At the end of the 1986 Season, FIA decided to exclude Group B regulation vehicles from entering the World Rally Championship, following the tragic incidents (Deaths of Attilio Bettega in 1985 and Henri Toivonen e Sergio Cresto in 1986 plus spectator fatalities) of the preceding year.
This was a necessary step, in view of the evolving vehicle performance, which had begun to approach the limit of what was humanly possible to control on rally-stages.
This decision came only a couple of months after the same Federation had provisionally approved a new regulation – Group-S, which was seen as an evolution of Group-B, retaining some of the spectacular aspects of the Grp.B cars, but reducing their overall performance by limiting the engine size to 2,000cc (1.430cc for a T/C engine, applying the 1.4 Ratio required in the regulations). As stated in Sergio Limone's exceptionally detailed account of the Abarth Vehicles, the Abarth project Group S vehicle project, SE042 (1986) never left the drawing board. Instead, the project SE041 (1986), the ECV1 and ECV2, were heirs derived from the first rally S4, the SE038 (1983), as well as the SE040 (1985) which was an interim S4 evolution exploring a novel CVT and improved Aerodynamics.
Exploring the ECV (SE041) further, the ECV1 was conceived as a Group B evolution, and also an answer to Ford's RS200 which had composite panels, which at the time was seen as a possible challenger, or at least as an avenue for investigation. The project was approved by the passionate Head of Fiat, Vittorio Ghidella and involved an engineering concern, IDC, involving Ing. Bizzarrini jr., to develop the Composite body structure. These body panels were designed to be interchangeable with the S4, and using the latest aerodynamic effects. The tubular steel front subframe from the S4 remained, whilst the Centre section and rear was replaced with Carbon-Fibre/Resin Honeycomb panels. The engine was the Triflux.
The ECV1 was presented, without a true scope, as it was already clear that Group B was to be cancelled, at the Bologna motorshow of 1986 and instantly became the Icon of the Rallying World.
Lancia continued to evolve the chassis of the ECV, and the original carbon-fibre composite chassis panels where re-covered and restyled, by Carlo Gaino, of Synthesis Design, to create the evocative ECV2 in 1988.
The ECV2 is property of the Fiat group and is in Torino, and contains the ECV1 original composite chassis. Apart from its more rounded styling, it also contains the ultimate evolution of the Triflux, with water-cooled intercoolers allowing a more compact layout, which may have given performance advantages (already used on the Peugeot 205T16)
Above all, the ECV2 is more compact, fluid and shorter, compared to the imposing and Squared ECV1.
The pearlescent White colour scheme, still with Martini Racing colours, is agressive and has finishing touches of Lancia with a branded front grill. The front hood has been opened to allow the front radiator, which would have also cool the intercoolers, a well-sized air outlet. A rear spoiler, obviously wind-tunnel tested and similar to that used on the Alfa GTA for track-use is mounted as a wrap-around on the rear. "ECV2" is proudly written on the rear-flanks.
The engine evolution is apparent to attempt to avoid Turbo-lag. The two turbos enter into regime in sequence, one is available at low rpm, whilst the other sized for top-end power. Additionally, the crossed-valve configuration allows a more uniform distribution of the combustion temperature, and a more effective combustion due to the generation of turbulence.
The interior is that of the classic Delta S4. The Abarth rev-counter, orange lettering on a black background, the battery voltage indicator and the fuel-gauge are the complete instrumentation. The Steering-Wheel has a deep centre, with the classic Abarth 2 spoke layout. An oversized boost pressure is orientated towards the driver. The declared performance is impressive: 930 kg with 600 CV at 8000 rpm. The acceleration was calculated as 0-200 km/h in 9 secs. With each turbo-charger pumping 2.2 bar over atmospheric pressure. It is difficult to imagine how a vehicle like this would have performed on a typical stage, and how a world championship with vehicles like the ECV2 would have developed. Nobody knows, but the ECV2 is a passionate statement of intent which stands proud amongst the other Lancia masterpieces, such as the Stratos, the 037, the Delta S4, the Delta Integrale in the Lancia Collection in Torino, where “Made in Italy” has no competitors.