The introduction of the Lancia Stratos represented a new high point in Lancia’s already illustrious competition history and showed the world a new concept in rally car design, winning three World Rally Championships between 1974 and 1976. The story of Stratos goes back to the 1970 Turin motor show where Bertone, the Italian coachbuilder, exhibited a futuristic wedge-shaped concept car with a mid-engined Fulvia 1600 HF called the Stratos – after an employee suggested this new car looked as though it had arrived from the Stratosphere.

At the time, Lancia was looking for a replacement for their existing rally-winning Fulvia HF and decided to adopt the Bertone design. In 1971 a modified Stratos HF was exhibited in Turin, this time incorporating the Ferrari Dino engine and transmission. This was to be the basis of their future Rally Championship car. However, prior to being homologated for the Group 4 Special GT cars category, Lancia was required to build 500 examples. The shape and concept was so revolutionary that doubts were cast as to whether the public would purchase such a vehicle. Although 500 monocoque chassis were completed by October 1974, it was not until several years later that they were actually sold. In the meantime, development work had begun on the Stratos under the guidance of Gianpaulo Dallara, an expert on transverse mid-engined sports cars, following his involvement with Lamborghini. Mike Parkes, ex-Ferrari Formula I driver, subsequently inherited this responsibility and by 1973 a Stratos HF with Marlboro sponsorship was entered for non-homologated events. Very soon after, Lancia showed its superiority with an outright win on the Tour de France. In early 1974 two Stratos HF’s were entered in the Targa Florio in which they totally dominated.

Immediately following homologation on October 1st, 1974 the Lancia Stratos began their total domination of the World Rally Championship, winning convincingly in 1974, 1975 and 1976. Privateers soon saw the potential of the Stratos both in rallying and hill climbing as Stratos Rally cars captured three European Hill Climb Championships. The most successful drivers were Bernard Darniche with 33 wins and Sandro Munari with 13, and to provide a fitting swan song, Darniche won the 1979 Monte Carlo Rally which gave the Stratos its fourth overall win in that event.

In 1997 the Lancia shown here was said to have had a mechanical rebuild that included an overhaul of the chassis, suspension, brakes, engine, gearbox, clutch, tires and exhaust system. The car is fitted with a Group IV competition gearbox for added control of the 240bhp engine. Interestingly, this very special rally car still retains its original orange paintwork. The Lancia is reported to be in good driving and mechanical condition.

The Stratos was one of the most exciting cars of the 1970s and besides being the most successful competition car, it was also an outstanding example of technical experimentation.

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Detailing

Vehicle:1972 Lancia Stratos

The car shown here sold for $43,700 at Christie’s Torrey Pines auction on October 17, 1998. The Stratos made use of the 246 Dino drivetrain, fiberglass bodywork and a square-tube chassis. They were intriguing when first publicized in the early ’70s.

The cars were very fast, sturdy and-believe it or not-reliable. The sight of the Stratos in either Marlboro or Alitalia livery devastating the opposition filled the pages of many car magazines during that period. Aside from its strong performance potential, the Stratos carried fiberglass bodywork that was one of Bertone’s most attractive ’70s efforts. As wild and exotic as the LP400 Countach, the Stratos was roomy for its diminutive exterior dimensions, though extremely short on creature comforts, even in full street trim.

The educated Stratos buyer needs to know first that there were street cars and there were rally cars. Some street cars started life as rally cars and a street car could be converted to rally specifications. Still, a genuine Stratos (one not built from spares or after official production had ended) in nice condition is worth $75,000.

However, this car, which was unsold at the Brooks Quail Lodge auction at $50,000, is not in nice condition. There were questions about its EPA and DOT status, and its disheveled appearance did little to inspire confidence. Even at this wholesale price, the buyer should be commended for his bravery. – Michael Duffey

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