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Coachwork by Bertone
The Stratos The story of Lancia’s most memorable postwar sports car begins at the 1970 Turin Motor Show, where Carrozzeria Bertone unveiled the dramatic new Stratos Zero concept. With its bold wedge shape, futuristic front-hinged door, and mid-mounted Fulvia 1600 powerplant, Bertone’s prototype stole the show and immediately drew the interest of Lancia director Ing. Ugo Gobbato and HF Squadra Corse head Cesare Florio.
At this time, Lancia offered two sporting models – the Flavia and Fulvia – which Florio had transformed into successful rally cars. With the Stratos, Florio saw an opportunity to build a limited-production purpose-built competition vehicle that would also serve as a showcase for Lancia’s forward-thinking approach to car design.
Convinced of Florio’s vision, Ing. Gobbato approved the project and Nuccio Bertone worked together with Marcello Gandini and the Lancia racing department to create the original Stratos HF prototype.
The Stratos HF made its competition debut at the Tour de Corse rally in November 1972 and the following month Ferrari agreed to provide a run of 2.4-liter Dino engines. With an engine supply in place and two prototypes already built, Lancia called on the services of talented engineer Gianpaolo Dallara to further develop the road and racing versions of the Stratos.
In late 1973, Lancia made preparations for the production of the Stratos HF and Bertone supplied 500 monocoque chassis. On October 1, 1974, the Stratos was finally homologated for the FIA’s Group 4 Special GT category. Over the next five years, the innovative Lancia sports car dominated rally racing, capturing more than 80 international wins, 14 of them achieved in World Championship events.
In total, Lancia built approximately 492 examples of the groundbreaking Stratos and far fewer – perhaps 250 – were originally sold to customers as road-going Stradale variants.
This Car The Stratos HF Stradale presented here is an exceptional example of Lancia’s beloved 1970s sports car and one of the very few that remains in largely untouched, as-delivered condition.
Constructed on May 5, 1974, 829ARO*001556 was originally finished in Stratos Red with matching red carpets, black and Avana chamois upholstery, and gold wheels. Upon completion, the Stratos was delivered to Autorimessa Rizzi & C. S.r.l. in Como, Italy.
It wasn’t until March 16, 1976, that this car was sold to its first private owner, Karl Kobler of St. Gallen, Switzerland. Though Mr. Kobler earned a modest living as a postman, he still indulged in his three passions: sports cars, competitive cycling, and pigeon breeding.
From a young age he maintained a passion for automobiles and what money he made was largely invested in sports cars. Like many enthusiasts, Mr. Kobler’s path started with MGs, moving from a TD to an MGA and finally an MGB. In 1975, he considered buying a new Lotus Esprit, but ultimately decided in favor of Lancia’s incomparable Stratos.
His decision proved to be fortuitous and, over the next 35 years, the race-bred Lancia became his pride and joy. Mr. Kobler was a member of the International Stratos Club; and he took part in many club events and regularly attended the Swiss Stratos meeting. He drove the Stratos as often as he was able to, but always treated the car with great care and consideration.
Mr. Kobler stayed on as a postman until his early retirement in 1985 and enjoyed his Stratos until 2005, when his health did not allow him to continue driving. The car remained in his possession until he passed away in April 2011; when Mr. Kobler was laid to rest, a miniature model of his prized Stratos was placed in his hand – a remarkable testament to his love for this car.
When Mr. Kobler’s Stratos was offered for sale, it immediately caught the attention of the current owner, a discerning East Coast collector with a passion for original, low-mileage Italian sports cars.
After arriving in the US, the Stratos was entrusted to Tom Straubinger of Hendersonville, North Carolina, for a sympathetic mechanical recommissioning. Known for his meticulous detail-oriented work, Mr. Straubinger performed a $15,000 service that successfully returned the Stratos to its former splendor.
Today, the Stratos remains in very original unrestored condition and displays just over 58,500 km (approximately 36,350 miles) from new. Much of the bodywork is finished in the original Stratos Red paint and the correct Bertone Scocca number “229” is stamped in multiple locations. Though the trunk cover is stamped 227 it is believed to be the original factory-supplied panel as the Stratos were built in groups of four.
Similarly, the interior is very well preserved with the original carpets, door panels, rare wooden shift knob, and period-correct Britax seat belts intact. Early on in Mr. Kobler’s ownership, the seats were reupholstered in white vinyl, which is unsurprising given that the original chamois material was notoriously prone to rapid deterioration.
The Stratos is complete with the original Lancia warranty book, owner’s card, and keys, as well as Mr. Kobler’s custom tool kit, which retains several factory components.
Supporting this car’s outstanding presentation is a rich file of documentation that dates back to 1976. Included with the sale are Mr. Kobler’s maintenance agenda, owner’s manuals, European road maps, correspondences, and an impressive collection of Stratos Club and Stratos Hotline literature. The Automobile Club de Suisse and SRB Schweiz-Radfahrer-Motorfahrerbund grille badges along with the Tour de Suisse accessories are charming reminders of Mr. Kobler’s remarkable 35-year ownership.
In all respects, this two-owner Lancia is a superb example of the most iconic, influential, and successful purpose-built Italian sports car of the 1970s. For the collector who appreciates avant-garde design, experimental engineering, and originality, this spectacular Stratos is a unique prize.