Is Lancia Stratos the greatest rally weapon of all time?
Sometimes, being different is good. You just need a bit of luck and skills to become successful and stand out from the crowd. That's exactly what Bertone design house realized when they made an amazing car for Lancia.
Lancia Stratos Zero Concept. Credit: Hemmings.com
They thought that they created a worthy rival to Pininfarina's designs. But, what they didn't know was that they created a future legend-the Stratos. The car that Bertone made was called Stratos Zero concept, and when it drove through Lancia's gates, the bosses and workers were mesmerized. They were planning to replace the Fulvia, and they needed a striking design for its successor. Zero concept was designed by Marcello Gandini, the same man who gave us the Lamborghini Miura.
Marcello Gandini and his 3 greatest hits: Stratos, Countach and Miura. Credit: RoueWatch.com
Astounded by Bertone's effort, Lancia started working on what would be known as the Stratos HF Prototype (pictured below). The engine, mounted in the middle, was changed few times before it was presented at the 1971 Turin Motor Show. Finally, a deal was made with Ferrari who supplied Lancia with 2.4-litre V6 engine from the Dino, producing 188hp. The car was spectacular! However, Lancia was aware that it needed to be tested further.
Some cars were born to be fast. Stratos was born to win.
Stratos was designed for rallying-it simply was. And, the prototype took full advantage of that benefit during few events in 1972 and 1973. But, to enter the 1974 WRC, Lancia needed to make 500 road-legal versions of it. So, the Stratos HF Stradale came to life, with a weight of just over 900kg, and 0-100 km/h time of 6.8 seconds. The final Stradale version was built in 1975, but Stratos kept competing in WRC for the next 3 years. Thanks to its agile chassis, good visibility and impressive power-to-weight ratio (190hp/tonne), it won the WRC in 1974, 1975 and 1976. Even the notorious Monte Carlo Rally was dominated by this Italian masterpiece in 1975, 1976 and 1977.
However, due to internal policy of Fiat group, Abarth was due to enter WRC, meaning that Lancia needed to step down. In 1978, Stratos retired from rallying, but it continued its career with private owners who kept proving its dominance.
In 2010, we saw what a modern-day Stratos would look like. At first, we thought it would remain a one-off. But, we were proved wrong when Manifattura Automobili Torino announced they will make a limited production run of the, so called, New Stratos. Its heart is a Ferrari V8 which produces 533hp, and it will go 0-100 km/h in 3.2 seconds. Even though its top speed is 270 km/h (168 mph), the people working on it said that it's not made to be the best in top speed, but in handling behavior.
Sometimes, reviving an iconic car can end up badly. That's not the case here, though. Judging by the looks and specifications, the New Stratos might be one of the best resurrections of an icon.