Rear Wheel Rally Legend

The Stratos was a purebred rally car and was by all accounts an awful road car with brutal performance and zero rear visibility.

4y ago

The Lancia Stratos is one of the most legendary rally cars of all time. It was devised re-invigorate Lancia’s ailing motorsport efforts and was the first rally car to be designed as a competition vehicle from the ground up. The Stratos was a purebred rally car and was by all accounts an awful road car. It had brutal performance, zero rear visibility and a very uncomfortable cabin thanks to its tiny size. Homologation rules dictated that 400 road cars had to be built, but Lancia wanted to go rallying sooner than that could be achieved. When officials turned up at the factory to inspect the 400 cars, they were initially shown 200. Then, they went for lunch and returned to inspect the other 200. These were the same cars that they had inspected before lunch and had been parked in a different place and order.

The Stratos was a tiny car, only weighing around 2000 lbs. The engine chosen to power it was a Ferrari V6 sourced from the Dino. Enzo Ferrari was wary of releasing the engines for Lancia’s use, but the brutality of the Stratos convinced him that the road-going versions would be no competition at all to his luxurious GT cars. Road-going versions had 190 horsepower, while in competition trim they had 275-320. Two closed-circuit racing versions were also built and turbocharged up to 560 terrifying horsepower.

If the Stratos had an Achilles heel, it was transmission failure during competition. In spite of this issue, Sandro Munari and Bjorn Waldegard piloted the Stratos to victory in the 1974, ‘75, and ‘76 WRC seasons. In total the Stratos won 18 WRC rallies, and was the last car to win an event using rear wheel drive. Despite the competition brilliance, dealers found it difficult to shift road-going models due to their scary performance and terrible ergonomics. Under-appreciated in their time, the road cars now sell for upwards of $500,000

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