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Lancia Stratos buying guide (1973-1975)

Lancia Stratos Lancia Stratos Lancia Stratos Lancia Stratos Only the Italians would come up with a madly impractical wedge-shaped concept with a central driving position – then put it into production. OK, so the Bertone Stratos made only limited production and the central driving position was swapped for a more conventional left-hand drive configuration (there were no RHD cars), but when it comes to implausible machines, the Stratos is right up there at the top.

That first concept was shown at the 1970 Turin salon, based on a Fulvia 1600 HF. Low, angular and utterly impractical, Lancia’s competitions manager Cesare Fiorio took one look and reckoned it would be just the job for a full-blown rally special. By the time the first cars had been built, motive power was provided by a 190bhp V6 sourced from the Ferrari 246GT; a cheaper variation with Fiat twin-cam power never saw the light of day.

The Stratos would go on to dominate the fledgling World Rally Championship, taking gold in 1974, 1975 and 1976. In all it scooped 83 golds in international rallying and was still notching up wins in the hands of privateers as late as 1982.

Unsurprisingly, the Stratos has a fearsome reputation, but buy one that’s been properly sorted and it makes an incredible road car. But short of a Countach, there’s little out there that’ll touch a Stratos for visual drama, and if you fancy driving your Stratos as intended, it’ll still do the business in historic rallying.

Which one to buy

With just 492 cars built, you’ll need to be patient if you want to land a Stratos. That figure includes both road and rally variants, and not all of them have survived – some met a pretty messy end either on the road or the rally stage. No cars were officially sold new in the UK as the car wasn’t homologated for sale here; the only countries it was cleared for sale were Italy, Belgium and West Germany.

The key thing to check is that you’re buying a genuine Stratos; it’s estimated there are about 430 left, many with competition history. The real deal has a sheet steel monocoque, rather than the tubular steel chassis of most replicas. Genuine cars also tend to have a lower standard of panel fit compared with the fakes.

There were just five colours offered: yellow, light blue, dark blue, green and red, the latter being by far the most popular. Many cars have been repainted since they left the factory, but if you’re looking for a completely original car you might have a search on your hands – few of these Lancias are exactly as they left the factory, and that’s not necessarily such a bad thing.

Lancia Stratos Stradale Specifications

Engine 2418cc, V6
Power 190bhp @ 7000rpm
Torque 165lb ft @ 5500rpm
Top speed 143mph
0-60mph 6.8sec
Consumption 15mpg
Gearbox 5-speed manual

What to look for

• Many of these cars have been crashed at some point in their lives and they weren’t built with all that much care or precision in the first place, so don’t expect perfect panel fit. The bodywork is glassfibre so there won’t be any rust – but large and/or uneven panel gaps are par for the course.

• The sheet steel monocoque needs to be checked carefully for corrosion as well as crash damage. Naturally you’ll need to inspect the car closely while it’s on a ramp –bringing in an expert to check things over for you is also highly recommended.

• The most likely engine issue is with worn camshafts, which wear readily – especially if the engine hasn’t been allowed to warm up properly before piling on the revs. Things are made even worse by not keeping on top of the valve clearances, which need to be checked every 6000 miles. It’s a time-consuming, fiddly job that’s frequently put off, which can prove expensive. There’s the potential for a lobe to get knocked off the camshaft if clearances are way out; that’s when things can start getting really costly.

• Listen for worn timing chains, which rattle. Also watch for blue smoke when accelerating, betraying worn cylinder bores. Broken exhaust valves are also common; they’re sodium-filled items that can be fragile. Core plugs are also prone to weeping, and if left unchecked this can lead to the coolant level dropping to the point where the engine overheats.

• The interior trim tends to disintegrate once it’s got damp; very few cars still feature the original factory trim. It’s easy enough getting a Stratos retrimmed, but obviously you’ll lose the originality in the process.

• The plastic side windows are controlled by a rudimentary regulator and they don’t seal properly, so the cabin will fill up with water if the car is left out in the rain. It’s unlikely that you’ll find a car that’s been allowed to fill up with water, but it’s worth checking the cabin for signs of damp.

• Predictably, many of the bits fitted to the Stratos were fitted to other models within the Fiat empire. So there are bits of 124, 127, X1/9 and Beta scattered all over – which in some cases makes things easier to find.

Model history

1970: The Stratos Zero is revealed on the Bertone stand at the Turin motor show.
1971: The Lancia Stratos HF makes it debut at the Turin motor show.
1972: Enzo Ferrari agrees to supply Lancia with 500 Dino V6 engines.
1973: The Stratos scoops its first victory in April – the Firestone Rally. A gold in the Tour de France Auto in September is the car’s first major win.
1974: In October, the Stratos is homologated by the FIA for Group 4 racing.
1975: The final cars are built, although sales were so hard to come by that the Stratos was officially listed as available new as late as 1980.

Key clubs and websites

• www.lanciamotorclub.co.uk
• www.lanciastratos.com/en
• www.stratosec.com

Words: Richard Dredge
Lancia Stratos Lancia Stratos Lancia Stratos Lancia Stratos
Last updated: 18th Mar 2015
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Lancia Stratos cars for sale

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Lancia Stratos
449995 449995 GBP
  • Lancia Stratos HF

    £449,995 £449,995

    Lifting the large rear shell reveals the wonderful Dino V6 power plant. In June 2015 the current owner spent over £14,000 with Walkers Garage to rectify any issues that were discovered after a full inspection and check over.

    • Year: 1977
    • Mileage: 62755 mi
    For sale
    4 Star Classics
    01483 274347 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
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