The Lancia Stratos, for some this car brings fear, for others sheer joy and excitement.
The latter was felt by Lancia themselves, the Stratos brought trophy after trophy home for Lancias cabinet, in fact it was so good it could not be beaten- until the Audi Quattro came and spelled the end of two wheel drive in top flight rallying. The good thing was that you could go to your local Lancia dealer and buy one of these rally legends, only difference was that this time it had a number plate and a tax disc.
Production ran from 1972 till 1975, only 400 of these Italian beauties were ever built. Sadly most ended mangled by a tree at the hands of an over enthusiastic road tester, or locked away by collectors. This means the man on the street will never see an original Stratos, the closest most of us will get to seeing one is on an old rallying video or Youtube.
However, now there is hope, a small outfit called Fenomenon has made a new one, and it may get the green light for production. For a number of years numerous kit car manufactures have made replicas of the Stratos, the Fenomenon on the other hand is an all new car. That is inspired by the Stratos, not a copy. The Pininfarina designed car is inspired by the past master, however it has been given a modern edge to it. Unlike the original its headlamps are not pop up ones, they are (like most car designs these days) swept back headlamps. The design is also rather aggressive consisting of sharp, aggressive lines, but again the design is not mimicking the Stratos. Pininfarina have managed to pull off a hard trick, design a car that is influenced by the past, but still manages to look cutting edge today.
Now the original Stratos was powered by a 2.4 litre V6 Ferrari unit from the Dino. The Fenomenon has also got a Ferrari heart too, it’s the 4.3 litre V8 from the F430 Scuderia. The Stratos shares the same platform and chassis components as the Scuderia. So the Fenomenon’s underpinnings are sound. It has one of the greatest engines Maranello have ever produced and it has a sharp, responsive chassis. However, to make the car handle like its name sake .i.e. go everywhere- sideways, Fenomenon’s engineers have shortened the wheelbase so it should be a riot to drive. Lets just hope that the F1 derived electronics that blighted the Scuderia don’t interfere with the driving experience of the Stratos.
The Fenomenon was first seen at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show, but it is not a flight of fancy concept car that will no see the light of day because a pre production mule has been seen being tested at Fiats Balacco test track.
Fenomenon say that the car spotted is a one off concept for a rich Businessman or Woman who is a big Stratos fan. However if the response is good, I am adamant that Fenomenon will be soon taking orders, a company cannot sit and ignore the amount of good press the spy shots produced, not in this economic climate. Since Lancia was swallowed up by the Fiat empire, their cars were not what they should have been, all they did was knock out Fiat based rubbish- see Lancia Yposion for details. The new car offers enthusiasts a glimmer of hope, an opportunity to look back at Lancias history and say that the company can soon return back to form. If this car can reach production then it would be a great thing, for the company and for petrol heads all over the world because it is not a half baked replica, it is a bona fide Lancia Stratos, albeit with a modern twist- but a Stratos none the less.
By Cameron Gibson