The Lancia Stratos HF , widely and more simply known as Lancia Stratos, is a sports car and rally car made by Italian car manufacturer Lancia. The HF stands for High Fidelity. It was a very successful rally car, winning the World Rally Championship in 1974, 1975 and 1976.
A Bertone-designed concept car called the Lancia Stratos Zero was shown to the public in 1970, but shares little but the name and mid-engined layout with the Stratos HF version
Lancia presented the Bertone-designed Lancia Stratos HF prototype at the 1971 Turin Motor Show, a year after the announcement of the Stratos Zero concept car.
The prototype Stratos HF (Chassis 1240) was fluorescent red in colour and featured a distinctive crescent-shaped-wrap-around windshield providing maximum forward visibility with almost no rear visibility. Painted in a striking DayGlo fluorescent red, the car was ready in time for the 1971 Turin Motor Show, but it was still missing an engine. Lancia’s new competition engine existed only on the drawing board, so that was not an option. Determined to show a fully functional car, Bertone fitted a V6 engine from Ferrari, which, like Lancia, was owned by Fiat.The prototype had three different engines in its early development life: the Lancia Fulvia engine, the Lancia Beta engine and finally for the 1971 public announcement, the mid-mounted Dino Ferrari V6 producing 190 hp (140 kW).
The use of the Dino V6 was planned right from the beginning of the project, but Enzo Ferrari was reluctant to sign off the use of this engine in a car he saw as a competitor to his own Dino V6. after the production of the Dino car had ended the “Commendatore” (a popular nickname for Enzo Ferrari) agreed on delivering the engines for the Stratos, and Lancia then suddenly received 500 units.
In the mean time a rally version of the Stratos was developed, which was very similar to the road car with power up to 280 bhp from 190 bhp, courtesy of 24 valve heads. a slightly more aggressive body kit distinguished the rally car from its road going counterpart. Before the Stratos was homologated, it was already rallied with considerable success in the Group 5 class.
Halfway through 1974 the Stratos received its full Group 4 homologation and in the hands of works drivers and privateers began on an incredible string of successes. Italian rally legend Sandro Munari drove the Stratos to its first of a staggering seventeen World Rally Championship victories during the October 1974 San Remo Rally. Despite its supercar appearance, the purpose rally car did not only excel in tarmac events, but was also very successful on anything from gravel to snow. a much more extreme Turbocharged Group 5 version was later developed, but it was not nearly as successful.
Between 1973 and 1978 just short of 500 examples of the Stratos were constructed, including around 50 competition cars. Needless to say it has gone into history as one of the most legendary rally cars of all time and one arguably the most evocatively styled. It fitted right into a series of highly successful Lancia rally cars that include its predecessor the Fulvia HF and its replacements the 037 and Delta. although rarely mentioned, there would have been no Lancia Stratos without Bertone’s persistence and Fiorio’s enthusiasm for the project.
The Stratos weighed between 900 and 950 kilograms, depending on configuration. Power output was around 275 hp (205 kW) for the original 12 valve version and 320 hp (240 kW) for the 24 valve version. Beginning with the 1978 season the 24 valve heads were banned from competition by a change to the FIa rules. Even with this perceived power deficit the Stratos was the car to beat in competition and when it did not suffer an accident or premature transmission failure (of the latter there were many) it had great chances to win. Despite the fact that the Stratos was never intended to be a race car, there were two Group 5 racing cars built with 560 hp (420 kW), using a single KKK turbocharger.
Without support from Fiat, and despite new regulations that restricted engine power, the car would remain a serious competitor and proved able to beat works cars in several occasions when entered by an experienced private team with a talented driver. The last victory of the Stratos was in 1981.