction, passion and detachment; a Fellini film without all of the absurdity. And so it would be for the “creatively” named FCA; lots of promise with little else.

  12. Interesting to read your comments about the radio Keith. I had assumed that the poor reception was down to living in a remote(ish) part of West Scotland and resorted to listening to my own music library on a USB stick. If it’s any consolation, the radio in my white one is only marginally better.

    As an aside, the Delta was the last Lancia to be both designed and built in Italy, at the Cassino plant that currently produces the Giulia.

  13. Stellantis are apparently bringing the Lancia brand back yet again – given how they are using retro styling cues on Peugeot and Vauxhall/Opel it will be interesting to see what they come up with.

  14. The M6 from Penrith to Kendal isn’t for the faint hearted in bad weather. I can remember driving in 70 mph winds and torrential rain and it was scary in a small hatchback that was kept to 50 mph to avoid being blown into the next lane where the BMW boys seemed oblivious to the weather and were still doing well above the speed limit. Also it’s prone to freezing fog and snow in winter and can be ” interesting” to say the least.

  15. Keith: an interesting article, and I’m glad you have a pleasant and obviously “different” car , but being brutal, the persistent crossed-out Chrysler got not only boring but irritating after the first couple of examples

  16. I have always liked these Deltas. Was a bit leery of the original after I saw one which hit a tree, separating the engine and front bodywork from the bulkhead and everything aft.

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