This is an idea that doesn’t want to die. Here we are, about to drive the third attempt to revive one of the most startling cars of the 1970s.
This time, its latest re-creators tell us, there will be 25 new cars, each costing €550,000 (about £486,000) and demanding a difficult sacrifice first.
We’ll get to that. First, some words about why the Stratos beguiled then and beguiles now. Mostly, it’s about the shape. An assertive wedge of glassfibre-encased spaceframe, Lancia’s 1972 rally missile was capped with a visor-like wrap of glass, its scrabbling, darting, time-compacting mission underlined by an arrestingly cropped wheelbase and stunted overhangs.
Anorak-clad rallyists might have glimpsed the chisel-nose first as it came at them, but a three-quarter front pose was more likely; the Lancia’s quicksilver scythings were visible confirmation of its back-biased mass. At night, its rear was unmistakable: a pair of big round lamps swinging gracefully between bends. All this to the accompaniment of spitting gravel shrapnel and the wolverine howl of a Ferrari Dino V6.
With that sound, your wide-eyed, night-time, forest-prowling fans would mutter ‘Stratos’ – an incantation freighted with far more excitement than a Ford Escort admirer’s knowing ‘BDA’ shout, no matter how hard Boreham’s ‘Belt Drive type A’ motor was shouting. There was magic about the Stratos then and there’s magic in it now.
So much magic, in fact, that a young car designer called Chris Hrabalek, whose father owned a remarkable collection of originals, decided to set about creating a modern version.
That was more than 12 years ago. Hrabalek had a full-size clay model built at a Paris studio in 2005 before hiring his own stand at the Geneva motor show to display it under the ‘Fenomenon’ brand name, having already acquired the rights to the Stratos badge. The finished lime green machine was striking not only for its crisp modernisation of Marcello Gandini’s original design but also for an unmissably fresh element in the shape of a central pillar for the curved windscreen, which was now split, each half forming part of the doors.