Fiat’s Dino coupe and spider weren’t the only cars to use Ferrari’s V-6. Lancia’s Stratos was a completely different animal that broke cover at 1970’s Turin Motor Show as a Bertone concept car with a centrally mounted 1.6-liter inline-four.
Surprisingly, the only Lancia person who expressed interest at its raucous debut was the company’s competition manager, Cesare Florio. That spark turned into a flame over the next 12 months when Nuccio Bertone drove the prototype to Lancia Stratos. Shortly after he parked at the company’s factory, it quickly became apparent Lancia was interested in a small-series production, using it as the basis for a rallye car.
The result was the Stratos HF. Introduced at the 1971 Turin show, it was an incredibly compact car with a striking angular body and an overall length some 19 inches shorter than a 246 Dino. Supplementing the stiff steel monocoque center section were tubular steel frames front and rear. Suspension had coil springs and double wishbones up front, and a wishbone and radius arm in the rear. Power came from the centrally mounted 2.4-liter Ferrari V-6.
Incredibly, the Stratos was racing one year after the Turin debut, though it didn’t finish either of the first two rallyes it started. Two former Ferrari personnel, engineer Gianpaolo Dallara and driver Mike Parkes were hired to right the situation, and the following year, the Stratos scored two victories. In 1974, it helped Lancia win the World Rallye Championship, a crown it won again in 1975 and 1976.
Production of roadgoing versions began in late 1974. These were among the quickest sports cars of the day, with a 140-mph top speed and capable of 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds. But they demanded a patient, skilled driver.
“What’s it like to drive a car like the Stratos?” asked Autocar in a 1975 road test. “The simple answer is that it is exhilaration and frustration at the same time. Exhilarating because the car responds so accurately to whatever input the driver gives, be that acceleration, braking or cornering. Frustrating in that the limits of adhesion are so high that only on a closed course can a newcomer ... even begin to explore the outer limits of roadholding.”