Lancia Stratos Zero: A paradigm shift on wheels

Ever heard of the term “paradigm shift?”  It refers to a fundamental change in thinking about a particular subject.  Such an event occurred in 1970 at the Turin Motor show, when Stratos unveiled their concept car known simply as the “Zero.”

PHOTOS: See more of the Lancia Stratos Zero

Using the number that represents essentially nothing was fitting for the occasion.  The Zero was, more than anything else, a new beginning for motor sports.  Other than the fact it had round wheels it had very little to do with previous designs.  It was as low to the track as possible, with a 1.6 liter Lancia Fulvia engine.  Overall it resembled a sliver on wheels, so compact in design that it was a major feat for the driver to enter the cockpit.  He was only able to do so thanks to a collapsible steering column.  The Zero was tiny: 141 inches in length and  33 inches tall.  It was painted a highly distinctive burnt orange shade.

The car immediately caught the imagination of auto and racing enthusiasts across the globe.  A year later a rally car based around its design appeared at the 1971 Turin motor show.  By 1974 the production model, powered by a Ferrari engine, went into production, and 400 were built.  It bore little external resemblance to the 1970 vehicle, but incorporated many of the internal elements of its predecessor, including the mid-ship engine configuration.

CONCEPTS: See more photos and galleries of wild concept cars on BoldRide

The next few years belonged to Stratos.  It gained 17 world championships and more than 50 European championships during the 70s, and by 1979 the car added four Monte Carlo victories to its total.

By 1980 it was being surpassed by other models.  But the legend of the Stratos is so compelling that a new concept car bearing its name was built in 2010.  Based on the  Ferrari F430 Scuderia, it does 0-60 in 3.3 seconds and tops out at 200 mph.  The apple may have fallen, but it lies very close to the tree.