'A modern interpretation of the Stratos'How many times had that holy grail turned to a poison chalice; re-inventing the Lancia Stratos? Never mind the weight of trying to re-invent an icon (Land Rover DC100, anyone?), there's also the burden of trying to position it in the public mindset. Should it be a rally weapon like the 2005 Fenom concept proposed? An all-out supercar like the 2010 reimagining? Well let's consider a Stratos 'tribute' concept you may not have heard of before that predated both of the above - the Ionos from 1997, from the wizard of odd, Franco Sbarro.
Sbarro, with Lancia's blessing and with the help of students at his school Espera Sbarro, went to work on the tough task of re-inventing the Stratos. The engine no longer originates from Lancis'a kissing cousins in Maranello, but arguably is a more mouth-watering prospect than a 'mere' 2.5 litre V6.
Powered by two Lancia Kappa 2.4 litre 5 cylinder engines joined at the crankcase to form a 4.8 V10 (the straight-five itself is a development of the engine in the later Fiat Coupé), the engine reputedly made it to dyno testing and produced 400bhp. Sbarro already had form with coupling two engines together; on the Royale (Rover V8), the Super Twelve (Kawasaki 1300cc straight-six) and Issima (Alfa V6).
While the Ionos' engine may be distinctly Madama Butterfly, it's running gear is pure Die Walküre. The transmission comes from a Porsche 911 Carrera 4 with a twist, a 90-degree one actually, the engine was apparently upturned with the gearbox nestling between the cylinder banks; quite what that would do to oil flow is anyone's guess. The Carrera's 4WD system is also used, with Brembo brakes as used by Alfa Romeo on its DTM racers, so no problems in slowing it down.
The “crash helmet” window profile was reminiscent of the original Stratos, but the Ionos takes it a stage futher; rather than slavishly following the Stratos line for line, Sbarro & Co have given the car it's own identity, which while it pays respect to the original, it very much has a flavour all it's own. In our opinion.
But enough of our opinion, the following is an extract from Sbarro's 1997 catalogue:
"From the Stratos of the 1970s to the lonos of the year 2000: such was the route taken by the Espera Sbarro students, interpreting the Lancia look in an all-new sports two-seater to unveil, in best school tradition, at the Geneva show. After last years Alfa Romeo lssima roadster it was suggested that the fifth-semester students of 'Automobile Creativity and Engineering' work on another Fiat Auto make, the aristocratic Lancia. The creative cue came from the legendary Stratos, first designed in 1970 by Bertone - the work, in particular of Marcello Gandini - as a research prototype and later in 1971, with a different shape, as a production car.
"This coupé project began with Ermanno Cressoni, director of Fiat Advanced Design, and Mike Robinson, chief of the Lancia style centre, and was driven by their enthusiasm, which immediately fired the students' creativity, " says Franco Sbarro.
In the first place, the students received documentation about the make from the Turin studio. "It wasn't easy, early on, to get them to understand what the true Lancia spirit was," Franco Sbarro remembers. "Then I explained how Lancia, throughout its ninety-year history has represented the forefront of styling and technology in the automotive field, so much so that solutions that might look new to young designers, such as aluminium bodywork or a pillarless DLO, have already been used by Lancia in the past."
During their first visit, in summer last year the Turinese companys design chiefs took a look at the preliminary research sketches. "Some of them were excellent designers, others less so. We tried to point them all toward a slightly more focused project. What was important, though, was that they made their own cars and not "ours"," says Robinson. As a 'homework exercise' during the July break, the students constructed their scale models. Two of these were selected and their concepts synthesised in a single 1:4 model, which was subsequently interpreted in two more models produced by two groups of students. The final stage was producing the definitive scale model, while the work developed into full size with the milling of a 1: 1 polystyrene model at the Lancia style centre in Turin.
What remained of the Stratos spirit throughout all these stages? "Analysing the Stratos, we realised that it was the first time, since the 1970s, that a car maker had volume-produced a car especially for competition. It was compact, wieldy and low-weight. a born racer " explains Sbarro. "We've maintained the concept on the lonos (it was Ermanno Cressoni who suggested the name, it makes you think of the ionosphere, like Stratos and stratosphere), although the aesthetics are very different. "
|Get any closer, and it will fly off...|
|Note that the steering wheel design is the same as the wheels|
"For the design, we didn't just take Lancia styling cues into consideration, but the whole design approach as well," says Ermanno Cressoni commenting on the look of the lonos. "It's a make which, deep down, has always had the tradition of spuming traditions,- you know, always offering something different and innovative. Anyone familiar with Lancia styling cues can find them reinterpreted in the lonos, anyone not familiar with them will in any case see a new, fundamentally coherent way of saying Lancia. "
Robinson continues: "On the Stratos, the wraparound windshield and the side windows create a kind of a crash-helmet visor shape. The theme is reinterpreted on the lonos, where a glass bubble gets enveloped and 'swallowed' by the rear-end bodywork." The straked cover that conceals the backlight without compromising rear visibility - is another reference to the Stratos, although in a different form. Raising the rear section, hinged towards the centre of the car the backlight is uncovered and access given to the engine bay.
The 'backbone' that runs the length of the lonos even seems to penetrate the passenger compartment at the base of the windscreen, reappearing later at the apex of the roof where the canopy 'bites' into the glass dome and leaves a gap to enable the airstream to reach the engine bay. Two engine-cooling air intakes have also been inserted low down, just behind the front wheels, with the flow of air being ducted along the inside of the side skirting to twin radiators (again from the Lancia k). All available space is exploited to the last centimetre.
"Meeting personalities like Franco Sbarro and the students at his school forms part of the creative interchange required to maintain a make's vitality, " says Cressoni at projects end. For Mike Robinson there was even a 'sentimental' element. "As a kid in America, I once saw a poster of the Stratos and decided to come to Italy and design cars. The circle is complete. Working with these young people on the 'Stratos II' really meant a lot to me.
|Earlier clay buck; looks somewhat dumpy|
|Final design looks far more resolved|
|Sbarro and Ionos - individuals both|