A true rally legend, straight out of Italy

Let’s do a little thought experiment. Say you’re looking to create one of the greatest road cars in existence. Where do you start? The answer should be obvious - racing, or, more specifically, a homologation special. These are machines birthed from the womb of competition, tuned ever so slightly to meet the rules of the road and sold to mere mortals like you and me. The Lancia Stratos HF Stradale is one such vehicle. Plucked from the sideways insanity of the WRC, the Stratos comes from a time before AWD, a time when simple, brutal machines vied for supremacy by dancing on the limits of adhesion offered by the rear wheels alone.

The “HF” in the name stands for “High Fidelity,” Lancia’s go-to designation when it comes to its high-performance models, while “Stradale” is Italian for road, indicating the car’s street worthiness. Powered by a Ferrari-sourced V-6 and stripped down to only the bare essentials, the Stratos is often credited with changing the world of rally as the first car designed specifically for competition in the sport. Throw in the fact Lancia made nearly 500 examples for the road, and what you’re left with is a truly fantastic car.

Continue reading to learn more about the Lancia Stratos HF Stradale.

  • 1974 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale
  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    190 @ 7000
  • Torque @ RPM:
    166 @ 4000
  • Displacement:
    2.4 L
  • 0-60 time:
    6.8 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    144 mph
  • car segment:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:
  • Overall:

Lancia Stratos HF Stradale Exterior Styling

  • Inspired by the Stratos Zero concept
  • Designed by Bertone
  • Wedge-like shape, aggressive stance
  • Hugely flared fenders
  • Clamshell coverings front and back
  • Very small exterior dimensions
1974 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale
- image 793612
The design for the Lancia Stratos HF Stradale was originally inspired by the Stratos Zero concept, which was first presented to the public in 1970 at the Turin Motor Show.

Built atop the Stratos’ predecessor, the Lancia Fulvia, the Zero came powered by the same 1.6-liter V-4 engine as the older Lancia model but offered an utterly unique exterior treatment.

Penned by Bertone’s Marcello Gandini, whose previous work also includes the Lamborghini Countach and the Lamborghini Miura, the Zero looks like it comes straight out of a ’70s hallucination of what the year 2000 might look like.

1974 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale
- image 794632

Note: Stratos Zero concept by Bertone pictured here.

The Zero’s shape is aggressively wedge-like, reaching forward in a sharp point that stretches rearwards at a narrow angle into a broad, flat rear section.

The front tires are small and narrow, while the rears are tall and wide. Ingress and egress is aided by a single rear-hinged cockpit section that lifts off the nose of the vehicle.

To create the final Stratos prototype, Lancia once again went to Bertone and Marcello Gandini. However, the two cars really only shared the same mid-engine, RWD drivetrain layout, and while the production Stratos retains many of the original concept’s general characterstics, it’s pretty much impossible to confuse the two.

For example, the Stratos HF Stradale once again employs a wedge-like design, but this time, it’s far more restrained than the wild Zero. Still, the production Stratos definitely still looks aggressive and unique - the front end reaches towards the ground with purposeful presence, with a lower squared-off intake feeding the cooling system through a set of louvers and vents splayed across the nose’s upper section. Pop-up headlights sit in the corners, below which is a set of squared ancillary lighting, with tear-drop shaped corner lights added just ahead of the widely flared front fenders.

1974 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale
- image 793614

Moving towards the tail of the machine, the production Stratos expands considerably, both in height and in width.

The stance is rakish and bold, declaring its racing pedigree with pride.

The windshield is a broad, singlar curved piece of glass, which leads into smaller side glass that bends up into a solid B-pillar formation. The door handles are recessed into the sheet metal, while the rear fenders get extra flared width as well. The wheels are relatively small, especially compared to modern performance cars, with a concave shape, thick rim, and five-spoke design.

Up top is a roof spoiler element, while in back, there’s a trailing-edge trunk spoiler. A set of louvered rear glass spoilers are added to the rear window.

Finally, the tail section is flat and squared. The taillights are rounded, pushed to the corners of the rear end and molded underneath the trailing lip spoiler. Complementary squared backup lights are mounted closer to the center of the backend, while the muffler section is exposed under the upturned rear bumper.

1974 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale
- image 793606

One very cool race-inspired feature is the way in which the car’s guts are exposed. In the sides, you’ll notice a pair of black latches, one ahead of the door, and another connected to the rear fender.

Flip these up, and you’ll have access to all the mechanical bits underneath thanks to the hinged clamshell coverings front and back.

For the final production vehicle, Lancia went to Bertone for the car bodies, all of which were constructed at the firm’s Grugliasco Works workshop in Turin. Once completed by Bertone, the bodies then went to Lancia, which added the various mechanical bits at its Via San Paolo Works factory in Chivasso (which is also in Turin).

