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What is it?
A modern-day remake of one of the most successful and spectacularly styled rally cars ever, the Lancia Stratos--winner of the 1974, 1975 and 1976 World Rally Championships and a five-time Rally Monte Carlo victor.

Based on the Ferrari F430 Scuderia and constructed to a remarkably high standard by Pininfarina, the compact mid-engine coupe is the result of eight years of planning, designing, engineering, testing and, as the two men behind the car, Chris Hrabalek and Michael Stoschek, attest, "many late nights spent wondering if our collective desire to recreate the legend of the original Stratos would ever be realized."

Hrabalek, a freelance car designer who has worked with some of the world's biggest carmakers, first set the ball rolling with a series of drawings in 2002. They eventually led to the creation of a full-size styling mock-up, which was revealed at the 2005 Geneva motor show.

Stoschek, chairman of German automotive-component-supplier Brose and an amateur rally driver, was so taken by the idea that he began casting around for companies to put the new two-seater into production.

The initial plan was for a limited run of cars, but not at the level of the original Stratos; 495 were produced at Bertone between 1974 and 1976. Attempts to make the ambitious project fly hit a dead end in 2006. But when the two heard that cash-strapped Pininfarina had begun producing one-off recreations of past icons-most famously the Ferrari Enzo-based P4/5 commissioned by American James Glickenhaus-Hrabalek and Stoschek convinced a group of eight partners which hold the rights the Stratos name to back plans to push ahead.

Underpinning the new Stratos is a cut-down version of the F430 Scuderia's aluminum chassis with 7.9 inches taken from the wheelbase, bringing it down to 94.5 inches. Pininfarina also added a roll cage and an aluminum structure to which the coupe's carbon-fiber body is attached. At 164.6 inches long, 77.6 inches wide and 48.8 inches tall, it is longer, wider and taller than the Marcello Gandini-penned original. By modern supercar standards, though, it is compact and well-packaged--so well so that Hrabalek has been able to provide the new Stratos with the original car's helmet holder integrated into the doors.

Power hails from a reworked version of the F430 Scuderia's naturally aspirated 4.3-liter V8, fitted with new Bosch electronics and a titanium exhaust from Capristo. Official figures have the engine developing 540 hp at 8,200 rpm. By comparison, the original Stratos used a 2.5-liter V6 from the Ferrari 246 Dino with 190 hp. In competition guise, in which it wore HF (High Fidelity) badges, output was raised to 270 hp.

The engine drives the rear wheels via the F430 Scuderia's six-speed sequential-manual gearbox and a Drexler mechanical-locking differential--the latter replacing the Ferrari's standard electronic differential. The new Stratos has a curb weight of 2,749 pounds, 227 pounds less than the F430 Scuderia despite the inclusion of the additional roll cage and air conditioning

How's it drive?
Remarkably well! Any reservations about the reborn Stratos not coming from an established carmaker disappear the instant you slide down into its deep bucket seat, buckle up the six-point Willans harness and set off with a jab of the throttle. There are no creaks or rattles of any kind. In fact, it feels as solid and well built as the Ferrari upon which it is based, which is a remarkable achievement given its limited development and the fact that, right now, it is a one-off.

Pininfarina did a superb engineering job, imbuing the car with hard-core performance and confidence-inspiring, on-the-limit handling to shame many so-called supercars. It's exactly the sort of car you could image the original Stratos would have progressed into 36 years after its introduction had Fiat not decided to kill off the all-conquering coupe in a round of cost cutting at its motorsport department in 1976.

With 30 hp more than the F430 Scuderia and the paddle-shift gearbox programmed to deliver the most extreme 60-millisecond changes it can handle, the Stratos is deceptively quick. That 2,749-pound curb weight equates to a weight-to-power ratio of 5.1 pounds per horsepower, compared with 5.8 pounds per horsepower for the Ferrari, for explosive out-of-the-blocks acceleration and a frenetic feel as you wind the engine to its 9,000-rpm redline.

Just as striking is the Ferrari engine's progressive delivery of torque, which peaks 22 lb-ft beyond the F430 Scuderia at 368 lb-ft and is accessible 1,500 rpm earlier in the range, at 3,750 rpm. It provides the Stratos with the flexibility to ensure smooth progress at low speeds and, when it's called for, a big application of the throttle, truly rabid in-gear properties that place it right up there with the big names of the supercar league on outright performance.

No official straight-line performance tests have been run as yet, but Pininfarina's Paulo Garella, who headed up the development program for the new car, quotes computer simulations which put the 0-to-62-mph time at 3.3 seconds, 0.3 second faster than the Ferrari, and a top speed he describes as being "on the high side of 186 mph."

In terms of steering feel, the modern-day Stratos is direct. Pininfarina took the rack from the F430 Scuderia, but the hydraulic pump is replaced by an electric motor. The reworked setup takes a little getting used to because it lacks any meaningful weighting, even at the extremities of lock. Turn-in is particularly sharp, requiring all but a roll of the wrists even in tight corners.

The high point, though, is the consistent feel you get from the chassis. This is not just a matter of grip, which is abundant, but the inherent balance that provides the Stratos with terrifically eager handling. The double-wishbone suspension, developed in part by ZF Sachs, boasts unique Eibach springs and new twin tube dampers. It also receives 19-inch Fondmetal wheels shod with 265/30 and 315/30 profile Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tires.

After a couple of laps of the Paul Ricard circuit, we were confidently attacking the curbs, reveling in the coupe's nimble nature, impressive rigidity and the controlled nature of its body movements.

In the dry, the Stratos is an absolute delight to drive. But without any traction and/or stability control, our desire to push hard was tempered by near-freezing temperatures and the thought of throwing away a car which, by all reports, has cost upward of $3.5 million to build.

Do I want it?
The appeal of the reborn Stratos is off the scale. The question we should really be asking ourselves is, will this car ever make it into production, limited or otherwise?

As it stands, the Stratos is ready. The one-off example we drove was subjected to a full wind-tunnel test program at Pininfarina. Then there's almost 6,000 miles at Alfa Romeo's Balocco test track and more recently, at Ferrari's Fiorano facility at the hand of company test driver Dario Benuzzi. Hrabalek and Stoschek also say the tooling used to create the new car could support a limited run of up to 25 cars.

But with Lancia parent company Fiat not prepared to bankroll production, finished cars would be hugely expensive.

Estimates put the price somewhere near $700,000, depending on the number of orders received. On top of that is the small matter of sourcing the Ferrari F430 Scuderia donor cars, although engineers from Pininfarina say the newer F458 Italia could be also be used. For those with the necessary means and memories of the original Alitalia-liveried Stratos, front wheels crossed up and the high-pitched scream of its Dino-sourced engine bouncing off the surrounding rock faces as it is being flung up the Col de Turini, it's going to be irresistible. Provided the car is built, that is.
 

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nice read....very cool car and idea!
 
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