Low Volume Retro: New Stratos

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A car built by fans of the original, which could teach the big supercar makers a thing or two about how to make an appealing product.

This is a bit of an odd one: a modern interpretation of a classic car, but in this case not one built by the company which made the original. And neither is it a kit car, or a "continuation," it's something else altogether. The New Stratos is most certainly a labor of love, and even if the limited production run was never actually realized, it is a car which still deserves to be mentioned. The original Lancia Stratos was one hell of a car. With a body by Bertone and an engine by Ferrari, Lancia had built themselves a rally-winning machine.

The car was killed off prematurely by a combination of internal politics at the company and a supply shortage of engines from Ferrari. But this didn't keep it from getting a fiercely loyal following of fans, one of whom was Chris Hrabalek. Hrabalek has been an expert on the Stratos since he was an adolescent, and was helping his father collect them by age 14. In all, he acquired some 15 of the legendary rally car for his father's collection over a five year period, and he became such a recognized authority that at one point Bertone called him for information on the car. So Hrabalek finally decided to try his hand at making a new version of the Stratos.

Like the original, this one would have a mid-mounted Ferrari engine. Unlike the original, a lot more than that would end up being borrowed from Ferrari. The engine and chassis would come from a F430 donor car, and Pininfarina was commissioned to design a body based on the original Bertone design. This body was made of carbon fiber, as were a number of other components. A small production run was planned, first 25, then 40 and ultimately 50 units, as orders came in from the Stratos faithful. It probably sounds like taking a Ferrari, throwing most of it away, and then replacing them would make the New Stratos horrifyingly expensive.

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And yes, it was. The first car is rumored to have cost somewhere around $4 million, and buying your own copy from the 50 planned for production would have run about $1 million. That would be a lot of money if this were nothing more than an upscale kit car using a Ferrari instead of a Fierro. Fortunately, it is far from that. Only a couple of original Ferrari parts are still visible on the inside, and these are such inconsequential bits as the start button. Even the gauges have been switched, and the interior is close enough to being completely new that the word "bespoke" can be used without raising eyebrows.

The New Stratos has a shorter wheelbase than the F430, and is also lighter. The modifications were made by experts as well, so the result is an astonishingly good piece of machinery, one actually worthy of the name. True, you could buy at least a couple of original cars for the price, but this one is faster. With 533 horsepower and just 2,900lbs in weight, the New Stratos will hit 60mph in 3.2 seconds and run the quarter mile in 11.3 seconds. This sort of thing is rare in the automotive world, an expertly built fan-made tribute. The New Stratos is up there with the Iconic AC Roadster as one of the world's greatest automotive tributes.

But of course, part of the reason why it doesn't happen more often is just how difficult it is to make it happen. The big difficulty involved in this project, apart from the cost, was that the New Stratos needed donor cars, or at least a chassis supply from Ferrari. Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo actually drove the New Stratos once and reportedly found it to be excellent, but that didn't stop him from blocking production. Ferrari decided that they would not only refuse to supply any parts to help with New Stratos' production, but they even went so far as forbid any of their parts suppliers (i.e. Pininfarina) from working on the project in any capacity.

The New Stratos needed this support, and even though Hrabalek searched extensively for alternative methods of getting the New Stratos made, the already limited production run ended at just one. Ferrari being part of Fiat, just as Lancia is, it is understandable that they would be a bit uneasy about the idea of a non-Fiat Stratos. To say nothing of how people might look at their products if an outsider is able to make a faster car out of their parts. At the same time, Ferrari has now set themselves up as a target for hatred from everyone who wanted to see a reborn Stratos.

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