The Lancia Stratos represents a high point in Lancia sporting history and showed the world a new definition of the ultimate rally car. Yet its birth was merely a matter of coincidence. At the 1970 Turin motor show, Bertone displayed a futuristic design study, a fabulous creation of Marcello Gandini. The Italian coachbuilder had built both the body, with its extreme wedge style and single front door, and the chassis. The mechanical parts originated from the Lancia Fulvia and were mounted in central configuration. In this form, the car, which had taken the name Stratos after someone suggested that it looked like it came from the stratosphere, was beautiful but rather impractical.

Lancia decided to order a more practical version of the car and Cesare Fiorio, racing manager of the marque, made it clear that this new model had to be planned as a competition vehicle. Bertone introduced the resulting prototype at the Turin motor show of 1971.

Lancia experimented with both the 2-liter Fiat 132 engine and the 2.4-liter Dino V6 engine developed by Ferrari, but only the latter was ever produced. The first big success for the Stratos came in September 1973 when Munari won the Tour de France. Not only was the speed of the Stratos proven but so was the reliability.

Lancia then began production of the 500 cars scheduled to obtain homologation in Group 4, which was achieved in October 1974. There has always been a debate about the real number of cars produced; 350 seems a more likely figure. Since its debut, Lancia’s formidable weapon has scored no fewer than eighty-two international wins, fourteen of them in world championship events. This particular Stratos was originally sold in Rome in 1976 and was imported into Switzerland in 1986. It is one of the few examples preserved in its original road version, including the spoilers, many of which were subjected to modifications for use in competitive events. The original fiberglass body shell is in very good order. The interior has excellent dashboard, instruments, retrimmed seats and new black carpets.

SCM Analysis

Detailing

Vehicle:1976 Lancia Stratos
Years Produced:1974-1976
SCM Valuation:$45,000-$65,000
Tune Up Cost:$2,500
Distributor Caps:$500
Chassis Number Location:Stamped in front bay near crossmember, also on plate near windshield
Engine Number Location:Top of block
Club Info:American Lancia Club, 496 El Dorado Dr., Daly City, CA 94015-2125; 415/992-1486
Alternatives:Porsche 911 rally car, Renault Alpine Group IV

The car described here was a no-sale at a reported high bid of $43,000 at the Christie’s Auction held May 22, 1997 in Geneva, Switzerland. The real quantity of cars and the dates of manufacture of the production run will probably be a puzzle that will never be solved. Still whether the run was 200, 300 or 500 cars (this always happens when you put the words “Italy” and “homologation” in the same sentence), the Stratos is a rare and desirable machine with styling that will still look fresh for many years to come.

There are more road cars than former rally cars extant, a good thing for most of us because, if the alignment is set properly, the Stratos is a fantastic road car. However, when the suspension is set to race/rally specs, the words “twitchy” and “oversteer” become a prominent part of your vocabulary. Further, the former “real” rally cars tend to have been hammered to within an inch of their lives, with numerous crashes, rolls, engine swaps etc. Yes, the Stratos is noisy and exciting, but somehow, anyone attracted to the Stratos probably expects the car to be what it is, a thinly disguised competition chassis with a useable powerplant. Not many of these cars come on the market and it isn’t usually a problem to find a buyer, provided it is a good example and not overpriced.

This looked like a good $50,000 car but the right bidder wasn’t in the audience. For decent street cars, $50,000-65,000 seems to be the range they fall into, depending on condition. The owner was wise to pass on this bid. – Michael Duffey

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