The Lancia Stratos, an Italian sports car, was built especially to win motor rallies. It certainly wasn’t a practical car for everyday use – but it certainly could win rallies. It took the International Championship three times before changing parent-company policies sidelined it.
Stratos was a very Italian car with many characteristics common to a number of other Italians: its electrics were unreliable, it was difficult to see out of, and its production figures were grossly exaggerated for homologation purposes.
At the 1970 Turin Motor Show Bertone displayed a small concept car. When it was observed by the Lancia competition manager, Fiorio, it gave him an idea for a special car to maintain the Fiat group’s rallying position. He believed with Fiat backing he could create such a car. A year later the Stratos emerged. It was, however, a very different car from the Turin concept show car.
In place of the Fulvia V4 engine there was now a Ferrari Dino 246 V6, rated at 142kW at 7000rpm, mounted ahead of the rear wheels in a machine that was in the mainstream of competition car design. A Ferrari drive train was used with its five-speed gearbox and transaxle mounted on a very strong chassis. Tubular sub frames front and rear carried the all round wishbone and coil spring suspension. In later models the rear suspension was changed to a strut type. Glass fibre featured strongly in the body design.
In competition models of the car various versions of the engine were used. These included a two-valve type rated at 201kW, a four-valve version producing 213kW and also a 24-valve derivative pushing out 250kW. The target output for a turbocharged version was 298kW.
The first victory enjoyed by the Stratos was in the 1973 Rally of Spain in the car’s fourth rally attempt. Following this a run of outright victories followed right up until 1978 at which time Fiorio’s team switched to the Fiat 131 Abarth. This wasn’t the end of the rallying career of the Lancia Stratos, however, as there were still many entered by private teams. One of these won the Monte Carlo in 1979 and others were well placed in major rallies throughout the 1970s. In many ways this amazing little car was without equal.