Talk about cutting edge

1970 Lancia (Bertone) Stratos HF Zero conceptOkay, so that pun was intended. This car must have one of the sharpest profiles out there. It’s sort of hard to believe that, even in concept form, it’s from 1970.

Of course, it’s not lacking in tell-tales traits that betray the period from whence it comes, but there is nevertheless a timelessness about the shape down to the details.

Something familiar about the Stratos…
1971 Lamborghini Countach LP 500You may have noticed the car has a somewhat familiar shape to it. That’s because Marcello Gandini, the guy that designed the Stratos concept, also designed the 1971 Lamborghini Countach LP 500 concept (shown right), amongst many other famous cars.

You may have also noticed the “ini” suffix pattern thing going on, that’s because this is all taking place in Italy. Let me back the story up just a bit.

1968 Alfa Romeo StradaleIn the late 1960s Alfa Romeo, an Italian car company, had a model called the 33 Stradale (shown left) and made the chassis available to Pininfarina, Bertone and Ital Design. The Stratos concept was Bertone’s design.

The engine in the 33 Stradale was mounted midship allowing for dramatically-low hood lines. Though, Bertone and Mr. Gandini took it to new heights, or is that new lows.

1970 Lancia (Bertone) Stratos HF Zero concept

The Stratos is less than three feet tall measuring in at only 33 inches. Because the car is so low, conventional doors were not feasible, so there aren’t any. Actually there is a door but only one, and it opens from the front.

1970 Lancia (Bertone) Stratos HF Zero concept door openThe steering wheel isn’t operated in that bus-driver’s position. It’s actually hydraulically swiveled forward when the windscreen opens to allow access into the passenger compartment.

Access is granted via a lever found in the logo at the center of the deck-like hood which releases the glass canopy. That black surface on the hood is actually a built-in rubber mat intended to be stepped on for ingress and egress.

As you can see, the occupants’ legs are positioned between the front wheel wells so I’m sure the riding conditions are cramped but the view must be phenomenal with glass stretching darn near from head to toe.

That metallic triangular-shaped pattern on the car’s rear deck is the engine bay access door and doubles as a cooling air intake. The motor powering the Stratos is an odd narrow angle V4 with dual carburetors, producing 115 hp. Power is delivered through a five-speed manual gearbox.

Almost as interesting as the exterior design is the driver’s instrument panel. Wow, very cool and I can’t imagine how advanced it must have looked in 1970.

1970 Lancia (Bertone) Stratos HF Zero concept dash

The Stratos HF Zero concept underwent a complete restoration in 2000 by Bertone themselves. It was put up for auction by Bertone in early 2011 and sold for just under $1.1 million.

I’ve actually seen this car in person and didn’t realize its significance at the time. Below is a picture I snapped of it on a trip I took last year to the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. It was there temporarily on display as part of an Italian design exhibit.

1970 Lancia (Bertone) Stratos HF Zero concept at Peterson's Museum

After starting to write this post, something struck me about the car as familiar. So, I went through the electronic folders of car pics and found it. Sure enough, it was the Stratos HF Zero. I unfortunately only took two pictures, the one above and the one below right.

1970 Lancia (Bertone) Stratos HF Zero concept at Peterson's MuseumI really didn’t think much of it when I saw it, having not researched its history. In fact, the design was so extreme and it was so compact that I wondered if it wasn’t a scale model.

Little did I know.

Check out this video below (uploaded to YouTube by ED209PURISTSPRO). It’s of the Peterson’s Museum crew starting and moving the car from the street to the parking garage.

It looks breathtaking in motion, even at 3 mph.