Colors varied and included a number of bright hues appropriate to the car’s exciting character. The paint you see here is dubbed Rosso Arancio, but other models came in shades of blue, yellow, and green.

In terms of exterior dimensions, the Stratos is actually quite small. In fact, it’s got a similar overall length and width as the modern Mitsubishi Mirage, but it’s also more than 15 inches lower in overall height. Seeing this thing in person, you can really appreciate just how tiny it is compared to modern performance vehicles, which is a feature that no doubt pays dividends when driving aggressively.

Lancia Stratos HF Stradale Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase 2,180 mm (85.8 inches)
Overall Length 3,710 mm (146.1 inches)
Overall Width 1,750 mm (68.9 inches)
Overall Height 1,110 mm (43.7 inches)

Lancia Stratos HF Stradale Interior Design

  • Simple, no frills design and layout
  • Alcantara upholstery
  • Plenty of gauges behind the racey steering wheel
  • Deep bucket seats
  • Similar to the competition-spec vehicle
1974 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale
- image 793601

Inside the Lancia Stratos HF Stradale, the layout is simple and straightforward.

Passengers are held in place by a pair of deep bucket seats, while extraneous comfort features are kept to a minimum.

There’s no central stack, but rather a streamlined dash design covered in soft touch materials. The steering wheel is a thick rimmed affair with twin dual-spokes, while the gauges include a quartet of vital readouts on the left, a central tachometer, and a speedometer to the right. A number of switches are used for control of the various onboard functions. The shift knob is at arm’s length on the floor, behind which is the handbrake.

In the particular example you see pictured above, you’ll find the car’s original red carpeting and “Havana” Alcantara upholstery, plus black materials for the dash, door panels, and seat backs. There’s also a fire extinguisher mounted between the seats.

If it weren’t already obvious, the Lancia Stratos HF Stradale stays close to the original racer wherever possible. And for rally fans, that’s quite enticing indeed. If you count yourself among those who remember this machine in its prime, sitting in the same car that was wheeled to glory by the likes of Björn Waldegård and Sandro Munari is sure to elicit some powerful nostalgia.

Lancia Stratos HF Stradale Drivetrain And Performance

  • Transverse mid-engine drivetrain
  • Powered by the Ferrari Dino’s 2.4-liter V-6
  • 190 horsepower at 7,000 rpm
  • 166 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm
  • 0 to 60 mph in roughly 6.8 seconds
  • Top speed set at 144 mph.
  • Five-speed manual gearbox
  • Surprisingly lightweight
  • Independent suspension
  • Four-wheel disc brakes
1974 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale
- image 793604

When it came to the names responsible for developing the Stratos racing car, Lancia went with folks like Mike Parkes, a British race driver and engineer, Cesare Fiorio, Lancia’s team manager, and Sandro Munari, Lancia’s factory rally driver.

To make it all go, Lancia’s team gave the Stratos a transverse mid-engine drivetrain, with power routed to the rear wheels exclusively.

Modern rally fans may scratch their heads at this but remember - the Stratos arrived a full generation before the all-wheel-drive onslaught of the Audi Quattro.

Prior to the Quattro, AWD was seen as too heavy and overly complicated for rally racers, thus the mid-engine, RWD setup for the Stratos.

Rather than carry over the 1.6-liter V-4 engine used with the Fulvia (which also happened to be the same powerplant used with the Stratos Zero concept), the Stratos instead mounted a 2.4-liter V-6 plucked from the engine bay of the Ferrari Dino. Lancia actually considered the Dino engine to be the ideal powerplant from the outset of the Stratos project, but Enzo Ferrari was reluctant to supply Lancia with the engines, as he saw the Stratos as a potential competitor for the Dino.

Luckily for Lancia, Ferrari halted production of the Dino 206 GT in 1969, and as such, the Prancing Horse delivered 500 units of the 2.4-liter engine, just as Lancia requested. In fact, due to the timing, the Stratos received some of the final Dino V-6 engines ever built, as the powerplant was officially axed in 1974.

1974 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale
- image 793600

Standout details for this lump include 2,418 cc’s of displacement, as well as a trio of Weber carburetors up top for the air and fuel duties.

In the Stradale model, the lump was tuned to produce upwards of 190 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 166 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm.

Properly motivated, the run from 0 to 60 mph takes about 6.8 seconds, while top speed is pegged at 144 mph.

These numbers are obviously detuned compared to the racing version of the Stratos, which could produce 275 horsepower in its 12-valve configuration, and 320 horsepower in its 24-valve configuration. It’s said that some Group 5 racers even managed to produce upwards of 560 horsepower - a huge amount, especially considering the size of the car and the era in which it was built.

Regardless, both the racer and Stradale employ a five-speed manual gearbox, which routes muscle exclusively to the rear wheels.

