A big success by any standard both in and out of competition, the Lancia Stratos was developed as a homologation Special for European rallying. After production ceased it became a cult car and is now highly priced as the ‘modern classis' it is. Conceived strictly for rallying, the Lancia Stratos however makes an exciting road car, though it is very far from GT standards in both luxury and refinement.
The concept vehicle responsible for providing the inspiration for the Lancia Stratos Rally car is the Lancia (Bertone) Stratos. The Stratos featured a 1584 cc V4 DOHC with 115 bhp horsepower at 200 rpm. Designed by Marcello Gandini, the same designer responsible for the Lamborghini Countach and Lamborghini Miura, the Stratos concept was a development of the Bertone designed Alfa Romeo Carabo concept from 1968. The Carabo concept was also a Gandini creation.
First revealed at the Turin Motor Show in October of 1970, the Lancia Stratos HF prototype was a styling exercise for Bertone. A futuristic design, the Stratos featured a wedge shaped profile that stood just 33 inches from the ground. Since the vehicle was so low, conventional doors could not be used and instead one accessed the interior of the Stratos by a hinged windscreen. Drivers had to flip up the windscreen and walk into the vehicle. Once inside, visibility was quite restricted since the front windscreen was narrow. The cockpit of the Lancia Stratos was designed specifically for fast forest flying.
The body design was predictably minimal to hold down weight and bulk with its most distinctive features being semi-concealed A-pillars and a door beltline that sharply upswept to the top of the daylight opening. The shape of the resulting unbroken expanse of glass gave the tunnelback roof the appearance of a futuristic crash helmet.
The main body structure was steel, like the chassis, and weight-saving fiberglass was used for tilt-up nose and tail sections. A small box above and behind the powertrain was where cargo space was held. Bins were also molded into the interior door panels for storing helmets.
The same engine utilized on the Lancia 1600 HF Fulvia was used on the Bertone designed Lancia Stratos Zero prototype. A triangular shaped panel hinged upwards to allow access to the mid-mounted engine. Developed for rallying purposes, the legendary Lancia Stratos was unveiled in 1974. The production vehicle Stratos was powered by a 2.4 liter mid-mounted V6 from the Ferrari Dino.
Like no other Lancia before or after, the Lancia Stratos was a shock that left enthusiasts and rally fans breathless. For almost a decade the Stratos streaked across the rally landscape much like a brilliant comet, while discarding past principles, it also fearlessly represented something undeniably new. A phenomenal rally car, the Lancia Stratos set an example to every other car manufacturer in the world. The first viable purpose-built rally car ever built, the Stratos was probably the last purpose-built rally car.
Created by the Bertone coachbuilding company, the Stratos was both radical, yet fully functional. Fiorio realized that for Lancia to continue to compete in the World Rally Championship, the Fulvia HF would need a much more powerful replacement. A the time, four-wheel drive was not an option, so a mid-engined configuration seemed ideal. To reinforce Fiori's convictions, the Bertone show car was featured soon after with a mid-engine Fulvia V4.
The introduction of the Ford mid-engine purpose-built GT70 rally car at the 1971Brussels Motor Show was what truly inspired the impetus behind the Stratos proect. It was after this appearance that Lancia's general manager, Pierugo Gobbato contacted Nuccio Bertone. Though the GT70 was actually never put in production by Ford, it was this that sparked the inspiration of the Lancia Stratos.
As always, there was a minimum production requirement, 500 units for the Lancia Stratos. This was an awkward figure that would necessitate funds for at least semi-permanent tooling as well as design and development. This was a job well suited to the Italian industry. Fiorio masterminded the project, and he envisioned a short, wide coupe with transverse midships drivetrain. Bertone was immediately contracted to style the vehicle and built its unit body/chassis structure.
43 months passed in between the time of conception to the actual birth of the Lancia Stratos. The vehicle was developed to take over and make Lancia the outright world rally champ. The Stratos was both short and wide, with a wheelbase of only 7 feet 1.8 inches, the width of the vehicle was only 5 feet 8.9 inches. Weighing only 1958 lbs, the Stratos was only 3 feet 7.9 inches high. Able to easily exceed 140 mph, the Stratos featured 190 horsepower in roadgoing trim.
Having studied every possible powerteam in the Fiat/Lancia group, Fiorio secured 2.4 liter V-6s and 5-speed transaxles from Ferrari, which was an ideal chouse as they'd be installed exactly as the Dino 246. All-independent suspension, rack-and-pinion steering and four-wheel disc brakes were all specifically designed for the Lancia Stratos.
After 1978 the Stratos was officially retired and no longer was officially entered by the Lancia factory, the vehicle was still going strong. The Lancia team was headed by by Sandro Munari who won its first event as a homologated entry in October of 1974. Mun ari entered alone 40 events with the Lancia Stratos and won 14. The Stratos also won the World Rally Championship in 1974, 1975, and 1976 and remained competitive for another four years. The final major win came in 1979 when a Lancia Stratos entered by the Monaco importer won the famed Monte Carlo Rally. Finally the factory retired the Stratos.By Jessica Donaldson