Think Lancia Stratos and the image which almost certainly swims into view is that of a wide-arched Group 4 rally car, almost certainly with an Alitalia livery, probably with either Sandro Munari or Bjorn Waldegard at the wheel. This isn’t really that surprising when you consider that the Stratos single handedly redefined what was expected of a top-tier rally car, so much so that it was only toppled by Fiat internal politicking, replaced by the 131 Abarth for 1977. It was still winning in private hands as late as 1981!

The archetypal look of the HF rally car meant that, when Retropower was asked to create a unique Stratos-shaped project for one Matthew Dabbs, we wanted to try to create something totally unique. It didn’t take us too long to settle upon the Project Stratos Zero concept as a primary source of inspiration, largely as the Nuccio Bertone penned car caused something of a furore when unveiled at the Turin Motorshow of 1970. It was a concept notable for its mad bodywork, decidedly ’70s interior and period perfect styling flourishes, and it inspired us to set about building something similar for Matthew.

The inspiration behind this build, the original Stratos Zero concept car

Now obviously there’s simply no way we could source a real Stratos for this task, and even if we could, there’s a very real chance that doing so would get us lynched by the Lancia community for doing so! We’ve therefore opted to base the car upon a Lister Bell kit instead, one of the better designed Stratos-aping options on the market, albeit one we’re already putting our customary spin on.

Power will come from a totally re-worked version of the Alfa Romeo ‘Busso’ V6, an engine generally reckoned to be among the most evocative of all mass built engines, and one which makes more power than the Ferrari Dino V6 found in the ‘real’ cars in standard trim. We’ll be taking things a few stages further however, firstly by treating said V6 to a complete rebuild with a forged bottom end with low compression pistons, secondly by mating it to an Eaton M112 supercharger and custom charge-cooled inlet manifold.

The Eaton supercharger and bracket to mount it to the ‘Busso’ V6

The inlet will be fed by a pair of radiators located in the flanks of the car, while the exhausts will exit in specially created cut-outs located above the rear wheels. Both will have unique 3D printed grilles and mountings. A projected 400bhp at 1BAR will be routed through a Mk2 Toyota MR2 Turbo gearbox, complete with a Quaife differential and custom gear selection mechanism.

As you can see, the Lister Bell bodyshell has already been treated to a suitably early ’70s shade of bronze-gold-orange, though not before being treated to a number of unique modifications. Both front and rear clamshells would originally have been fixed by slightly awkward, exterior mounted metal catches. We’ve done away with these with internally mounted equivalents paired with internal alignment pins, resulting a far smoother overall appearance.

A concept sketch showing the intended exit route of the exhaust system 

We’ve replaced the front headlights with the ‘projector’ type offered by JD Speaker, while the rears will eventually be aftermarket units intended for the Lotus Evora. We’ll then employ the 3D printer to create a jet turbine style exhaust surround, another nod to the Zero concept’s jet-age style cues. The wheels? They’ll be custom, Ronal-type three-piece splits – 8x17in at the front, a mighty 12x17in at the rear.

It wouldn’t be a concept inspired car with a suitably bonkers interior so we’ve gone to town in this respect, blending styling cues from the Zero with more modern technology. We were all taken by the Zero’s ‘chocolate bar’ style interior fabrics so opted to retain and expand upon the theme throughout the interior, while a redesigned dash will mount seamlessly via heavy duty brackets running from the bulkhead forward. The bolts for these will be completely hidden by the speakers.

The interior promises to look suitably unhinged, the kind only a ’70s concept car can manage 

We’ll be drawing parallels between our the build and the Zero concept via a custom moulded keypad mounted on the drivers’ door, with a freestanding 9in digital-dash for control over essential features and functions.

Audio is a key part of this build, with a JD Audio marine head unit due to be integrated with 3-way component speakers (also JL Audio), bass bins tucked behind the peddles in the drivers’ footwell, and an active ‘kicker’ sub hidden beneath a false floor beneath the passenger’s feet. This, along with all electronic components in the car, will be governed by a Live Racing setup similar to the one already doing sterling service in our Chevette HSR.

Keep a close eye on this particular project as it promises to be something rather special, even if we do say so ourselves.

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