Under the skin, the Stratos uses a central steel space-frame structure with an integral rollcage, plus front and rear subframes. The doors, front clamshell section, and rear clamshell section are all made from fiberglass, which helps to cut a substantial amount of weight.

1974 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale
- image 793596
Interestingly, the Stratos Stradale tips the scales at just 980 kg (2,161 pounds), which is a mere 100 kg (220 pounds) more than the 880-kg (1,940-pound) competition-spec Group 4 race car. Not bad.

To keep it shiny side up, the Stratos uses an independent suspension setup both front and rear, with coil springs in the nose and MacPherson struts in the tail. To haul it down, there’s a set of ventilated disc brakes at each of the four corners.

Finally, the Stratos HF Stradale originally came equipped with Pirelli CN36 tires from the factory.

Lancia Stratos HF Stradale Prices

1974 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale
- image 793603

Finding a well-preserved Lancia Stratos HF Stradale is rare, but certainly not impossible. For example, the nearly perfect example you see here is from 1974, and was put on the block at the RM Sotheby’s Monterey event in 2018.

It’s the 27th of less than 500 units produced. It’s also had just two owners since new, and clocks in with just 6,440 km (4,002 miles) on the odometer.

Included with the sale is a ton of desirable extras, like the original tool kit and jack, the original owner’s manual, and the original Lancia delivery documents, which mark a delivery date of June 25th, 1974. However, because Lancia’s production rate couldn’t quite match Bertone’s production rate when it came to assembling the final product from the Bertone bodies, the shipping date is marked December 18th, 1974.

RM Sotheby’s likens this example to a true “time capsule,” with all the bits and pieces needed to keep it as original and untarnished by age as possible.

Its estimated value when it went up for sale was set between $600,000 and $675,000.

Lancia Stratos HF Stradale Competition

Fiat Abarth 124 Rallye

- image 794637

Recently reintroduced with a new generation based on the Mazda MX-5, the 124 nameplate dates way back to 1966 for Fiat. However, following its initial debut, the 124 quickly became a force to be reckoned with in the world of rally. Thanks to the expertise of Fiat’s tuning house, Abarth, the 124 managed to give the Stratos a real run for its money back in the day, bringing the heat thanks to a high-strung four-cylinder twin-cam powerplant displacing between 1.4 and 1.6 liters, depending on the model. The car was popular with the many of the privateer racers, and even managed to shut out the podium at the inaugural race of the 1974 season in Portugal.

Ford Escort RS 1600

- image 794636

Much like the 124 and Fiat, the Ford Escort is well-established in Ford’s vehicle lineup, dating back to 1968. Over the years, the Escort has racked up an impressive number of wins in the World Rally Championship, running against the Lancia Stratos on a number of different occasions. Early models came equipped with a 1.6-liter engine, which was later replaced by a 1.8-liter four-valve inline four-cylinder making 115 horsepower and 126 pound-feet of torque. Eventually, the competition-spec Escort turned to AWD for extra grip, but preceding models routed power exclusively to the rear axle.

Final Thoughts

1974 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale
- image 793611
These days, with models like the Subaru WRX and Ford Focus RS prowling every other street corner, it’s important to remember where we came from and how we got here.

In many ways, the Lancia Stratos HF Stradale reset the benchmark when it came to rally-bred homologation specials, offering the same thrills and style as something you’d find spraying dirt in the WRC, but without the need to be a top-shelf racing talent. You could just, you know, buy it.

It’s no wonder then that these things are so desirable when they go up at auction. The sharp, wedge-like body panels, the throaty exhaust note, the twitchy handling - it’s all designed to elicit excitement and create speed, and for that, we’re very thankful indeed.

  • Leave it
    • Hugely expensive to buy one these days
    • Even finding one in decent condition can be difficult
    • Will likely end up preserved, rather than driven

Further Reading

1974 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale
- image 794640

Lancia Stratos Zero ’1970

1982 Lancia 037 Stradale High Resolution Exterior
- image 611949

Read our full review on the 1982 Lancia 037 Stradale.

1976 Lancia Stratos 'Stradale' by Carrozzeria Bertone High Resolution Exterior
- image 452859

Read our full review on the 1976 Lancia Stratos ’Stradale’ by Carrozzeria Bertone.

The Story Behind The Car

1974 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale
- image 793603
Much like the Lancias that came before it, the Stratos made its name in the world of rally racing.

Prior to the Stratos, Lancia competed with the Fulvia HF, which was quite the successful racer in its own right. However, by the end of the ‘60s, the Fulvia was overdue for retirement, given it first hit the scene roughly a decade prior.

