Lancia Stratos - The First Ever Purpose-Built Rally Car

The original Stratos HF rally version. 8 photos
Photo: Lancia
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The 1970s were a period known predominantly for the wacky disco movement, the 1973 global oil crisis, the Watergate scandal, cars with shag carpeting (not the Austin Powers kind), lava lamps, Star Wars and last but not least, a predilection for rolling wedges when it comes to Italian car design.
Speaking of car design, Italians and wedges, the design house responsible for this rather strange but most definitely eye-catching design current was Gruppo Bertone.

Their top designer in that era was Marcello Gandini (whom you can read more about in our dedicated article), who is also the one who actually introduced the mid-engine wedge supercar look and the inventor of the Lamborghini scissor-style doors.

Continuing with our intro about the 1970s, wedge shapes, Italian supercars and Marcello Gandini, it would probably be pretty unsavory not to mention one of the best four-wheeled examples to feature all these elements in one single package: the Lancia Stratos.

The Chicken or the Egg?

Lancia Stratos
Photo: Lancia
As some of you know, for a car manufacturer to enter an FIA-approved motorsport competition where vehicles are supposed to be based on road-going cars it first needs to pass through homologation. Part of that homologation is to build a minimum and previously specified number of cars upon which the competition version is going to be based.

The Lancia Stratos HF (High Fidelity) didn't exactly adhere to this rule. No siree Bob, this was the first ever car to be specifically built for rallying, while the road-going version only came from a need to respect FIA rules. A necessary evil, if you must, but the right kind of evil.

Gandini spared no UFO element in the design of what was probably the best-looking rally car in history. We're saying "probably" because a few Group B monsters from the 1980s might also be contenders for the "good looks" title.

Even so, the Stratos clearly wins in the "interesting looks" department. Its flying saucer shape was born from a battle of round versus rectilinear design, characteristic of the 1970s and especially Marcello Gandini designs of the era.

Both its "form follows function" design and its spectacular performance completely changed the face of rallying, paving the way for the spectacle offered by the "Killer B's" of the 1980s.

Powered by a Ferrari V6 borrowed from the Dino, both Stradale and rally versions of the Stratos could pack quite a lot of punch, but the competition version was the one who actually stole the spotlight from both performance and number of fans.


New Stratos
Since the original car had captured the hearts of so many car lovers around the world, it was only a matter of time until a well-funded Stratos aficionado would take it upon himself to restore the car to its former glory and revive the legend, in the style of James Glickenhaus' Ferrari P4/5 by Pininfarina.

The first true resurrection was about to happen sometime in 2006/2007 after the Fenomenon NewStratos concept car had almost become a low-series production vehicle. Unfortunately, Christian Hrabalek's dream didn't quite come to fruition.

The dream itself lived on, though, only to become reality at the end of 2010, when a father and son team of Stratos enthusiasts – going by the names of Michael and Maximilian Stoschek – managed over the course of almost two years to bring the 1970s UFO on wheels into the future. This time, it was no longer Bertone who helped spawn this retro creation, but Ferrari's long-time design partner, Pininfarina.

Still, just like the original Stratos, the modern reincarnation is also sporting Ferrari internals, being based almost exclusively on a shortened and tuned version of the 430 Scuderia.

Although the chassis has been shortened by 20 centimeters (8 inches) and there's a lot of carbon fiber and aluminum instead of steel, the coach built car is a little bit heavier and larger than the original Gandini-penned UFO.

Even so, a 540 horsepower screaming Ferrari V8 in a 1247 kg (2749 pounds) body can do wonders when it comes to performance. And when we say wonders we really mean it, since the power to weight ratio is utterly fantastic for a modern, street legal vehicle that's also equipped with all the comfort options one might ask from a thoroughbred sports car.

Although the new Stratos was technically a coach built one-off similar to the Pininfarina Ferrari P4/5, there were rumors and hopes that a small series production version might surface eventually, making at least 40 connoisseurs with thick wallets just a little bit more happy with their choice in supercar shopping.

Unfortunately, despite ex-Ferrari boss Luca Di Montezemolo initially giving his blessing to the project, Il Cavallino Rampante would hear nothing of it. In the end, Ferrari did not consent to construction of the planned limited run by either Pininfarina or any other Ferrari-dependent suppliers.

Thanks to Marchionne's "visionary" way of running FCA, the Lancia brand is now almost flatlining, and an official revival of the Stratos or anything like it has absolutely zero chances of ever happening, which is real shame no matter who you ask.

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About the author: Alex Oagana
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Alex handled his first real steering wheel at the age of five (on a field) and started practicing "Scandinavian Flicks" at 14 (on non-public gravel roads). Following his time at the University of Journalism, he landed his first real job at the local franchise of Top Gear magazine a few years before Mircea (Panait). Not long after, Alex entered the New Media realm with the project.
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