Were we to ask you to call to mind a picture of a Lancia Stratos, then there’s every chance that the image your brain would conjure up would be that of a rally car. And with this established, it’s an even safer bet that the Stratos in question would be resplendent in the red, white and green of Alitalia, and probably with someone like Sandro Munari or Bjorn Waldegard in the hot seat.
That the image above is burned so brightly into the consciousness of any petrolhead worth his salt shouldn’t be all that surprising. After all, the Stratos didn’t just up-end the established rallying order, it looked like nothing else on earth in the process and sounded utterly bewitching, a legacy of the Ferrari Dino-cribbed V6 mounted amidships.
And yet when we were presented with the opportunity to put a Retropower slant on rallying’s ultimate seventies wedge, we found ourselves drawn instead to its far more readily overlooked predecessor and direction relation, the Stratos Zero.
A Bertone-penned concept for the 1970 Turin Motorshow, the Zero was nothing less than an attempt to capture the automotive zeitgeist of the era. Its wedge-like styling helped set the template for supercar design for the best part of a generation and helped spawn a whole host of similarly styled cars, not least the Lamborghini Countach and a decade of pointy Ferraris. Factor in the outrageously seventies interior, awash with pods, binnacles and organically shaped housings, and our desire to build a Retropower ‘restomodified’ Zero becomes painfully apparent.
We commenced the project with a Lister Bell kit, generally reckoned to be one of the best Stratos homages presently available. To this we set about paying tribute to Bertone’s own design which was a feast of scoops, scallops and aggressive, peak jet age lines. Various aspects of the Retropower armoury were employed at this stage, not least our trusty plasma cutter and, for the turbine-style exhaust surrounds, our 3D printer.
Both front and rear clamshells would originally have been fixed by slightly awkward, exterior mounted metal catches, a legacy of the Lister Bell kit having been intended to pay homage to the Group 4 Stratos rally cars. While not exactly thrown together, it would be fair to say that these machines were primarily built in order to satisfy the demands of homologation, and so things like fit and finish were deemed but mere trifles.
We did away with the standard catches and replaced them with internally mounted equivalents paired with internal alignment pins, resulting a far smoother overall appearance, before painting the whole shell in the striking (and suitably seventies) shade of ‘feu orange.’
The original Stratos Zero was no firebreather in the performance stakes, what with its power coming from an asthmatic V4 cribbed from the Fulvia. It was a concept car and little more than a statement of stylistic intent, and as such motive force came rather further down the list of importance than you might’ve thought! Such a mundane power source was never going to chime with the Retropower approach to building cars and as such we were committed to imbuing the car with a much need performance hike, something we’ve since achieved via a supercharged Alfa Romeo ‘Busso’ 24v V6.
Developing an effective, reliable forced induction arrangement for the ‘Busso’ has proved to be one of the most technically demanding aspects of the whole project, not least because of the tight confines dictated by the rear clamshell design. The Eaton M112-centred system utilises a charge-cooled inlet manifold of our own design to ensure intake temperatures remain within the optimum range, while enlarged radiators and oil coolers now reside in the specially created cut-outs located above the rear wheels. Both will have unique 3D printed grilles and mountings.
We’re keeping ‘mum’ about concrete performance figures at this point in time, at least until we’ve conducted a shakedown and preliminary mapping session. That being said, we’ve built the engine and ‘charger’ setup with at least 400bhp in mind and as such we’d hope the car will eventually make at least this figure at 1bar.
The task of ladling out that much performance to the rear wheels has been entrusted to an MR2 gearbox imbued with trick Quaife internals, the former chosen for its strength and ‘end-on’ configuration.
It wouldn’t be a concept inspired car with a suitably bonkers interior so we’ve gone to town in this respect, blending styling cues from the Zero with more modern technology. We were all taken by the Zero’s ‘chocolate bar’ style interior fabrics so opted to retain and expand upon the theme throughout the interior, while a redesigned dash will eventually mount seamlessly via heavy duty brackets running from the bulkhead forward. The bolts for these will be completely hidden by the speakers.
We’ll aim to draw parallels between our build and the Zero concept via a custom moulded keypad mounted on the drivers’ door, with a freestanding 9in digital-dash for control over essential features and functions.
Quite apart from being one of the sternest engineering challenges we’ve undertaken to date, the Stratos HF Volumex promises to be a sight – and a sound – to behold once complete, which is an aim we’re working towards with gusto at the time of writing. Watch this space.