Lancia Delta HF Integrale

Lancia Delta HF Integrale 1980s Italian sports car

It would be difficult to overstate the impact made by the Lancia Delta HF Integrale. It swept aside all comers - on the road and in competition. In the year and a half following its '87 launch, the Delta Integrale won 14 World Championship rallies. Miki Biasion made the most of its dominance. He garnered two world drivers' titles in the car.

The Integrale's 8-valve engine made 185bhp. In '89, it was replaced by a 16-valve head. Power increased to 200bhp. The new model totted up 13 top-echelon rally wins. Juha Kankunnen duly took the '91 drivers' title. Over time, the fruits of such success trickled down to the showrooms. The road-going Integrale's finely-tuned 4-wheel-drive set-up gave good handling - in all conditions. Combine that with a 2-litre turbocharged motor - and you had a perfect blend of speed and precision. As a hatchback, practicality was a given. But, there were luxuries, too. Like Recaro seats, electric front windows and a cutting edge instrument panel.

Wide wheels and fat tyres helped give the Integrale a look of purposeful muscularity. Giorgetto Giugiaro - at the Italdesign agency - did the styling honours. The bodywork was minimalist, not boxy! The original Delta - built for rally homologation reasons - was first glimpsed at '79's Frankfurt Motor Show. It was followed by a Delta dynasty of progessively more sophisticated models. Lancia's HF acronym stood for High Fidelity. It was applied to several of the marque's cars over the years. Never more fittingly, though, than to the Delta Integrale!

Ducati 250 Desmo

Ducati 250 Desmo 1970s Italian classic motorcycle

Ducati's 250 Desmo was a nailed down design classic! The famous firm began in Bologna, in '26 - producing electrical parts. That might generate a few wry grins amongst bikers of a certain age. Italian machines have traditionally been praised more for aesthetic than technical perfection.

Ducati's signature set-up, back in the day, was 'desmodromic'. It saw engine valves closed by cams - rather than springs. That provided more precise control of valvegear moving parts. For a marque so synonymous with styling, 'desmo' was definitely a feather in Ducati's cap. The 250 was the baby of the newly engineered range. Though of reduced capacity compared to its bigger siblings, the 250 was still blessed with a fair lick of speed. Indeed, it fell just a tad short of the totemic 'ton'. In handling terms, too, the 250 had plenty in its favour. Weighing in at less than 300lb - and with finely-tuned suspension - its rubber side remained resolutely glued to the tarmac. Saying that, clip-on 'bars, rear-set footrests and a solo seat coaxed riders into finding the limits of adhesion!

The Desmo was designed by Leo Tartarini. He drew the 250 with simple, strong lines. They were all that was needed. The bike had dynamism built-in - by dint of its 'racy' parts list. So, the 250 was as strong visually, as it was technically. Certainly, its desmodromic valve-train was a key asset. But, it also possessed poised and purposeful looks - belying its size. Dimunitive it may have been, but the Ducati 250 Desmo married technological innovation with innate good looks!

Lamborghini Murciélago

Lamborghini Murcielago 2000s Italian supercar

The Lamborghini Murciélago was styled by Belgian Luc Donckerwolke. He had been chief designer at Audi - which, in '98, was taken over by Lamborghini. Traditionally, the latter had recruited Italian design houses. On that basis, Bertone were briefed to create the new car. And indeed, their work was ready to go into production. At the last, though, the Bertone project was canned. The design reins were duly passed to Donckerwolke.

When the Murciélago was launched, it was with no lack of fanfare. Sicily's Mount Etna provided the backdrop. The accompanying son et lumière show was equally spectacular - including, as it did, a volcanic eruption. Well, a virtual one, at any rate!

