This Ex-Jolly Club Group 4 Lancia Stratos Lives On Lake Como
Story provided by Marco Magnani
Photography by Cristopher Ghioldi
Hello, my name is Marco Magnani, I am an Italian living in Cernobbio in the province of Como, next to the famous lake of the same name, and the car I’d like to share with my fellow enthusiasts on Petrolicious today is a 1975 Lancia Stratos in Group 4 specification. It was the rally car of the 1970s, but more than that the Stratos was a signpost of the new era of aggressive wedge-shaped sports cars that defined that decade. It was a unique car in that sense—looking every bit as exotic as the first true crop of supercars while competing in the mud and snow alongside more pedestrian-looking Escorts and the like.
So like many youths back then, I was captivated by the strange Lancia, but I had further reason for my lusting seeing as my older brother was competing in a Stratos in the Italian Group 4 Championship in period. Watching him pilot such an already impressive machine in race trim left an impression on me as I think it would anyone, and I’ve been attached to the car ever since—the fact that I’d go with my brother to the races and follow along with him and the Stratos just after obtaining my driver’s license didn’t help the matter!
His car was run by the Jolly Club team until the 1978 Italian Rally Championship, and mine is also an ex-Jolly Club Stratos. To continue the provenance, I purchased it from Carlo Facetti, the man who, along with Mike Parkes, developed the Stratos’ 24-valve version of the Dino-sourced V6 and also competed in the cars for a time. I bought it from Facetti in Milan back in 1980 when the Stratos was just out of production and nearing the end of its competitive lifespan, and the year prior to that it’d been transformed in a sense. Beginning as a Jolly Club race car, in 1979 it had been partially converted for street use, and I kept it as it came to me for a number of years before deciding it needed to be brought back to its original Jolly Club specifications.
So, in the early 2000s, I brought the Stratos on a trip for an extended stay in Biella, where Luigi Foradini would carry out the necessary work to reverse its street car modifications. He has plenty of experience preparing and restoring Stratos, and I knew it would be in good hands and come out the other side exactly as I hoped. And after some patience, it did! I had it back in my hands and it was back to the way it should be. Perfect. Even down to the livery.
The driving experience is like nothing else I’ve had, and it feels like you are very much in a prototype race car when you drive this on the street, the engine pumping noise and the scent of spent fuel into the small cabin. I take it to the occasional track event and rally celebration like the Vernasca Silver Flag, but I also enjoy driving it in local classic car rallies for a more subdued—if that’s possible—excursion.
The Lancia Stratos represents so many things to me, and is so bound up with my formative experiences in the world of automobile racing and automobiles in general that I could see no alternative to owning one someday. I’m thankful for the opportunity to fulfill that dream, and more so for the fact that this Stratos has a racing background to remind me of the days spent cheering on my brother so many decades ago.