A futuristic 1970 prototype by coachbuilder Nuccio Bertone helped Lancia’s then team manager Cesare Fiorio to convince the management at the firm’s Chivasso plant to invest in designing a racing successor to the Fulvia HF. So the legendary Lancia Stratos was born, with the sole purpose of winning rallies.
The Stratos Zero prototype was presented by Bertone at the Turin Auto Show in 1970. The mechanicals were derived from the Fulvia 1.6 HF, but the Stratos was a very low-slung and sleek coupé with a rear engine, rear-wheel drive layout and no side doors, only a hinged windshield for accessing the passenger compartment. Team manager Cesare Fiorio, who was already thinking about designing a rear-engined rally car, managed to convince Lancia's general manager Ugo Gobbato that this was the logical next step in building a new Lancia that would dominate rallies.
But it needed a powerful engine. The closest hypotheses were discarded, from the Flavia’s boxer engine, to the V6 in the 130. Finally, the six-cylinder V-engine in the Ferrari Dino 246 was chosen, probably because that car had been tested for the Tour de France and the engine’s immense power and reliability were already known. The result was a true racing thoroughbred (the French nicknamed it "bête à gagner" or winning beast), with a transversely mounted rear mid-engine, MacPherson strut suspension at the rear and double wishbones at the front.
Everything was designed for rallying, beginning with the wide-opening bonnet and boot, which afforded easy access to the mechanicals and setup. The futuristic wedge shape of the Bertone prototype was also retained in the definitive Stratos, which soon became a hallmark of Lancia’s racing prowess. The passenger compartment contained just two seats and little room for anything else, although two storage bins in both doors accommodated the drivers’ helmets. Pirelli made a big contribution by creating the low-profile P7 tyres that enabled the drivers to transfer the car’s considerable power into the ground and tame the supremely agile Stratos even in the worst conditions. A proud blend of Italian innovation was ready to dominate rallying worldwide.