Photo credits: Francesco Carlo for Lovecars © 2018
When talking about cars that played a key role in the automotive history, the victorious Lancia Stratos certainly is one of the firsts that comes to mind.
Lancia used to be very different than what is today, instead of the Ypsilon the Italian brand was building extreme sportcars like the 037 and Delta S4. Enthusiasts always wanted Lancia to go back to its roots and build cars that live up to its heritage, unfortunately, that never happened.
However, couple of moths ago, Paolo Garella’s MAT (Manifattura Automobili Torino) company decided it was finally time for the rebirth of a legend!
Paolo is a mechanical engineer with a brilliant career , he started as a tester for Good Year in Luxembourg, then became head of the special projects department at Pininfarina where he supervised cars like the Ferrari P4/5 and several extremely bespoke ones for the Sultan of Brunei; in 2014 he founded MAT and built the SCG003 for James Glickenhaus along with the P4/5 Competizione and recently, the first two prototypes of the bonkers Apollo Intensa Emozione. Fair to say he’s got some experience in the field.
The New Stratos project goes back to 2008 when Michael Stoscheck approached Pininfarina to recreate the modern-day legend. However, the car never got the green light because at that time there was no interest in making a production run.
Lately, after discussions with Michael himself, Paolo got the license to build 25 examples of the contemporary Stratos under the MAT brand, because Lancia never showed interest in being part of the project officially.
The car was formally launched at the 2018 Geneva Auto Show and immediately got a lot of attention, so much that more than 100 requests came in from all over the world.
The New Stratos is built around the Ferrari F430/Scuderia platform, to which MAT’s technicians have done several modifications: new Bilstein electronic dampers, new Brembo brakes, new custom-designed wheels, new air intake and exhaust system for the naturally aspirated 4.3 liter V8. The chassis has been tweaked and shortened. Bodywork is entirely made of carbon fiber, MAT will charge customers a little extra if they want an exposed carbon finish.
The exterior is unmistakably Stratos: wedge-like shape, bulged front fenders, squared side windows, sliced-off back and a floating mid-rear spoiler are the key elements.
The interior is carbon fiber and alcantara galore, raw yet refined at the same time. The instrument cluster has a new layout with different graphics for the gauges and is nestled into a brushed aluminum panel. Bucket seats are supplied by Sparco with 4-point harnesses. One of the coolest features is the big compartment in the door cards where a full-size helmet can be stored easily without compromising full lowering of side windows. Every element feels solid and well put together.
After a chat with Paolo and Cecilia it’s time to take the Stratos out to stretch its legs on some Piedmontese countryside roads. Even with the manettino in RACE position the car behaviour is always straightforward and predictable. Shifting gears with the beautiful elongated carbon paddles is rather enjoyable; speaking of the gearbox, it’s a single clutch unit and due to its nature the faster you’re going the more it shifts quickly and precisely, whereas at low speed it feels a bit clunky but Paolo reassured me that they’re working on refining it before delivering the cars. The seats are comfortable and supportive, they snug you in place giving the amazing sensation of becoming one thing with the car. Brembo brakes bite hard and have great modulability; the test car was equipped with steel rotors but ceramics are available upon request.
The 540hp naturally aspirated 4.3 liter V8 offers plenty of thrust and above 3000 rpm it penetrates the cabin with its overwhelming and distinctive flat-plane crank soundtrack. Thanks to the weight limited to just 1300kg the Stratos boasts a power to weight ratio of 2,3kg/hp, allowing it to accelerate from 0 to 100km/h in just 3,3 seconds. The low weight also plays an important role in the driving feel: on small countryside roads the car is nimble and light on its feet, positioning it is a piece of cake thanks to the direct steering and the short wheelbase, just point the wheel to the desired direction and the Stratos will eat tarmac like a shark ploughs through water.
What surprised me the most is how easily the car tackles speed bumps and potholes, with the suspension in the middle of the three settings the Stratos feels solid but at the same time puts up with roads’ roughness, just like its rally-winner ancestor.
The price of the New Stratos is set to €550.000, plus the cost of the F430/Scuderia donor car. At the moment MAT is planning to build 25 units and most of them are already spoken for.
Paolo’s goal was to create a very usable car with no compromises and I have to admit he totally achieved it! I could easily see myself blasting through Italy to get to epic hillclimb races, join the competition while having a hell of a lot of fun and then drive back home with a huge grin still on my face.
Thank you Paolo, Cecilia and the whole team down at Manifattura Automobili Torino for the warm welcome and hospitality, looking forward to meeting the blue beast again!