Amid lofty ambitions of winning the World Rally Championship, the Lancia Stratos ushered in a new era where manufacturers created thinly disguised race cars to homologate as road cars, and simultaneously upended the world of rally racing. Beginning life as a remarkable and futuristic concept car by renowned Carrozzeria Bertone, the Stratos Zero concept debuted at the 1971 Turin Motor Show to critical acclaim.
A few short years later in late 1973, the production variant of the Stratos was released, and leveraging design cues from the concept car, the Bertone bodied Stratos exemplified revolutionary design, with its short wheelbase and wide wedge-like shape. Underneath the achingly beautiful Bertone bodywork, a (Ferrari) Dino 246-derived V6 was to be found nestled right behind the seats, providing occupants with a near direct symphony of howling Italian engineering.
Destined for racing from inception, the Lancia Stratos was produced in sufficient numbers to homologate it for Group 4 racing, and the car’s recipe of a light, short, and nimble wheelbase, combined with rear wheel drive and a mid-mounted engine, proved to be an immediate formula for success. In the extremely capable hands of Lancia’s factory driver Sandro “Il Drago” Munari, the Stratos effortlessly and consecutively clinched the World Rally Championship titles from 1974 through 1976, as well as winning the 1974 Targa Florio. The Stratos would cement itself into the halls of automotive pantheon, seeing close to 10 years of competitive success with its final World Rally Championship event victory at the 1981 Tour de Corse Automobile.
Today the Lancia Stratos is arguably one of the most famous cars to emerge from the eccentric and near-limitless world of rallying, placed on a pedestal in reach of few others. The spartan interior is tightly packed, with both driver and passenger canted slightly inwards towards the center of the car, and there is no aspect of the interior that does not have a perfect sense of purpose. A small steering wheel reaches out from the dashboard to greet the driver, providing them with agile response on turn in and immediate feedback on the road, allowing for the driver to dance the car through turns with immense precision. The short gearing provides swift acceleration, with gear changes feeling tantalizingly accurate and sharp with each shift, while the Dino V6 howls to redline - the Lancia Stratos driving experience is nothing short of sublime.
One of 492 produced examples, The Cultivated Collector’s 1976 Lancia Stratos is finished in an electrifying coat of Azzurro, over an equally stunning interior finished with “Azzurro” carpets and Nero alcantara seats, and is one of the finest examples extant. Chassis 001656 boasts a mere 53,700 kilometers from its first registration in 1976 in Turin, Italy when the Stratos was at the height of its World Championship powers. 00656 would reside in Europe until June of 2015 when it was purchased by its first American caretaker, with the car subsequently receiving a full inspection and comprehensive refresh by ex-Lancia works mechanics, the Turin-based Baldi brothers.The Baldi Brothers undertook an exhaustive and extensive overhaul that saw the car receive a full interior restoration, as well as a refresh and overhaul of the entire drivetrain.
Having recently departed a 8 year tenure with its first American owner, 001656 presents today as one of the finest Stratos Stradales extant, its iconic Bertone wedge shape resplendent featuring the iconic roofline and trunk spoilers, further exemplifying the unique Stratos styling and its motorsport roots. Consistent and recent service has 001656 running at nothing short of its finest, turn-key and needing nothing but an enthusiastic new caretaker behind the wheel, devouring open road with the howl of the Ferrari derived Dino V6 in their ear.