The origins of one of the most significant rally machines of all time lie in a concept created by coachbuilder Bertone for the 1970 Turin motor show.
When Nuccio Bertone presented the wedge-shaped Stratos Zero concept, it happened to be fitted with a 1600cc Lancia Fulvia powerplant in a mid-engined configuration.
Bertone’s design exercise inspired Cesare Fiorio, Lancia’s motorsport boss, to imagine a competition version of the Stratos Zero.
Fiorio had already kicked around ‘ultimate rally car’ concepts with Lancia’s factory rally drivers such as Sandro Munari. In his mind, Fiorio conceived a powerful, mid-engined, rear-drive sports car.
At the time, many of the unmade country roads used as rally stages on the Continent were being surfaced for the first time, so Fiorio envisioned a car that would handle well on smooth asphalt.
To cope with the rough forest and desert rallies, he reckoned his dream car would need suspension that could be adjusted in less than 10 minutes.
But Fiorio’s competition car would need more power. The answer lay in another part of the mighty Fiat empire, which had bought Lancia in 1969: Ferrari. Enzo Ferrari offered the use of the 2.4-litre V6 from the Ferrari Dino 246 GT.
The Lancia Stratos HF broke new ground because it was the first car to be designed specifically with rally competition in mind. It was built around a steel monocoque with tubular sub-frames and clad in glassfibre body panels, and weighed less than a tonne. It also had extremely compact dimensions, at just 3708mm long, 1727mm wide and with a 2184mm wheelbase.
The first win came courtesy of Sandro Munari in the Sanremo Rally of 1974 and Lancia went on to win the World Rally Championship for manufacturers each year between 1975 and 1977.
About 500 road-going examples had to be built to meet rallying’s homologation rules, but with the price tag of £5000 close to that of the Ferrari Dino, the no-frills Stratos was slow to sell. Today, rally-prepared examples in mint condition fetch about £250,000.
The 1974 Stratos featured here is owned by Steve Perez, rally driver and boss of the Global Brands drinks distribution company.