The Lancia Stratos was built as a rally winner first and a road car second. Fiat-owned Lancia took the bold step of designing an all-new car solely to win the World Rally Championship, and with a V6 Ferrari Dino engine on board, the Stratos had success in 1974, ’75, and ’76. Rallying rules demanded that at least 500 cars be built, but Lancia needed only 40 for its rally program; the rest lay unsold in showrooms across Europe for years and were even given away as prizes to high-selling Lancia dealers.
Never a commercial proposition, the Stratos was an amazing mix of elegance, hard-charging performance, and thrill-a-minute handling.
Shorter than a Mk II Escort, and with the wheelbase of a Fiat 850, the stubby Stratos wedge looks almost as wide as it is long. The front and back of the car are fiberglass with a steel center-section. The constant radius windshield is cut from a cylindrical section of thin glass to avoid distortion. Whatever the views on the Stratos’ styling, though, there is no doubting the fact that the glorious metallic soundtrack is wonderful.
Flimsy nose section concealed spare wheel, radiator, and twin thermostatically controlled cooling fans.
Campagnallo alloys sat on Pirelli P7F rubber— F stands for a soft compound to give a gentler loss of adhesion.
Bertone built the bodies, while Lancia added their sometimes-clumsy finishing touches at the Chivasso factory in Turin.
Safety bar was to protect the cabin in case the car rolled.
Rear springing was by Lancia Beta-style struts, with lower wishbones.
A 1970s fad, the matte black plastic rear window slats did little for rearward visibility. The raised rear spoiler did its best to keep the rear wheels stuck to the road like lipstick on a collar.
A DRIVER’S CAR
Driving a Stratos hard isn’t easy. You sit almost in the middle of the car with the pedals offset to the left and the steering wheel to the right. Ferocious acceleration, monumental oversteer, and lots of heat from the engine make the Stratos a real handful.
Truncated cabin was cramped, cheap, nasty, and impossibly hot.
Factory rally versions had a four-valve V6 engine.
The Stratos was a two-thirds fiberglass featherweight, tipping the scales at a whisker over 2,000 lb (908 kg).
The Stratos was hopeless as a day-to-day machine, with a claustrophobic cockpit and woeful rear vision. The width of 67 in (1.72 m) and the narrow cabin meant that the steering wheel was virtually in the middle of the car. Quality control was dire, with huge panel gaps, mischievous wiring, and ventilation that did not work.
Plexiglas side windows are so deeply recessed within the bodywork that they can be fully opened without causing any wind turbulence.
Lifted straight out of the Dino 246, the 190 bhp transverse, mid-mounted V6 has four chain-driven camshafts spinning in alloy heads, which sit just 6 in (15 cm) from your ear. Clutch and throttle are incredibly stiff, which makes smooth driving an art form.
Lancia commissioned Bertone to build a “take-no-prisoners” rally weapon, and the Stratos debuted at the 1971 Turin Show. Despite scooping three World Championships, sales of Stratos road cars were so slow that they were still available new up until 1980.
Molded fiberglass rear cowl lifted up by undoing two clips, giving access to midships-mounted power plant.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Lancia Stratos (1973–80)
BODY STYLE Two-seater mid-engined sports coupe.
CONSTRUCTION Fiberglass and steel unit construction body chassis tub.
ENGINE 2418cc mid-mounted transverse V6.
POWER OUTPUT 190 bhp at 7000 rpm.
TRANSMISSION Five-speed manual in unit with engine and transaxle.
SUSPENSION Independent front and rear with coil springs and wishbones.
BRAKES Four-wheel discs.
MAXIMUM SPEED 143 mph (230 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 6.0 sec
0–100 MPH (0–161 KM/H) 16.7 sec
A.F.C. 18 mpg (6.4 km/l)