We’re approaching the end of the Lancia Stratos project, and while there’s still a lot of work still to do before the car is ready to leave Retropower, we thought it an ideal time to take stock, to see what we’ve achieved…and what’s still to do.
The keen Lancia buffs amongst you will no doubt be aware that the Stratos we (well, a selection of ungodly talented drivers and a handful of incredibly wealthy owners) all know and love, was actually the second such car to be given that name. The original, the car which inspired all those stage taming exploits in the mid ’70s, was actually the Stratos HF Zero. It was a concept car cooked up by Bertone, a means of showcasing the form he envisioned automotive styling taking as the 1970s progressed. His ideas can be neatly summed up in one word – wedged.
It can’t have hurt that Bertone was engaged in spot of one-upmanship with his arch rivals at Pininfarina, with something of a wedge-shaped arms race soon developing between Italy’s premier automotive styling houses, both at the peak of their respective powers. The Stratos Zero was Bertone’s ultimate riposte and a means of seeing just how ‘pointy’ it was possible to make a concept car.
The Stratos Zero was stuffed with innovative, near certifiable thinking and high-end design. Subtle nods to aeronautical devices abound, the interior was based around a series of screens (none of which would have worked for long given the state of ‘70s electronics, let alone ‘70s Italian electronics), the pair of ‘chocolate slab’ seats effectively forced you to lie down.
Oh yes, did we mention that it was low? Because it was – very, very low. You really need to take a look at an image of the Stratos Zero on one of its rare public road forays to grasp how terrifyingly close to the ground both passengers actually were, their heads just about lorry hub height. We don’t for a minute imagine that the Zero’s plastic construction would’ve offered much protection should the worst have happened.
Not that the original Stratos Zero would ever have been driving fast enough to get it or its occupants in real bother, not with it being powered by an anaemic V4 engine from a Fulvia. Performance wasn’t really the point of the car though; it was purely a styling exercise, and to hell with all notions of practicality or everyday usability.
With the above in mind, it’s not too hard to see why the idea of building a homage to the HF Stratos Zero so appealed to the Retropower collective, which is why we leapt at the chance to do just that when the opportunity arose some years ago. We’ve obviously decided to put our own spin on the concept of course, most notably with the choice of engine – the V4 was never going to cut the mustard.
As many of you will be aware already, the engine we’ve opted to go for is the Alfa Romeo 24v ‘Busso.’ Not only is this a nod to the Dino V6 found in the Stratos HF, it’s easily one of the most charismatic mass production engines of recent years. It should be more than up to the task of propelling a featherweight plastic wedge along at an indecent rate of knots…and that’s before we factor in the Eaton supercharger we’ve slung over the side!
As to projected power figures, well, everything is very much in a state of flux at this point in time, and how much the Stratos eventually makes largely depends on how far we (and more importantly, the owner) want to go with it. That said, we are aiming for at least 400bhp, comfortably more than either the ‘real’ road cars or the variants rallied by the Lancia team throughout the ’70s.
Performance is only part of the package though, and with the engine now wedged into the back of the diminutive Lister Bell bodyshell, attention has turned to how the car will look.
As you can see, the Lister Bell bodyshell has already been coated in 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.
Cooling vents have sprouted from either side of the rear clamshell, with a pair of corresponding ‘ears’ soon to be grafted into position. Not only do these continue down the extreme concept car theme, they’re a practical necessity, certainly if we want to keep the boosted V6 cool. One will act as a cold air feed direct to the engine, the other a supply of cool air to the general engine bay area.
It’s a similar case with the interior, where we’ve worked hard to preserve the essence of Bertone’s madcap concept, albeit with a few nods to use-ability and modern tech. We’ll still be using screens to convey all data of course, it’s just that, thanks to the aforementioned advances in technology, ours will actually work!
As we said at the beginning, there’s still some way to go before we’re ready to find out just how manic that supercharged 24V sounds at full chat, but we’re well underway with both general assembly and the lashings of custom work.