What's Wrong With This Picture: I Want To Believe Edition
Just because I want to believe doesn’t mean I should. Or that I can. Even by the gonzo standards of 1970s Italy, the Stratos was always a wild one… precisely the kind of car that has no obvious place in the homogenized, safety-crazed world of 21st Century automobiles. Besides, Lancia and Chrysler are becoming two names for the same brand, and it’s tough to imagine a Chrysler Stratos ever coming stateside (if only to avoid the “Cloud Car” associations). Besides, if Fiat is keeping Alfa around as a sporty brand, why would it develop a Lancia sportscar? Other than Old GM-style branding confusion, of course. But the least believable part of these pictures, purportedly showing a Stratos prototype testing at a Fiat test track [via Italiaspeed] are the photos themselves… and the story going along with them.
Though a good source for Italian car news, Italiaspeed has something of a soft spot for the Fiat Group, and its apparent “exclusive” is a bit fishy. As is the story it tells about them.
The two ‘spy’ photographs were taken at the Fiat Group test track at Balocco near Milan on June 21 when this prototype was undergoing secret testing. Very little is known about the ambitious project but Italiaspeed has learnt that it has in fact been privately funded by a European industrialist. The trademark sloping bonnet betrays a badge recess that is of a very similar shape to Lancia’s traditional emblem meaning this new sports car could well be set to carry the famous marque’s name once again, which will raise the hope of Lancisti across the world, as is the fact that it has been in test action at Balocco.
Privately funded by a mysterious industrialist? Last we heard, Lancia boss Olivier Francoise was begging Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne to approve a new Stratos for his struggling brand. And given that Fiat has three sporting brands not counting Lancia, Sergio “industrial logic” Marchionne isn’t likely to approve a bespoke, mid-engined replica of a notoriously hard-to-drive cult car from the 1970s. Unless of course, a well-placed “spy shot” were able to inspire the Lancia legions to rise up and demand it.
And then there’s the pictures themselves. They look overly “spy-ish,” and yet have perfect angles on the car. And to this blogger, the second image looks remarkably computer-rendered. Together, they remind me of nothing so much as the infamous “Porsche Cayman Shooting Brake” hoax that exploited the enthusiastic optimism of several large car blogs. If I’m wrong, well, the world will have a new Stratos, and I’ll have no complaints. At this point though, I just can’t believe.
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OK, here's the deal. Lancia currently cannot do another Stratos, as they no longer have the rights to the name - those were bought by Austrian car designer (and Stratos fan) Hrabalek. He also presented several concepts (pretty much the same as the car in the picture) of an updated one, IIRC in 2005 or so. The idea behind it is to make a supercar for third world countries, where roads are much worse but there is a client base with money, who'd like to hoon irrespective. At the time Hrabalek hoped to secure the rights to the V8 out of the Ferrari 360 to power it and the suspension settings were to be somewhere between tarmac and gravel (raised ride height, very robust components both thrown in). The car seen testing is most likely a result of that - if Fiat actually decides to buy up the whole program and bring it back in house I do not know, though.