By: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

This incredible car, introduced at the 1970 Turín Automobile Show, is for different reasons one of the most extraordinary vehicles in history.
First of all, it became very well known for the masses due to its appearances at the beginning of each chapter of the TV series The Pink Panther, where in a very showy way the driver raised the great and only middle front door and left the cockpit as if it were something daily.
It´s a car featuring fairly modern lines, very futuristic, whose design profile won´t ever be obsolete and its mere presence brings about waves of admiration and curiosity.
Certainly, it resembles an out of this world car, with its utterly low framework, almost touching the asphalt and its daring appearance full of attack edges and very aggressive angles.
It was the, it´s currently and will go on being in future a wonderful car, completely different to everything known.
It remains steady as a monument to the freedom of automobile thought, design and building.
It wasn´t a car created for its massive series production. It was a jewel made by the great Italian car builder Nuccio Bertone and it proves the marvels that some automobile designers can do when they are freed from the legal and commercial restrictions existing within the car industry.
But above all, Lancia Stratosphere was the catalyst which impelled Lancia firm to the first line of high level car races during the decade of the seventies and a good part of the eighties.
Firstly, different combinations of Countach type guillotine doors were studied to be able to raise a section of the ceiling, though finally the chosen solution was a very spectacular windscreen with hinges on his top, which opened upwards, allowing the entrance of occupants into the cockpit.
This great effort of imagination was due to the fact that the Lancia Stratosphere has a very low chassis, even more than photographs can suggest, since the tiny wheels for road use have allowed to keep the proportions, because some conventional doors would have been impossible.
Before accommodating themselves inside the cockpit, the driver has to bend forward so as to pull the steering wheel and its stand.
To begin with, the first 1.6 litre series production Fulvia engines had a rather indomitable
gearbox and the longer rods necessary to couple them to the short gear lever exacerbated a bit the shortages in this respect, albeit developing a more refined mechanism of gears change wasn´t among the priorities of the inspired Nuccio Bertone when he started the building of the impressive Lancia Stratosphere.
After closing the showy door with windshield and once the pilot takes the semilying position driving, a new world appears. It seems as if you weren´t either in the seventies or 2000 year. It´s simply the future and it won´t ever probably be out-of-date.
Visibility is above all forward, without a lot of watching scope on both sides, except the two glazed panels through which the rear view mirrors (nicely integrated in the contours of the forward ailerons) contribute a scarce knowledge about what is happening behind the vehicle.
On turning the ignition key, there´s a raucous noise coming from the internal combustion Lancia V4 engine.
The Lancia Stratosphere is a car sporting impetuous driving and personality, the result of a combination of driving at very high revolutions, competition tires tested under every condition and a cockpit which makes the knees be almost astride on the front axle line.
The Lancia Stratosphere boasts a good acceleration, well dumped mechanical noise and a distant and high-pitched roaring from the two king size diameter exhaust pipes.
On going progressively accelerating, the speed feeling is undescribable and electrifying, because the driver is sitting around 14 cm on the asphalt of the throughway and on being able to see the white stripes passing at full speed, just in front of the windscreen, you have the feeling of going riding on a howitzer.
In tests made at the beginning of the nineties, more than twenty years after its building, the Lancia Stratosphere had a flawless behaviour, working well in most of the basical aspects. It is a great attainment, if we bear in mind that its production in great quantities was never contemplated, and being in fact a very valuable masterpiece by Nuccio Bertone, one of his greatest prides is to build very exclusive and unique cars for shows, working properly and constituting an extension of the labour on prototypes which he himself makes for the car makers with big volumes of sellings.
Its engine is a HF Fulvia twin-ohc V4 which develops 115 HP, in a middle car position and featuring a five speeds gearbox.

It must be highlighted the fact that Nuccio Bertone, who possesses his own manufacturing facilities, has usually built his prototypes in metal (stainless steel and aluminium), so they last a lot of years brand new and as time goes by they gain a huge value as museum pieces and a great prestige among the most expert private collectors.
On the other hand, Nuccio Bertone has designed and built for the last thirty years some of the most beautiful cars in the world, among them: the Fiat Dinos coupes, the Iso Grifos, the Fiat 850 Spiders, the Lamborghini Miuras, Espadas, Countaches and Urracos, the Alfa Montreals, the Maserati Khamsins, around 180,000 Fiat X1/9s, the Volvo 780, the convertible Fiat Strada and Opel Kadett, the Alfa 90, the Skoda Favorit, the Citröen XM, etc.
And among the show cars and prototypes made by Bertone which subsequently became into series production models, we must underscore the Marzal (that became the Espada), the Carabo (which was the base design for Countach), the Runabout (that became the X1/9), the Volvo Tundra (which became the Citroen BX), while some aspects of the Ramarro, a Corvette based sports car, were transferred to the Citroen XM.

© Copyright José Manuel Serrano Esparza