Lancia Stratos, half a century as queen of rallies

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The history of the Lancia Stratos is hand-in-hand with that of rallies and would never have been written without the will of a few men who made possible an unprecedented collaboration between Lancia and Ferrari. Among these, the one who deserves most of the credit is undoubtedly Cesare Fiorio, then head of the Lancia Racing Department and promoter of the success of the Fulvia HF “An important part of my life is linked to this car, from the great battles to bring I bring a project opposed by many, to the satisfaction of the trust placed in me by Enzo Ferrari who allowed for the first time to supply his engines outside Maranello, to the emotion of seeing what we had conceived and desired take shape, up to the successes unrepeatable sports conquered” are Fiorio’s words about the Stratos.

The first appearance of the Lancia sports car was at the Turin Motor Show in 1970: the car was a prototype and was called Strato’s Zero. It is 84 centimeters high and can be accessed by opening the windscreen and climbing inside, climbing over the articulated steering column. Centrally located at the rear is a Fulvia V4 engine salvaged from a wrecker. It was designed by a young Marcello Gandini who in the following years would sign, among others, a dozen Lamborghinis, five Maseratis, two Alfa Romeos, a Ferrari and a Bugatti, but also more popular models such as the Fiat X1/9 or the Renault 5 Turbo. A year later, again in Turin, the Stratos HF concept car made its debut, powered by the V6 engine of the Dino Ferrari, which however – the press release specifies – will not be used.

Neil Gardner ©2014 Courtesy of RM Auctions

But things change and in 1972 Enzo Ferrari agrees to supply 500 engines. The first race victories of the Stratos arrive in 1973 and the standard one is ready in 1974. As a result, homologation in Group 4 also arrives and the little Lancia starts to fly. His palmares counts three consecutive victories in the Monte Carlo Rally, three titles in the Constructors’ World Championship (1974, 1975 and 1976) and as many in the European Drivers’ Championship, in addition to Sandro Munari’s victory in the 1977 FIA Rally Drivers’ World Cup. In 1978 it was replaced in the official team by the Fiat 131 Abarth for marketing reasons, but it was so competitive that it continued to win until 1982 with private teams. Today it’s worth even more than a million euros and to think that in 1973 Lancia had to force dealers to buy at least one and it cost 10,725,000 lire, like six Fiat X1/9s to be clear.

Constantin Fischer ©2012 Courtesy of RM Auctions

Looking at it today, it amazes with its compactness: the wheelbase of 2.18 meters over a length of 3.7 meters makes it agile and nervous. Self-supporting body, suspension with deformable double wishbones in front and McPherson in the back and four ventilated disc brakes. The centerpiece is the Dino Ferrari V6, first with two valves per cylinder and then with four, fed by three inverted twin-choke Weber 48 DCF carburettors: in the racing version it delivers 280 HP at 8,000 rpm and 37 kgm at 5,300 rpm. The gearbox is five-speed from Lancia, the rear limited slip differential is ZF and the Campagnolo alloy wheels are shod with 205/50-15 tires up front and 295/35-15 at the back. The total mass is 980 kg. The cockpit of the Stratos is very compact, obviously with two dry seats, but has the peculiarity of being able to accommodate the helmets of the pilot and co-pilot in the doors.

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