Lancia Stratos: The Italian Supercar That Dominated Off Road
The Lancia Stratos so utterly defined Lancia as a carmaker that the company has never really moved past the long shadow of its greatness. As a rally car, it was a revelation: a mid-engined, rear wheel drive, Ferrari-powered supercar that dominated the international rally scene to the tune of three consecutive World Championships. To make it eligible for rally, Lancia made just under 500 of them for the street. This is one of them, and it’s hitting the auction block at RM’s Monterey event.
The car got its start when Nuccio Bertone realized his eponymous design house had never drawn up a car for Lancia, and decided to change that. Bertone had his designers build a wild and insanely sleek prototype. Legend has it that Bertone himself not only drove it to the Lancia factory, but that it was so low he drove it straight under the gate. He got the contract.
The car was designed specifically to go rallying, hence the high nose for additional ground clearance. Significantly, in rallying there’s only rarely a need to look in one’s mirrors, which is why the rear window has about the same visibility as a peep hole, while the forward visibility is virtually unhindered for 180 degrees.
Originally, Lancia and Enzo Ferrari had agreed that the car should have the nearly 190 hp V6 straight out of the Dino sports car, but the deal became embroiled in an Italian political battle. Eventually, Lancia’s owner, Fiat, dropped all protests to using the engines.
With the ability to hit 60 mph in under five seconds en route to 144 mph, the Stratos stacked up admirably to almost anything it would ever come up against in its prime. While plenty of replicas exist and a handful of modern Stratos concepts have been built, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see another car quite like it, and that’s a shame.