Lancia Stratos Bertone Coupe
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5
Carrozzeria Bertone of Grugliasco, Italy evolved arguably the most futuristic body ever stretched over a practical road chassis from the 1970s. It's name was both futuristic and simple - the Stratos. The Carrozzeria's chief, ageing genius Nuccio Bertone
, directed top stylist Gandini to craft the beautiful body around the passenger compartment. In the process, the Bertone crew developed a new approach to styling - they called it "environmental engineering". Bertone’s thinking was that political and technical considerations of environment dramatically affect vehicle concept - and they even suggested the Coupe might have been more radical with fewer restrictions.
Looking at photos and specifications that is a little difficult to believe – even today – but imagine what it was like to behold this car in 1971. The Stratos stood 32.4 inches high on an 87 inch wheelbase that was powered by the 1.6 Lancia HF V4 engine pumping at least 130 bhp for top speeds above 150 mph. The body skin was extremely economical in length - just covering the mechanical extremities for a tiny overall length of 11 ft 5 in. Front track of 53 in. and rear track of 56.5 in. were stretched by the shell which was 73.5 in. at its widest point. All-up weight was 1560 lb.
The Stratos carried only two. There was room for a little luggage – overnight bags only. The cockpit was as radical as the exterior, with aircraft-style instrumentation in a computer-bank, contour-formed integrated seating, steering by crash-absorbent padded wheel with huge centre "sphere" padding and a unique fold-away front section for easy access. Stepping into the cockpit was done via a special platform, the steering wheel folded away with the roof. The windows were also revolutionary, being two side panels only; the top one was movable, the lower one fixed. For visibility, built-in mirrors gave an all-round view without disrupting body lines.
The important driving controls were conventional, which made it a genuine prototype to production concept. The steering was conventional (instead of using a stupid joystick control), as was the gearshift, clutch, brake and throttle. But to make the Stratos truly different, Bertone set about making the minor controls more advanced. One example was the headlight switch turned on a band of light that stretched across the front of the car and was fed by 10 internal headlamps. The indicators operated at the rear of the vehicle by a system of rapid flashing lights that rippled across the back of the vehicle from the centre to the appropriate turning side.
Bertone struck on two other brilliant approaches - a practical powerplant and a new concept in ride/handling. At the heart of the Stratos was the brilliant Lancia 1600 cc V4 mill from the HF Rallye Coupe. Bertone claimed that the powerplant was chosen for a rub-off of this model's considerable competition successes, but its simplicity and practicality compared with complicated Italian engines was probably just as big a deciding factor. And to our mind, was the perfect choice. The V4 engine was fed by two twin-choke Solex carburettors, making the 1584cc mill puts out 130 bhp and 110 lb/ft of torque.
The super fat rubber was fed through a 3.8 differential and the power really got to ground. The car was tested briefly after its Turin show debut in 1970
, and its performance and roadability were exceptional. Bertone designed his own chassis and suspension to eliminate spongy handling from excessively soft ride-engineered suspension. Unlike most style prototypes, thie Stratos Zero had all the road-going bugs pre-sorted in the design stages.