Friday, October 3, 2014
Thanks to Top Gear for reminding me of the Lancia Stratos, which came and went in small numbers at an astronomical price. And at a time when I was paying more attention to raising my toddlers and Formula 1 and Can-Am racing than rally cars. But I remember vaguely noting its killer looks.
The Stratos was in production 1972-1974. 492 were built. It was purpose-designed for the World Rally Championship and completely impractical for road use. It had a cramped cockpit and no luggage space. Probably even fewer would have been built if the FIA hadn't required 500 for homologation. Today, I suppose, the cars not retained for the factory rally team or sold to other pro teams would be marketed as track day cars.
The Stratos won the World Rally Championship in '74, '75, and '76. It had 18 WRC victories ending in 1981. It was the last successful 2wd rally car and was only eliminated as a threat to win by the 4wd Audi Quattro. It began life as an attempt by the coachbuilder Nuccio Bertone to do some business with Lancia, which traditionally used PininFarina. Bertone knew that Lancia was planning an assault on the WRC. The car's beautiful lines resulted from both Bertone's pen (he didn't do many turkeys) and the fact that no compromise was necessary for practical use.
The engine was Ferrari's 2.4 liter, Vittorio Jano-designed, Dino V-6, which went back 20 years to 1958. In the Stratos, it made 190 h.p. in street spec, which resulted in a 0-60 time just under 5 seconds--very quick even by today's standards. The WRC engine with 12 valves made 275 h.p. The later 24-valve version made 320 h.p.
What a "toy!"