Designer Donckerwolke decked the car out in razor-sharp lines. Bodywork was carbon-fibre and steel. The chassis was fashioned from high-tensile tubing. Given the supercar's shape, a low drag coefficient was a gimme. As a result, top speed for the Murciélago was a searing 205mph. 0-60 appeared in 3.85s. Notwithstanding, steady torque delivery - and electronic engine management - rendered the car relatively tractable. Suspension and brakes were, naturally, state of the art. Late in the day though it had been, Lamborghini's decision to give the design gig to Luc Donckerwolke paid off. The Murciélago exhibited plenty of Italian flair ... as well as a dash of Belgian panache!

Porsche 356

Porsche 356 1940s German classic sports car

The Porsche 356 was the start of a design dynasty. Ferdinand Porsche opened his studio in '31. It would be a further fifteen years before the first Porsche production car. When it arrived, it was no coincidence that the 356 was similar to the VW Beetle. Dr Porsche had penned that car, too. The 356's compact and rounded lines oozed understated charm. In the Fifties, it was the small - but perfectly-formed - 356 which cemented Porsche in the public eye. Right up until '65, in fact - when the Porsche 911 hit centre stage.

For the first four years, the 956 was manufactured in Austria. It was fitted with a flat-four push-rod engine. Rear-mounted - and topped off with a cute grille - the air-cooled motor kept time in pleasingly pulsating fashion. With a capacity of just 1,100cc, it made a mere 40bhp. Top speed was 87mph - pretty good, considering. Suspension was via trailing-link up front - and high-pivot swing axle at the rear. The gearbox was a 4-speed affair. The 356's split windscreen was the most notable design flourish.

The Porsche 356A model was released in '55 - in Germany. Bodywork-wise, it was less rotund than the first version. The new car came with a curved, one-piece screen. Front suspension and steering were revised. A bigger engine had been installed. 1,600cc was a half-litre up on the original. 356 B and C models duly followed. Roadsters, a Karmann coupé, and the Super 75 and Super 90 continued to uprate the technical spec. There was also a 356 Carrera. Indeed, even after the 911 series took over the Porsche reins, the 912 still had a foot in both camps. It was powered by a 356 engine - in a 911 shell. In terms of its legacy, then, the Porsche 356 was pretty pivotal to the Stuttgart marque!

VW Beetle

VW Beetle 1950s German classic car

21,000,000 VW Beetles were built. That makes it the most popular car ... ever! Today, of course, the 'V-Dub' commands cult status. And - with plenty of scope for customisation - Beetle mania is a hive of creativity. That said, if all you needed from a car was reliability, the Beetle was still the car for you. The designer of the ulimate in automotive utilitarianism was Dr Ferdinand Porsche. Yes, that Dr Porsche! The Beetle was born out of Herr Hitler's yen for motoring for the masses. Yes, that Herr Hitler! As things turned out, not many Beetles were built before the war. Following it, though, the production floodgate opened. The first Beetle was pretty basic. It came with a non-synchromesh gearbox, cable brakes - and little by way of ornamentation. With hostilities over, however, the US started to catch the V-Dub bug. For starters, it ticked all the second car boxes. It was cheap, dependable, practical and economical. Heck, the Beetle even made a great beach buggy!

The Beetle put out 50bhp from a 1,584cc air-cooled motor. It maxed out at 84mph. Visually - while no oil painting - it was not without allure. Let us say, it had a certain rough-edged charm! Indeed, the Kharmann Ghia - which was based on the Beetle - was really rather pretty. And, the split-rear-screen model - of the early Fifties - was positively voguish!

Enter the '60s, though, and buyers demanded a more modern driving experience. VW responded by replacing the time-served 1,100cc engine with 1,300 and 1,500cc updates. And, Beetles were now fitted with an all-synchromesh 'box, disc brakes and semi-automatic transmission. The factory was at Wolfsburg - in Lower Saxony. Not even the Führer could have foreseen the all-conquering heights to which the Beetle's sales would soar. The second most popular car of all time came courtesy of Henry Ford. The Model T clocked up 15,000,000 sales - 6m shy of its nemesis. It was in the early Seventies that the Beetle outstripped the Model T's tally. Probably because VW offered it in colours other than black! Its zenith was in the Sixties, after all. Psychedelia - unlike Gothic - did not do black!