The Lancia Stratos is unquestionably the most extraordinary rally car ever produced. It is also one of the most successful, having won the World Rally Championship three times (and probably would have continued if allowed to do so).
The first prototype Stratos was a project designed by Marcello Gandini for Bertone and exhibited at Turin in 1970. It was essentially an exercise in extreme style and very impressive, with the overall height at just 37.4 inches. This strange, wedge-shaped prototype attracted the attention of Cesare Fiorio, the legendary boss of the competition department of Lancia, who needed to replace the carmaker’s aging and outdated Fulvia coupe. Gandini reinvented the design into a relatively more usable car, slightly taller, but still very radical compared with production cars of the period. The lack of overhangs, the long flat hood, the compact silhouette and the huge wraparound windshield all combined to a shape like nothing else known until then.
Lucky for Lancia, Ferrari had recently become a part of the Fiat Group, so the mechanicals of the Stratos came from the Prancing Horse brand. The 2.4-liter V6 engine from the Dino became the natural choice, as it was a well-tested, compact and powerful unit, which had already proven itself in the Dino 246 GT and also in the Fiat Dino coupes and convertibles.
The car still needed to be developed, and for that another talented engineer — Gianpaolo Dallara — was involved. After a few pre-production cars in 1973, the Stratos was made in sufficient numbers in 1974 to allow homologation into Group 4. The total production was eventually about 495 cars. Of these, Lancia used 10 to make official factory Group 4 cars, the others being sold as “stradales” or street cars, some of which were prepared by private rallyists for rallying, following the approved Group 4 regulations.
Unlike many rally cars, the Stratos was not derived from a regular production car, but was a clean-sheet design specifically for competition purposes. Its radical design gave it diabolical handling, and combined with a very flexible and powerful engine, the Stratos remained a very competitive car for years after, intimidating all competition.
Manufactured by Bertone on October 31, 1974, and bearing chassis number 391, the Lancia Stratos on offer here went to Lancia Spa. Painted a Blue Azzuro, the car was prepared in a workshop to compete in the Italian rally championship. Thanks to the research of Thomas Popper, we know that between 1978 and 1980, this particular car participated in at least 10 rallies. It is obviously eligible for many historic events in which the spectators are bound to greet the car with all the fervor for a real legend of the motorsport.