1972 Lancia Stratos H.F.

It’s one of the most successful rally cars ever built, wicked and unforgiving
to drive, a spaceship for the road

Lancia was struggling when Sandro Fiorio, the company’s director of public relations, and his son Cesare, head of Lancia’s rally team, spied the Fulvia-based “Stratos” concept on the Bertone stand at the 1970 Turin Motor Show.

They immediately recognized its potential to revitalize Lancia’s competition reputation and generate some badly needed publicity. The pair convinced Lancia’s managing director, Ugo Gobbato, to commission Bertone to develop a series based on the concept.

Gobbato, recently transferred to Lancia after a stint as head of Ferrari, added the 65-degree, 2,419-cc V6 Dino engine and gearbox, already developed for transverse mid-engine placement. Bertone rushed a refined Stratos to the 1971 Turin Show.

More practical and functional than the canopy-topped, extreme-wedge Stratos concept of 1970, the new Stratos was one of the most futuristic automobiles ever proposed for production. Most rally cars looked like sedans. The Lancia Stratos looked like a spaceship. With its short wheelbase, aggressive wedge profile, huge wraparound windshield and squared-off wheelwell flares, it was a dramatic departure for international rallying.

In 1973, driven by Sandro Munari, the Stratos was victorious in the Tour de France. It captured three European Hillclimb Championships. It swept the World Rally Championship for Makes in 1974, 1975, and 1976.

No one who saw a mud-splattered Stratos flung through a corner by Munari-adorned with assorted aerodynamic aids, enough lights to illuminate a football stadium, and incongruously topped by a spare tire strapped to its roof-can ever forget it.

Lancia eventually built 492 Strati in order to meet FIA GT qualifications and even created a Group V Stratos with an estimated 400 turbocharged horsepower. With a wheelbase four inches shorter than a Ferrari Dino and weighing 200 pounds less, the Lancia Stratos is one of the most exhilarating driving experiences ever created.

This 1972 Lancia Stratos was originally built as a Stradale and was subsequently converted to Rally specs, which included a Group IV competition gearbox. The engine is believed to make 240 horsepower. In the past eight years, the Stratos has had two well-known collector owners who used it for high-speed open-road events.

Its most recent event was the 2005 Texas 1000 where it incurred left rear quarter damage during an off-course excursion. Now carefully repaired, the Stratos’ surprisingly large interior has been upgraded with newer and more comfortable seats and five-point competition belts. The brilliant competition orange paint is its original color.