Kimera EVO37 2022 Kimera Automobili EVO37

Although rallying started as a sort of fringe activity for a bunch of guys in forests, by the 1980s, it had catapulted to the forefront of the motorsport enthusiast’s consciousness. New for 1982, Group B was sensational and unhinged in nearly every way. Its brief but explosive tenure as the top tier of rallying lasted just 5 seasons, rivaling Formula 1 for popularity and searing itself as legend in the minds of gear heads decades on. One of those gear-heads is Luca Betti. A professional rally driver in more modern times, Betti also turned to the past, collecting, racing, and ultimately restoring a number of the iconic Group B cars from Lancia. In the course of doing so, he learned enough about them to create the Kimera Automobili EVO37.

The EVO37 draws its inspiration, and much more, from one of the greatest rally cars of all time. If you’re not a rally fiend, however, you can be forgiven for not fully understanding what the Lancia 037 is.

It is part of a legendary dynasty of world-beating Lancia Rally cars spanning four different decades. When people say “make Lancia great again”, they’re talking about these cars. The 037 was a clean-sheet design intended specifically for the World Rally Championship, and was raced by some of the greatest drivers of all time. It was also the last rear-wheel-drive car to ever win the world rally championship.

One of the secrets of 037’s success was that it wasn’t diabolical to drive like the Stratos. Walter Röhrl, when we reunited him together with its original 1983’s car, said: “The car I loved most was the… 037! It was the one that suited my style the most, the most precise and sincere, you could go 110% because it was perfect. For this reason, with a two-wheel drive car, we managed to win the World Rally Championship against four-wheel drive cars.”

Where the 037s raced with about 300hp, Delta S4s and other late Group B cars raced with 500-600hp, creating monstrously fast cars that ultimately proved so dangerous that a series of serious and some even fatal accidents saw the termination of Group B before the 1986 season was even finished. 

The legacy, though, is a series of sensational cars which are revered today, particularly so by Kimera Automobili. Kimera Motorsport began by campaigning race cars for its founder, professional rally driver Luca Betti, who competed for 15 years in Italian and European Rally Championships. Betti is also avidly enthusiastic about the 037 and the Delta S4, and Kimera gained considerable experience restoring and preparing these vintage rally Lancias, eventually developing an understanding of these cars so intimate that they had the unique expertise to create what became the EVO37.

So what is the EVO37? In essence, it is a fully modernized 037 that maintains the ethos of the original car but is produced to a much higher standard. It is made the same way the original 037 was: a Beta Montecarlo center section receives new front and rear subframes with bespoke, motorsport grade suspension, brakes, wheels, and tires. The engine is a modernized version of the Lampredi twin-cam engine displacing 2150cc, with significant participation by some of the original engineers and technicians who built the original 037s, effectively picking up where they left off in the 1980s. Kimera began with a 037 Group B engine, disassembled and 3D scanned it, and then recast the block and head and remanufactured the other internals, all in modern high-strength materials. Engine management is a modern fully electronic system and like the original 037, it uses a Volumex supercharger but adds the turbocharging of the Delta S4 on top of this. The supercharger electronically de-clutches at high RPM as it loses efficiency, eliminating the drag it generates just as the turbocharger takes over. Power is transmitted to the rear wheels only, via a 6-speed transaxle made by Dana-Graziano, and is the same unit that was used in the Audi R8 and Lamborghini Gallardo. It is available as a traditional manual or with sequential actuation. Suspension is via Ohlins coil-overs, brakes are by Brembo, and each mechanical system was comprehensively re-engineered to take advantage of the significant technical progress of the last 40 years.

Perhaps one of the most striking differences between the EVO37 and the original is how nicely finished it is. The original 037, even the homologated road car version or stradale, was a fairly crude device built with a nearly single-minded focus on racing. The Kimera, on the other hand, is a piece of art, with virtually endless configurability in terms of finishes, not just of the wheels, paint, and upholstery, but even the chassis and suspension elements. The car has a standard of detailing and finish that will captivate the most jaded car enthusiast for hours before so much as starting the engine. 

Like nearly every compelling Italian car, the engine of the EVO37 dominates the experience, and even among the rarefied company of sensational Italian engines, this one stands out. It sounds like nothing else thanks to its combination of supercharger and turbocharger. The former produces an unearthly noise, something a bit like, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, mooing at low RPM, while the quintessential turbocharger noises are also extremely prominent, particularly when dipping in and out of the throttle. The noise is complex, always present, and always changing. Even for the most experienced car person, it is intoxicating to play with the powertrain just to hear the sounds that it makes. And it doesn’t matter how many RPMs; it always sounds fantastic and like nothing else.

The engine’s primary purpose, however, is not to make noise, but to make power, and it does this with explosive overachievement. The engine has numerous maps but produces something on the order of 500hp, about like the Delta S4 race cars, but does so on pump gas with a level of tractability and refinement that makes the car viable as an —admittedly very thrilling—road car. This is more power than a Ferrari F40, and at 1090 kgs, the EVO37 weighs 180 or 200 kgs less and 280 kgs less than a modern Porsche GT3 which has about the same power. The resulting performance is well…batshit. A big part of this is the supercharger which gives torque down low and thus incredible responsiveness, which coupled with the low weight of the car, makes it accelerate with nearly incomprehensible force. Then the turbocharger joins the party and things get even more insane.

The remainder of the EVO37’s dynamics are equally wild, yet also well thought out. It has a lively, responsive, and highly adjustable chassis that makes the car feel positively alive. It’s more than a little bit knife-edge, having obviously been developed by and for someone who drives at a very high level and wants a sophisticated if mildly terrifying device to deliver on every request the driver makes, however perverse that request may be. The brake and tire combination are thoroughly modern, delivering cornering and braking forces to rival today’s benchmark performance cars. In spite of the EVO37’s vaguely unhinged personality, it is beautifully resolved, giving incredible control and security to the driver talented enough to extract it. The entire car delivers a purity of experience that comes only from cars that have been developed by a small team of dedicated and highly competent driving enthusiasts. The fingerprints of the Kimera team are all over this car; it is a rolling representation of the personalities, values, and philosophies of the people who created it, and you can tell that they like a good time. Let’s just say they’re not the sort to go home at 9PM after a single glass of white wine.

The most magical part of the EVO37 is how successfully it exists as both an old car and a new car at the same time. Every part of interacting with it gives the soul, fizziness, and thrill of an old car, yet it is so thoughtfully engineered using the best of modern technology that its competence and sensation of mechanical ability blows away the fragile tentativeness that tends to come with driving old cars hard, especially Italian ones.

The EVO37 isn’t for everyone. In fact, it’s not for most people. It’s too focused, too brutal, too wild, not to mention too expensive for the average driver. That’s just as well since Kimera are only making 37 of them, but for the right enthusiast for whom their F40 isn’t quite exciting enough, the EVO37 is an intoxicating and totally incomparable hair-on-fire thrill ride that’s also set your heart afire gorgeous.

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