Published on July 15th, 2015 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
Lancia Stratos, Why Won’t They Bring Back This Winner?
Few cars capture the imagination like the Lancia Stratos. A one-hit-wonder, the Stratos is famous for both its wild Bertone-designed exterior and also for being the very first rally car built from scratch to compete, rather than being a converted road car.
Not to say that all Stratos competed, at least 400 were built as road-going homologation versions, running a slightly detuned Ferrari “Dino” V6. These Stradale (“road”) versions were only a few tweaks away from their wilder competition cousins, who dominated World Rally Championship racing from 1974-1976.
Regardless of their success, the exciting combination of the short wheelbase, mid-mounted high-performance V6, and the distinctive fiberglass bodywork would have ensured the Stratos a place in the imagination of car enthusiasts. Best of all, the Stratos directly inspired the Group B racers of the next era of rally, which became some of the most exciting and hair-raising cars ever to rally. Nonetheless, the sweet-handling and very quick Stratos is as fun to drive as it is to look at, even decades later.
Built from scratch to contest World Rally, the Stratos was the first of its kind. It practically changed the sport, and started a new era in rally when manufacturers created thinly disguised race cars to homologate as production cars.
Roughly based on a dramatic concept car released by Bertone at the 1971 Turin Motor Show, the production version was seen a year later and had everyone looking twice. Aside from its short, wide and wedge-shaped body by Bertone, the Stratos had all the hallmarks of a winning race car.
Every Stratos used a mid-mounted 2419cc Ferrari Dino V6, but in varying states of tune. For instance, 280bhp turbocharged versions were permitted to race in the Group 5 class, while the 400 road cars used a standard spec 190bhp engine.
In 1973, the Stratos was produced in sufficient numbers to homologate it in Group 4 and it won the 1974, 1975 and 1976 championships in the capable hands of Sandro Munari.