This thumbnail-sized image shows the full scale Stratos concept model developed by Bertone as it bid to get the brief, although the poor resolution makes it difficult to draw to many conclusions.


Directly linking leading auto designer Jason Castriota to the new Stratos project is his design sketch of the Lancia sports car that was recently published by Japan’s ‘Rosso’ magazine.


Last week the story broke that a new generation Lancia Stratos appeared to be in the development stage and two grainy photographs showed a pre-production prototype testing at the Fiat Group’s Balocco test track near Milan.

Last week the story broke that a new-generation Lancia Stratos appeared to be in the development stage, and two grainy photographs showed a pre-production prototype in action at the Fiat Group’s Balocco test track near Milan; now more detail of this ambitious project is emerging, including the news in recent days that Bertone and Pininfarina both presented designs.

The Stratos was one of Lancia's most iconic cars, no mean feat from a century-old brand with a history littered with masterpieces, and it was a model that dramatically embodied the firm's historic values of fusing cutting-edge technology, innovation, and styling trends. In designing the Stratos for Lancia, Bertone was well ahead of the curve, Marcello Gandini penning a car that was so futuristic it still looks fresh and sharp today. To reinterpret the legend of the Stratos is a very difficult and tricky task, and Italiaspeed understands that in the unrelenting quest to create the right successor, no less than three Italian design houses fought tooth-and-nail over the brief, each submitting detailed proposals. Hinting at a project which appears to have significant funding as well as production aspirations, all the proposals were developed to full-size models before a choice was made.

Italiaspeed believes the design eventually chosen to go forward was the work penned by Jason Castriota during his stint as Design Director of Stile Bertone last year. New York-born Castriota has emerged over the last half-decade as one of the most creative designers of his generation, but importantly, he is probably the leading light in the world today in the field of low-volume and exclusive one-off cars, where achieving the highest possible standard, rather than compromise imposed by financial constraints, is the primary benchmark to adhere to.

During his successful career at Pininfarina, Castriota rose from an intern to become Head Designer of Special Projects. During that tenure he created a number of special exclusive cars that spanned a wide spectrum of briefs. Arguably the most stunning of these was the eye-catching Maserati Birdcage 75th, a futuristic prototype built on the underpinnings of the Maserati MC12 supercar to celebrate the design house’s seventy-fifth anniversary. Pininfarina also took the whole design idea forward from being just an extravagant one-off show car and explored the potential of turning out a limited production run, although in the end, this project was not given the green light.

While the Trident-badged prototype reinterpreted that marque’s historically significant ‘Birdcage’ racer, the Italian-American designer also brought to the fore a modern take on another famous track legend, Ferrari's P3/4, in a project commissioned by an American collector. Following up this racetrack inspiration with a move to the serene and elegant, Castriota then put his name to the coachbuilt Rolls Royce Hyperion, an opulent ‘tourer’ which looked to revive a long-forgotten era of opulent motoring glamour. During this period, Castriota also crafted the unique 612 ‘Kappa’ for another American collector.

Along the way, moreover, Castriota turned his well-honed styling skills to Maserati's GranTurismo and Ferrari's 599 GTB Fiorano, both of which have established themselves as definitive sports car designs of their generation. Castriota quit Pininfarina in the autumn of 2008 to make the short hop across the city of Turin to Stile Bertone on December 1, the studio then being revived under the direction of Lilli Bertone's daughter Marie-Jeanne. During his stint at Bertone, Castriota created the highly distinctive – and highly futuristic – Mantide, another one-off sports car, this one using underpinnings evolved from the Chevrolet Corvette.

For the Stratos project, Castriota has drawn on his considerable knowledge bank to create a new-generation design that retains the original Stratos' DNA, but reinterprets it four decades on. The whole project has apparently taken around four years to bring to the stage of a pre-production prototype, and it is understood Castriota designed the car during his tenure at Bertone last year, which will neatly mean that the famous Italian design firm's name is associated with the evocative sports car once again – a fact that will hold great poignancy for Lancisti. It was in 1970 that Bertone shocked the auto industry with the prototype ‘Stratos Zero’, stunning all over again a year later with their follow-up, the luridly-coloured Stratos HF – a prototype Lancia proudly announced would head straight for production. Now, history has now come full circle, with the new model once again being penned by the world-renowned design house.

It would appear that Castriota isn't involved with the final stages of the project, as in June he was appointed Design Director at Saab, which was recently bought by niche Dutch sports car maker Spyker. Reporting directly to Saab Automobile CEO Jan-Åke Jonsson, he has a mammoth task in hand as the Swedish company unpicks itself from former owner General Motors and attempts to arrest further declines in its sales.

The images in circulation of the new Stratos are of a car very much in the traditional Bertone styling mould, and betray many of Castriota’s trademark cues in the finer details. Most notably, these are reflected in the hints of the sharp, futuristic, but carefully-integrated lines of the Mantide, which he was penning at around the same time, while the wheels are reminiscent of the rim design he created for the Ferrari P4/5. The use of LEDs in the lighting is another cutting-edge detail that Castriota is noted for.

Moreover, a further link between Castriota and the Stratos project is provided by his design sketch of the Lancia sports car that was recently published by Japan’s ‘Rosso’ magazine. Italiaspeed has also acquired a thumbnail-sized image of the full scale model developed by Bertone as it bid to get the brief, although the poor resolution makes it difficult to draw too many conclusions. Parenthetically, it is worth noting that this year is the fortieth anniversary of the unveiling of the Stratos Zero, making it an appropriate milestone to reveal a successor.

© 2010 Interfuture Media/Italiaspeed