To that end, Lancia hatched a plan. Rather than compete in the top Group 4 category, which consisted of modified Group 3 GT cars (of which the Lancia Fulvia was one example), the automaker instead decided to build 500 examples of a new purpose-built rally car specifically for Group 4 racing, effectively circumventing the 1,000-unit build minimum for Group 3 racing.

And with that, the company hit the drawing board. During Lancia’s search for an adequate replacement for the Fulvia, Bertone caught wind of the automaker’s intentions, and as a result, came up with the over-the-top Stratos Zero concept in 1970.

As the story goes, Bertone had a previous interest in forming a new partnership with Lancia, which in the past teamed with Bertone’s rival, Pininfarina, for its high-end design work. After learning about Lancia’s search for a competitive replacement for the Fulvia, Bertone went about creating the wild Stratos Zero concept to woo the Lancia folks.

1974 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale
- image 794638
Based on an older Fulvia Coupe model, which was generously donated by an associate of Bertone, the company head drove the Stratos Zero right up to the Lancia factory gates.

There, the workers gave him a round of applause as he entered the factory grounds, amazed by the crazy design they saw rolling towards them. From that point forward, Bertone and Lancia formed a partnership, and the Stratos was effectively given the green light for development.

Compared to the Zero, the Stratos HF is quite a bit different, although the production version does offer some similar design aspects as the over-the-top concept vehicle, including a wedge-like exterior, triangular design elements, and a wide windshield.

The final production version of the Stratos was introduced at the Turin Motor Show in November of 1971. It then hit the stages of the Tour de Corse a year later with its official competition debut, making the scene as a Group 5 prototype vehicle.

1974 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale
- image 793606
Afterwards, in 1973, despite its continuing designation as a prototype, the Stratos took its first competition wins at the Tour de France and Firestone Rally, followed by second-place finishes at the Targa Florio.

As for the street car version, a.k.a. the Stradale, the FIA’s homologation rules stipulated that at least 500 examples were to be created within a 2-year timeframe. As such, Lancia kicked off production on July 1st, 1972, with the goal of building 500 Stratos HF Stradales by July 31st, 1974.

However, by the end of 1974, just 183 examples were completed. Despite this, the car received Group 4 homologation all the same on October 1st, 1974, as enough components and body shells were built to satisfy the regulatory organization.

Indeed, the pieces to build all the required Stratos Stradales was there, they just needed to be put together. While Bertone managed to create the bodies at breakneck speed, Lancia didn’t have the production capacity to stuff them with all the right mechanical bits needed.

Regardless, production continued throughout 1975, and by the time it was all over, roughly 492 examples of the Stratos HF Stradale were ready for the street.

1974 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale
- image 794639
Throughout its competition career, the Lancia Stratos managed to secure title wins in the World Rally Championship in 1974, 1975, and 1976, after which it would continue on as a racer in various other series.

The car’s final competition victory arrived in 1981 at the Tour de Corse Automobile, thanks to the skilled driving of Stratos privateer Bernard Darniche.

In addition to the Group 4 cars, Lancia also built a pair of turbocharged Group 5 silhouette racers for circuit-based endurance events, capturing victory at the Giro d’Italia Automobilistico in 1976. Other examples of the Stratos racer include a Group 5 car converted over to rally competition from street spec by Andy Bentza, an Austrian Rallycross driver. That particular car competed in the first ever FIA-sanctioned European Rallycross and was driven by Franz Wurz, father to Formula 1 driver Alxander Wurz.

1974 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale
- image 793614
One of the charms of the Stratos was its ability to beat a number of more powerful cars, although it was also known for running into transmission failures from time to time.

By the early ‘80s, the Stradale was replaced by the Rally 037, another iconic mid-engine rally car that took the fight to the AWD Audi Quattro in the brutal Group B category of the WRC.

2010 Lancia Stratos High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 386439
In 2010, the “New Stratos” was announced, carrying the spirit of the original in its aesthetic, plus a chassis and engine sourced from Ferrari.

Outside, the New Stratos bears a design by Pininfarina, and is based on the Ferrari 430 Scuderia in terms of mechanical bits and underlying strucutre. While the chassis was shortened by nearly 8 inches to fit the original Stratos’ compact dimensions, the Ferrari-sourced 4.3-liter V-8 under the hood remains, and comes with tone to create 540 horsepower and 519 pound-feet of torque.

That’s a lot, especially in a car that weighs just 2,749 pounds, and properly motivated, the car is estimated to hit 62 mph in 3.3 seconds, with a top speed approaching 200 mph.

Upon its debut, the New Stratos was said to receive a limited production run of just 25 examples. However, the producers ran into problems when Ferrari gave the car a no-go, forbidding it’s suppliers to even support the project with 430’s. Despite this, Manifattura Automobili Torino announced it was moving forward with the 25 examples promised as of February 2018.

Source: RM Sotheby’s

Jonathan Lopez
Jonathan Lopez
About the author

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