The Geneva Show sees a surprising newcomer to its stands in the shape of Fenomemon Ltd and their concept Stratos project. This new London-based vehicle design agency is led by a current student on the Royal College of Art’s Vehicle Design course, Chris Hrabalek, who has masterminded a complete full-size mockup of a reborn Lancia Stratos concept for this year’s Geneva Show. In a world where multinational companies spend several million dollars on a concept car and stand, that’s a phenomenal achievement.

In an extraordinary twist of events, Fenomenon also own the rights to the Stratos name and will even display the new concept on the stand with the original Bertone Stratos concept, painted in the fluorescent red that it was first presented in at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show.

The thinking behind the three year project is true to the Lancia original – but for entirely different reasons. The original Stratos won fame – and rally championships – with its electrifying pace over dirt roads and tarmac. This new Stratos is the same – except that it hasn’t been conceived to win rallies. Instead, it’s designed to satisfy the growing demand for supercars in developing countries whose road networks are patchy and require vehicles equally at home on potholed tarmac as rain-dampened dirt.

Styling for the Stratos show car was contracted out to a number of potential designers who pitched to win the business. Proposals were submitted by more than 10 professional designers, each with years of automotive experience, with the final selection being made by Hrabalek. The sketches for the car clearly reflect the level of professionalism behind the design, much higher than expected for such a newcomer. The resultant final design, like the best ‘Living Legends’, captures the essence of the Stratos but actually doesn’t slavishly copy any particular detail of it. In fact, the most surprising thing about it in the flesh is seeing just how different the car is from the 70s original.

The stance is notable for the very short wheelbase look, while the exterior uses a more complex series of forms and surfacing than the original but with enough intriguing detailing to be worth a second, closer look. The characteristic conical screen form split by a slim band of body colour remains. On the original, it was the twin A-pillars that divided it but the Fenomenon concept uses a single central A-pillar in the centre of the screen to provide the central hinge point of the butterfly-type doors.

The engine is an inline V8, with 425ps, while the body uses carbonfibre on an aluminium and carbonfibre chassis. The model was milled and constructed by the French prototype company D3, using normal show car methods based on Alias surface data. According to Hrabalek, funding for the Stratos project was raised by a group of investors, many of them enthusiasts and owners of examples of the original car.

So, only one question remains unanswered – who designed it? Lips are closely sealed but Hrabalek admits the real author was ‘an employed automotive designer’. So who’s the moonlighter? …the mystery continues.

Text and photos courtesy of Fenomemon Ltd.