IT’S HARD TO IMAGINE A project that taps into the prevailing mood more perfectly than the new Stratos. It at once conjures the spirit of an untouchable icon, remixes a supercar that exists in that sweet spot where analogue and digital worlds were merging to spectacular effect, and satiates the longing of the superwealthy to attach themselves to something bespoke. Part unobtainable concept car, part Ferrari, bristling with evocative Italian coachbuilding tradition, and with an intriguing backstory full of twists and turns, this remarkable car has all the makings of an iconoclast and cult hero. Leftfield, but irresistible. Think Lancia Hyena or Alfa SZ, but with Ferrari blood running through its veins.
So what exactly is the MAT Stratos? Well, the short version is that it’s built by Manifattura Automobili Torino, based on a Ferrari F430 or 430 Scuderia with a radically reduced wheelbase and all-new chassis setup, and costs from around ₹4.6 crore plus a donor car. For some context, a nice F430 with the F1 ’box currently is the most affordable, a manual is little more expensive, and a Scuderia as much as double the manual. Luckily MAT can offer a manual gearbox conversion for an F1-afflicted donor car. MAT claims that the Stratos weighs 1247kg dry (that’s 11kg less than a Scuderia, or 102kg lighter than a regular F430) thanks to its reduced size and full carbonfibre body, and that its own engine management, in combination with a Larini titanium exhaust system, puts the flat-plane crank 4.3-litre V8’s output at 532bhp (29bhp more than a Scuderia).
The longer version of this story is worth addressing as it’s a fascinating tale and also gives the project plenty of credence. This is not a car thrown together by a group of ambitious but inexperienced chancers. Even if it begins with a shrewd decision by a teenager back in the 1990s and a student design project a decade or so later…
Our teenager is named Chris Hrabalek and his interest in the mid-engined rally hero was strong thanks to his father, an owner and collector of original Lancia Stratoses. Hrabalek discovered that Lancia had allowed its rights to the Stratos name to lapse and snapped up the trademark. Around ten years later, now a design student at the Royal College of Art, he decided his final project should be a Stratos for the 21st century. Usually a few sketches, some CAD data and maybe a scale model might be the end of the story, but Hrabalek showed incredible tenacity to realise his dream in full-sized, rolling form. At the Geneva motor show in 2005 the Fenomenon Stratos concept car was unveiled…
Unsurprisingly, it was a huge hit and the project gained real momentum. One of the ten Lancia Stratos owners who’d invested in the project, a German named Michael Stoschek, decided to press ahead and turn show car into road car, with plans to build a run of 25 examples. Based on a 430 Scuderia, re-engineered by Pininfarina’s special projects department, and subtly restyled in places, but still true to Hrabalek’s Fenomenon concept, the New Stratos was finally ready in 2010. Media and social media reception was rapturous and Luca di Montezemolo drove the car at Fiorano and seemed extremely happy with the project. Shortly afterwards he killed it stone dead by refusing to supply the parts necessary to build further examples.
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