The darkest corners of the pantheon of automotive history are full of odd, relatively unknown cars that for miscellaneous reasons were produced in very small quantities. Their stories are rarely told and they mostly live on in the garages of the few who were lucky or careful enough to save one. A perfect example of this is the Lancia Hyena, built by Zagato with input from a Dutch Lancia importer in the early 1990s.
The Hyena traces its roots back to the late 1980s, when the Lancia Delta was on a WRC winning streak. At the time, Zagato had just begun production of the Alfa Romeo SZ, a coupe based on the V6-powered Alfa 75. Its angular styling left no one indifferent but overall, the SZ was well-received by the public.
A designer from Zagato named Marco Pedracini started toying around with the idea of a Zagato-bodied Delta and showed several sketches in 1990. The project did not generate much interest and was put on the backburner until Dutch businessman and former Lancia importer Paul Koot reportedly contacted Zagato to produce the car.
A near production-ready prototype was built and was displayed for the first time at the 1992 Brussels Motor Show under the moniker Lancia Hyena. It was based on a 1991 Delta HF Integrale 16v and used the same turbocharged 16-valve 2.0 four-cylinder engine but it was pushed to 250 horsepower. Like in the Delta Integrale, the Hyena’s engine was transversally mounted and bolted to Lancia’s race-proven all-wheel drive system.
Aesthetically the Hyena looked like a mix between an Alfa Romeo SZ from the early 1990s and a Lancia Fulvia Zagato from the 1960s. The body was built out of aluminum and featured Zagato’s signature double bubble roof. As a product of the early 1990s, it was more aerodynamic than the Delta, which was launched in 1979 when boxy cars were in full vogue.
To achieve the lowest possible weight the dashboard was made entirely out of carbon fiber. The weight saving measures implemented inside and out paid off and the Hyena weighed almost 450 pounds less than the Delta it was based on.
To add insult to injury, the more powerful engine made the Hyena faster than the Delta, hitting 62 miles per hour from a stop in just 5.4 seconds, a very slight improvement over the Integrale’s 5.7. It went on to a stop speed of 143 miles per hour. These figures are respectable today but they were even more impressive twenty years ago when the Delta Integrale was considered by many as one of the best cars to ever compete in a rally event.
The public response generated by the Hyena in Brussels was very good and it was given the green light for production. Zagato and Koot originally planned to build 500 examples of it but at the last moment, Lancia backed out and said that they wouldn’t supply Zagato with Delta chassis. Lancia’s decision was an odd one considering that they had worked with Zagato since 1928. At the time it was said that Lancia changed their mind because of a reshuffling in their management but that decision is historically viewed with skepticism and it is likely that there were other factors involved.
Zagato and Koot went on with the project anyway but decided to only build 75 of them. Lancia’s refusal significantly complicated the production process. Deltas were purchased from Fiat and shipped to the Netherlands where they were completely stripped in Koot’s workshop. They were shipped back to Zagato in Italy to be modified into Hyenas and shipped to the Netherlands once again for finishing touches and to be sold.
All of this drove production costs up and the Hyena retailed for about $82,000 at the time, a massive amount that drove off many potential buyers. When all was said and done, only 24 Hyenas were built and sold throughout Europe and in Japan.
Ran When Parked does not take any credit for the photos in this article.