The Lancia Stratos HF (HF = High Fidelity) was developed for the purpose of rallying, and very successful this extraordinary machine proved to be. Lancia had enjoyed great success on the rally circuit during the 1960s, but the Fulvia coupe was starting to struggle and a new contender was required. Happily, the recent takeover of Lancia by Fiat (who also bought a half share in Ferrari) provided the ideal opportunity to create something special.
Bertone had presented a stunning Stratos Zero concept car based on the Fulvia at the 1970 Turin Motor Show, and this provided both a name and starting point for the new rally car that would be styled and built by Bertone. Out went Fulvia foundations and in came the midships drive train from Ferrari’s Dino 246 GT. This was complemented with purpose-built independent suspension, crisp rack-and-pinion steering and disc brakes on all four wheels.
Around this potent mechanical package Bertone wrapped a short, wide coupe body with flared wheel arches, a louvered wedge of a bonnet and aircraft-style cockpit with wraparound glass —surely one of the most striking designs ever from the Grugliasco-based carrozzeria. No more than the 500-odd examples needed to homologate the Stratos HF for racing were built, and those that went for road use immediately acquired cult classic status.
They made no concessions to private buyers, with strictly practical interiors and the edgy handling that made them fearsome rally cars. The Stratos HF duly swept all before it, winning the World Rally Championship in 1974, 1975 and 1976, whilst also securing a notable consecutive three-timer in the prestigious Monte Carlo Rally from 1975. It would continue to win rallies in the hands of privateers into the 1980s, after Fiat pulled the factory plug in favour of its own-name Fiat 131 rally car.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Italy
FIRST MANUFACTURED: 1972 (until 1974)
ENGINE: 2,418 cc V6
PERFORMANCE: Top speed of 143 mph (230 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 6 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW: One avid collector likes the Lancia StratOS so much that he has around a dozen of the original cars —and became professionally involved in the project to create a revival New Stratos that culminated in the debut of a brilliant concept car at the Geneva Motor Show in 2005.