The desire to win often leads to the creation of ways, even more of ingenuity than of mere cunning, to loosen the boundaries, to break the contours, to create a precedent and tear up the general structure of a stringent rule. So it was thought in Lancia in the seventies, this was the reasoning after the Fulvia adventure before launching the next model in the firmament of rallies, and in a few cases on everyday roads. That is the Lancia Stratos, WRC world champion from 1974 to 1976, extraordinary car capable of expressing itself even in sport and endurance configurations.
The ideal starting point for the Stratos adventure is the Zero shown at the Turin Motor Show 1970. Designed by Marcello Gandini, at the head of the Bertone style, he carried the 1.6-liter V4 of the Lancia Fulvia in his womb. The Stratos Zero was a futuristic model as much then as it is today, and is considered something of a four-wheeled work of art due to its stunning aesthetic beauty. Very short and low, it was the inspiration and peak of an automotive design style that continued throughout the decade.
The real Lancia Stratos, with less extreme shapes and sizes, it appeared 12 months later again at the Turin Motor Show. In November 1971, in the Press, the prototype was defined as follows: “Aggressive, corsalolo, unusual. Bertone and the Lancia Squadra Corse have created a berlinetta based on rallies, therefore agile and compact. Among the most important features, the possibility of sliding the passenger seat, like a roller shutter, until a comfortable rest position is obtained; in the sides of the two doors there is a pocket large enough to accommodate the pilot’s helmets; the suspensions are adjustable, with an excursion of 15 cm between the highest and lowest point; the tails are removable, in order to use tires of different sizes; the front and rear hoods open to reveal the mechanics of the car“.
A few days earlier, on October 30, the Turin newspaper wrote: “The Stratos HF takes the name of the prototype presented in Turin in 1970 with Lancia mechanics (Fulvia HF engine placed in a central position). Now, however, we no longer have an advanced stylistic study, but a car with a specific destination: the rallies. Everything has been calibrated, in collaboration with the HF Squadra Corse Lancia, with the specific aim of creating a car capable of imposing itself in this kind of competitions so valid on a technical and advertising level. At the present time it is not known which type of engine will be adopted by the Stratos HF. Experiments will be carried out to identify the most suitable for racing uses, without neglecting the possibility of a more marketable production.“.
Already equipped with the initials HF, the version launched in public after the prototype phase was equipped with a Dino Ferrari V6 2.4 liter 190 horsepower engine. The agreement with Enzo Ferrari came after some doubts on the part of the Commendatore, who considered the Stratos a competitor; but in the end he was convinced to deliver the 500 engines needed to make the car eligible to race in the World Rally Championship as Group 4. The Stratos was therefore the exceptional result of the collaboration between sublime minds and armed arms of great stature: Marcello Gandini, Enzo Ferrari, Gianni Tonti, Cesare Fiorio, Mike Parkes, Claudio Maglioli, Carlo Facetti, Gianni Gariboldi, Giampaolo Dallara, Sergio Camuffo, Francesco De Virgilio, Francesco Faleo, Nicola Materazzi and obviously the drivers Sergio Barbasio, Amilcare Ballestrieri and Sandro Munari, who gave great impetus to development at the helm. The car was so good that it won races until 1981 (Tour de Corse), eight years after its homologation: rarely has a racing car had such a long winning life, considering that in the automotive field innovation is always driven by sudden acceleration.
The Stratos were produced in Chivasso, including the road versions which were called Lancia Stratos HF Stradale – also shown at the 1974 Geneva Motor Show. The differences between the two types of cars were few, albeit significant considering the different type of use. Both shone for their handling and lightness, but the rally version had an extra gear: this is taken for granted by the various testimonies of the rally drivers of the time. In the car for the world rally the rear suspension used the MacPherson scheme with anti-roll bar, while the front one used a double wishbone system with coil springs, telescopic hydraulic shock absorbers and anti-roll bar. The wheelbase was limited to just 2180 mm and the front and rear tracks were respectively 1430 and 1460 mm. The ratio of wheelbase and track size and a very precise and direct rack and pinion steering made the car very manageable. In the Stradale the silentblocks were placed, with identical rims on the four wheels while for the Rally there were different sizes between front and rear tires.
Coldly reading the data, the Stratos HF Stradale is a two-door coupe with mid-rear transverse engine and rear-wheel drive. The 3710 × 1750 × 1100 measures and the absence of any comfort that was not useful for the sporting commitment guaranteed an empty mass of 980 kilos, with a tank that could contain 85 liters. It emptied quickly: to cover 100 kilometers, the most economical burned 10 liters. The Ferrari school engine, as mentioned, is a 65 ° V-shaped 6-cylinder, monobloc in cast iron, light alloy heads, water-cooled. Distribution is via chain-controlled double overhead camshaft per bank, 2 valves per cylinder inclined to each other by 46 °, while three Weber 40 IDF double-barrel inverted carburettors come into play for fueling. The car, with electronic ignition, was equipped with a 12V electrical system, with a 45 Ah battery, plus an 830 watt alternator. The front and rear brakes are disc, but only the latter are self-ventilating ATE-Girling. Today a Stratos HF Stradale with these factory characteristics it can be worth around half a million euros.
(Foto: Wheelsage, RM Sotheby’s, Wikimedia CC)
Other episodes of Rally Design: Alpine A110 | Lancia Fulvia 1.6 Coupé HF