Bertone stunned the world at the 1970 Turin Motorshow with their Stratos O
design. Nuccio Bertone initially wanted to call the ultra-compact wedge-shape design Stratoline because of its space-ship-like appearance. Not much on the Stratos concept was conventional, except for the fact that the wheels were round. Fitted low and midships in the chassis was a 1.6 Lancia Fulvia powerplant. The running prototype featured an all new monocoque style chassis, custom built for the Stratos.
In the next few months the concept appeared in magazines all over the world and Lancia talked with Bertone to construct a purpose built rally based on the Stratos design. This car debuted at the 1971 Turin Motorshow and resembled the previous Stratos in name only. Even though Lancia was working on a new competition engine Bertone fitted the Stratos with a Ferrari Dino engine which he had lying about. The extremely compact design looked like the winning recipe for the twisty roads used in rallies.
Nothing much happened in 1972 as Lancia was still waiting for their new competition engine. Late that year Bertone suggested that Lancia should stick with the Ferrari engine and start production of the Stratos. His suggestion received mixed reactions but works racing manager Cesare Fiorio was on his side. Finally production of the 400 cars needed for homologation started. By October 1974 the Stratos was homologated for Group 4 rallying.
Over the next couple of years the Stratos’ dominance was total. It scored 17 world championship victories and over 50 european championship victories. Victory in the legendary rally Monte Carlo rally was taken four out five times between 1975 and 1979. Two were converted to Group 5 road racing specifications with a Turbocharged engine. These silhouette-racers didn’t fare nearly as well as their Group 4 counterparts. At the end of the decade it was replaced by the Fiat 131 Mirafiori.
Few racing cars in history combined form and function as well as the Stratos did.
Like many other coachbuilders, Bertone had to change its business model in the 1960s. The ever increasing popularity of the unitary chassis left little room for custom coachbuilding. In order to survive the "Carrozzeria" had to convert from bodying cars to assembling complete cars for other manufacturers. To showcase the company’s engineering and design skill Nuccio Bertone developed a very special concept car for the 1971 Turin Motorshow. Despite its modest height, the striking lines penned by Marcello Gandini ensured that the Lancia Stratos Zero
was impossible to miss.
The extreme wedge-shaped show car had been developed completely independently from Lancia and in complete secrecy. The Lancia Fulvia used for parts was a used example that Bertone had reportedly bought incognito. His engineers converted the chassis to the desired mid-engine rear wheel drive layout. It was covered by a very low body that amazingly followed a single line all the way from the nose to the tail. The windshield of the fully running machine tilted forward to allow access to the two-seater cockpit. Bertone initially wanted to call the car "Stratoline" for its space ship appearance, but later settled for slightly abbreviated "Stratos".
Not surprisingly Bertone’s Stratos was the absolute star of the show and while Lancia’s competition manager Cesare Fiorio walked by at least three times to admire the car, there was no official response from Lancia. Once the dust had settled, the Lancia top brass remained awfully quiet. Bertone tried to set up a meeting to show the car to them, but they were not very interested. Reluctant to give up, Bertone stepped in the concept car and drove it to the Lancia factory. The security guards at the gate could not stop him as the Stratos was low enough to pass under the barrier. The mayhem outside captured the executives’ attention and Bertone was allowed in.
Bertone’s persistence paid off as Lancia commissioned him to further develop the Stratos together with Fiorio into a new Lancia "Group 4" rally car, which indeed seems like quite a departure from the ground hugging Stratos Concept. Gandini was once again called in to draft up a completely new shape, which amazingly retained quite a few cues of his original design. The Bertone engineers developed a very compact monocoque chassis, leaving Lancia to worry about the engine. The Fulvia four cylinder engine was discarded and work was started on a brand new competition engine.
In an incredible short time of just four months, the second Stratos was assembled. It was considerably higher than the original and featured a wrap-around windshield and a very short wheelbase. Painted in a striking DayGlo fluorescent red, the car was ready in time for the 1971 Turin Motor Show, but it was still missing an engine. Lancia’s new competition engine existed only on the drawing board, so that was not an option. Determined to show a fully functional car, Bertone fitted a V6 engine from Ferrari, which, like Lancia, was owned by Fiat.
After being shown at the Turin and Geneva shows, the bright red prototype was used for rigorous development tests. As a result the production cars received a revised rear suspension with McPherson struts instead of double wishbones and the body was crafted from fiberglass instead of aluminium. Many design details were refined and the engine cover was redesigned altogether. Still waiting for their new engine, Lancia delayed the introduction of the production Stratos many times. Eventually they decided that the Ferrari engine would do just fine and an order for 500 engines was placed.
Over three years after the Stratos Zero was first shown, production finally commenced in 1973. At least 400 examples had to be produced for Group 4 homologation, so the pressure was on to assemble the cars as quickly as possible. In the mean time a rally version of the Stratos was developed, which was very similar to the road car with power up to 280 bhp from 190 bhp, courtesy of 24 valve heads. A slightly more aggressive body kit distinguished the rally car from its road going counterpart. Before the Stratos was homologated, it was already rallied with considerable success in the Group 5 class.
Halfway through 1974 the Stratos received its full Group 4 homologation and in the hands of works drivers and privateers began on an incredible string of successes. Italian rally legend Sandro Munari drove the Stratos to its first of a staggering seventeen World Rally Championship victories during the October 1974 San Remo Rally. Despite its supercar appearance, the purpose rally car did not only excel in tarmac events, but was also very successful on anything from gravel to snow. A much more extreme Turbocharged Group 5 version was later developed, but it was not nearly as successful.
Between 1973 and 1978 just short of 500 examples of the Stratos were constructed, including around 50 competition cars. Needless to say it has gone into history as one of the most legendary rally cars of all time and one arguably the most evocatively styled. It fitted right into a series of highly successful Lancia rally cars that include its predecessor the Fulvia HF and its replacements the 037 and Delta
. Although rarely mentioned, there would have been no Lancia Stratos without Bertone’s persistence and Fiorio’s enthusiasm for the project.
Featured is the 1971 Lancia Stratos HF Prototype that has survived in a remarkable original condition. It was shown for a few years by Lancia in their museum, but in 1979 was sold. Today it is part of an impressive collection, which includes almost every version of the Stratos. In recent years the unique car was refurbished by Bertone and repainted. According to the owner the DayGlo paint starts to fade after only few days in the sun. He proudly showed the car the 2008 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este where it received a best in class award.
Кузовостроительная и дизайнерская фирма "Бертоне" осенью 1970 года показала на туринской автомобильной выставке опытный образец спортивного автомобиля "Стратос 0
", который произвел на присутствующих впечатление инопланетного космического корабля из фантастического романа.
Расположенный перед задними ведущими колесами двигатель, независимая подвеска всех колес, выдвигающиеся фары - таковы конструктивные особенности этой машины. Вскоре прототип стал промышленным образцом и получил название "Лянча-стратос-ХФ". Годовой выпуск составлял 400 штук, и машина была зарегистрирована международной автомобильной федерацией как спортивная модель группы 4. На ней в 1975, 1976 и 1977 годах выиграно первенство мира по ралли.
Дизайнерам "Лянча-стратос" удалось создать очень гармоничную и выразительную форму кузова. Основой его композиции служит клиновидный - в виде сбоку - корпус с развитыми колесными нишами и своеобразным остеклением: лобовое и боковые стекла образуют единую цилиндрическую поверхность.
По материалам: www.swide.com; Wouter Melissen - www.ultimatecarpage.com; Журнал "За рулем"