The Stratos is said to be many things. Among them, one of the most successful rally cars ever built, one of the most valuable Lancias in the classic car market, an extraordinary example of parts bin engineering, wicked and demanding to drive and a spaceship for the road. Some or all of that is true, but it does not truly tell the whole story. Conceived by Lancia competition boss Cesare Fiorio as a way to jumpstart the flagging brand as a new World Rally contender, it débuted as a prototype in 1972. It got off to a slow start, as Lancia completed final development, but it all came together in 1973 when the Stratos won its first victory.
Assisting in that development work were two notable figures in the Italian sports car world, Giampaolo Dallara and Mike Parkes. The torque profile of the 2.4-litre Ferrari V-6, mated to the five-speed transaxle and a short chassis, quick steering and a relatively high centre of gravity all combined to allow the Stratos to be nervously active and easily pitched on tight rally stages. In late 1974, the factory reported the completion of 200 cars in a 12 month period and was granted homologation for Group 4; it is widely believed that at this point, no more than 140 or so had been built. It was in that year that the Stratos helped Lancia win what was to be the first of three consecutive World Rally Championships in 1974, 1975 and 1976, after which, it was withdrawn as the Works entry. Nevertheless, the Stratos would go on to win in private hands up through 1979, when it clinched the Monte Carlo Rally.
Carrozzeria Bertone’s futuristic styling by Marcello Gandini of the Stratos was also a triumph of functional design – a dramatic, sharp, wedge shape with sculptured wheel openings. Some believe the windows resemble the shape of a driving helmet. Whilst not as extreme as the Stratos Zero prototype, which inspired the project, the production version certainly did not lack dramatic presence. There are believed to have been 492 Stratos built. Most were the competition, or ‘Rally’ specification cars, whilst the ‘Stradale’, or road version, was built in much smaller quantities.
As a street car, the Stratos is also surprisingly usable. The forward visibility is excellent, so the pilot can place it with great accuracy. There is also a surprising amount of luggage room in the rear and ample elbow room inside, thanks in no small measure to the helmet pockets built into each door. The 190 horsepower generated by the ‘Stradale’ was good enough to achieve a top speed in excess of 140 mph. With a capable and compliant suspension, it can be a good road companion, and the interior ventilation is more than adequate.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in May of 2012 at the Grimaldi Forum, Monaco.
190 bhp, 2,419 cc DOHC V-6 engine, three Weber carburettors, five-speed manual transmission, four-wheel independent suspension with front coil springs, rear MacPherson struts, and four-wheel disc brakes. Wheelbase: 2,180 mm (85.8”)
Source: RM Auctions Photo Credit: Copyright Constantin Fischer