That windshield does tilt up, and once inside, a turn of the key starts the engine, and you can drive off across town. It’s the future come to vivid life
Chassis number: C1160
With the Stratos Zero, Bertone transcended the limits of automotive styling and chiseled a shape that appeared as though it were made of a solid block of metal, evoking speed and the sensation of travel. More remarkable still was the fact that the Zero was not only a design statement— but also a fully functioning prototype.
Everything about the Stratos looked futuristic. The full-width row of ultrathin headlights made for a dramatic front view, echoed at the rear by the minimalist— but highly effective—combination of mesh grille, ribbon taillights, fat tires and dual exhaust offset to the side of the protruding gearbox case.
The front headlight strip was backlit by ten 55W bulbs at the front, the rear strip by no less than 84 tiny bulbs spread all around the perimeter of the truncated tail. As for turn signals, the same lights simply lit up in succession from the center to the edges! The Zero was assembled by sourcing from existing Lancia parts. The diminutive yet spritely 1.6-litre Lancia V4 engine of the Fulvia HF was chosen for its minimal size as part of a quest for a sleek profile. The double-wishbone with transverse leaf spring arrangement at the rear was simply the Fulvia’s front axle. At the front, the wheel fairings which dominated the narrow cabin were just wide enough to accommodate short McPherson struts. Disc brakes were fitted on all four wheels. A 12-gallon fuel tank found space in the right side of the engine bay, and twin fans assisted radiator cooling. The spectacular triangular engine cover incorporated slats shaped to direct air towards the radiator, which was set all the way to the rear.
The cabin was so far up front, that access was by way of a flip-up windscreen. A sourced hydraulic linkage was devised so that, as the steering column was pushed forward to enable access to the driver’s seat, the windscreen would lift. The black rectangle at the bottom of the windscreen is in fact a small rubber mat intended to make climbing in easier by first stepping onto the bodywork.
The Lancia badge at the center of the mat cleverly concealed a pivoting handle that popped the windscreen open. Despite being a very abstract vision of the automobile, Italian magazine Quattroruote actually took it on the road back in 1971, driving from Milan’s beltway to the historic town center, where it caused, as one could only imagine, quite a sensation.
Nuccio Bertone had personally already driven the car on public roads when he went to meet Lancia’s top brass a few months earlier to discuss a more realistic sports car project which eventually became the Stratos. The Stratos Zero was subjected to a full restoration in 2000, conducted entirely in-house at Stile Bertone in Caprie. In the process, it regained its original bronze livery, which had made way for a more traditional silver soon after its initial presentation. It is now presented in its full glory, just as it was on October 28, 1970—the day it was launched upon unsuspecting show-goers.