As 1986 dawned, rallying had finally eclipsed Formula One in both viewing numbers, and also sheer excitement. Group B was the product of designers with an unlimited budget, and very few rules to abide by. It was quite simply the most exciting, dangerous, and brutal era that the sport of rallying has ever, and will ever see.
At the forefront of that insanity was Lancia and their S4. It had all the ingredients for excitement including a tiny 4-cylinder engine pumping out 550hp. The crew sat on top of the fuel tanks, the front and rear of the cockpit were effectively a tube frame holding the suspension, and the engine, while extensive use of kevlar ensured maximum horsepower, was supported by minimum weight. All this insanity came to a head when Henri Toivonen’s Lancia S4 crashed at the 1986 Tour de Corse resulting in the death of both crew. This disaster ultimately banished Group B to the history books but the Lancia S4 would continue to hold a special place in fans’ hearts unlike any other. It has taken a very, very long time, but finally Aoshima has tackled the task of recreating this ‘killer B’ in 1/24 scale for adoring fans.
Aoshima has certainly done their homework on this one; the Lancia is an intricate jungle gym of tubing, and small components, and a full engine. One would usually expect that this would be in the too-hard basket, yet Aoshima has done a simply superb job of casting this kit.
Everything has been molded in white plastic, with clear sprues for the windows, and a chromed set for the light housings and rear rims. Painting is a breeze due to everything being white, and the casting is exceptional with very minimal cleaning required. Also included are the iconic Martini striped decals, with crisp printing, and zero border to really enhance the realism.
This kit starts off with the 4-cylinder Abarth powerplant that was turbocharged and also supercharged. The fitment is superb; the parts are small but very well engineered. For many, an engine is a daunting area, and in the case of the S4, even more so as it is very front and center with it mounted behind the cockpit in full view.
The main parts of the engine prior to assembly. I opted to paint everything, and then surgically cement the components together all at one time to ensure a balanced fitment as the engine block sits on a slanted angle once in the car.
The chassis on the S4 is unlike any modern rally car, a monocoque styled tub for the cockpit while the front and rear is merely tubing that holds suspension and bodywork in place. This is certainly not your average 2-door sports car.
With the large amount of heat being displaced from the engine and drivetrain on the Lancia, I looked around for a way to replicate the head shielding that was used in the real cars. I utilised the foil from a cigarette packet to recreate this over the transmission tunnel.
Once the tub is painted in silver it is time to mate the drivetrain and engine to the chassis. Despite the very clean casting and great fitment I took my time to ensure that the engine mounted well with the rear suspension bracing. Ensuring the top-mounted intercoolers would sit flat was important to the finished look of the kitset. With some careful dry-fitting and testing prior to cementing everything in place, the engine lined up perfectly.
Once the engine was locked in place, the final pieces of the rear suspension were hung on the chassis. These consisted of the twin dampers, main suspension strut, and the disc with twin callipers. Unlike most modern car kitsets, the front and rear suspension is to be added at different times on the Lancia S4.
The Lancia’s monocoque is a very small one, yet this still allows for a nice level of detail to be added. The Group B cars were very prehistoric in approach: square edges, basic components, and the iconic era of bright blue bucket seats. Assembly begins with the rear window that separates the engine bay from the cockpit, and continues with the seats, and finally dashboard.
Throughout the build, it seems that you are forever spraying every single piece in silver, but don’t worry, that is exactly how the 1:1 car was. The interior paneling does break the silver overload up with a matte grey to really show off how small the cockpit was and how claustrophobic it must have been sitting inside the car for 8 hours a day.
The Sparco seats I sprayed with a gloss blue, and then applied a matte finish to give a more realistic feel to them. I used the kit decals rather than a harnessing set as the belts attach to the firewall merely 1mm behind where they sit.
Like a traditional older model kit, the Lancia cockpit tub attaches to a chassis undertray. The cars were equipped with a perfectly smooth underbelly to protect the fragile drivetrain and underneath (mainly fuel tanks) from any damage, and this is replicated perfectly by Aoshima. I did opt to purchase the Aoshima detail set for this which included kevlar decals for the chassis adding that realistic touch to the finished product.
It is also at this stage that the front suspension is built up. Surprisingly the suspension is merely a couple of uprights, front arms, and suspension struts that lock into the front firewall. Very simple, yet very ’80s.
Up to this stage a lot of silver is used throughout the model. Although the silver base is superb, the cockpit turns into a real burst of colors that make the interior feel busy and detailed. Bright blue seats, a dashboard that would light up like a Christmas tree, and a matte black top on the dash finishes the interior perfectly.
From here a simplistic rollcage is added to the kit which looks and feels very inadequate, although through this era you need to remind yourself that this was very accurate. Safety was not a big priority as this would merely add weight to the cars, hence they were well known as death traps.
Despite having a mere 1mm gap between the rear of the seats and the firewall, I decided to add some belt extensions for realism. I used the decals on the seats, and them sliced some thin 2mm wide strips of red electrical tape that went from the rear of the seats to the firewall. It was a little detail, but one I feel was worth adding.
With the cockpit buttoned up, the front mounted cooler was added with two fine stays holding it in place. The chassis was now effectively complete and next up was the wheels.
Wheels and tires
Aoshima has crafted a superb set of rims for the S4, and unlike many other kitset makers they solved a problem that many of us face. The rear Speedline wheels on the Lancia are not a single color, but rather a white face with a beautiful chrome lip. Rather than making a single piece wheel, the white face is a separate piece to the chrome lip. Simply paint the face, and then add the lip. No masking, no tedious painting.
The Lancia body comprises of three pieces, a front clip, main body, and an engine cowling. Aoshima designed the kit with all these pieces separate, so upon completion you can display the mechanicals of the car if you wish to detail them up. If you just wish to keep it hidden then the fitment is perfect and you would assume it is all one solid piece.
The car looks stunning complete with all the bodywork attached, it is almost a shame to add the decals.
The decals included are excellent. The Matini stripes can appear daunting due to the sharp curves of the bodywork, however with some decal solution and patience they conform very nicely. I found these decals to be more ‘rubber-like’ and quite robust, so I wasn’t scared of ripping them like other decals I have come across previously. I laid the stripes on the rear cowling vents first so then I could add the other stripes using the vents as a guide to ensure everything lined up nicely.
The final product exceeded my expectations. Aoshima has really upped their game with the quality of these Group B rally kits. Superb fitment, next to no flash, and excellent proportions make this kit a standout in the cabinet with all the other rally cars.
There is a raft of other Group B kits in the same series, so I will certainly add the Audi to the collection as well. This kit is a must have not only as it is such an iconic machie, but also as it truly was a pleasure to build. It did take a bit more time due to the amount of pieces, although this is not an issue at all. The end product was well worth the additional time.
Overall I have to score this one a 9 out of 10. It is an iconic car from the golden era of rallying superbly recreated in 1/24 scale. The Group B era has long been neglected in terms of kitsets, although Aoshima has really come to the party to satisfy a demand that has been there for a long time. Bravo!