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Stratopolonez: The FSO Polonez with the heart of a Lancia Stratos

The year was 1977 and the first Gioretto Giugiaro and Walter de Silva designed FSO Polonezes just started rolling off the assembly line in Warsaw. Those were not only the pride of the factory but also of the nation – everyone wanted one. Meanwhile Poland’s best rally driver just wrecked his Lancia Stratos and thus missed out being named the European rally champion. While the car was totalled, the drivetrain and parts of chassis were salvaged.

This set of cicumstances created a marketing opportunity for the new car (even if there was a ten year waiting list for it) and a new source of potential national pride (call it propaganda). It required a ton of red tape and the blessing of some high ranking but otherwise irrelevant officials to allow the project to commence. Finally, the Lancia chassis mated with a Polonez body and the Stratopolonez was born.  In the fall of 1978 the mid-engined “Stratopolonez” entered its first race. Despite the lack of any kind of prior road testing or even a proper alignment, and the three spin-outs in encountered during the race, the Stratopolonez has won the race.

In all fairness, the victory of that race may had more to do with the lack of equal compatition, but a win was a win.

The FSO engineers cut out the rear floor out of the Polonez, inserted the engine and transmission, and built a tube chassis around it in the rear of the car. In the front they installed a radiator of Polish STAR truck. They extended the rear fenders and put 330mm wide tires onto the Stratos wheels. The brakes and suspension was also a straight swap from the Stratos, and the the Polonez body received some extra vents all around.

The 260hp 2.4 liter V6 from the Stratos (and the Ferrari Dino) received a boost of twenty-five horsepower from reworked intake and exhaust systems. And that was just about the extend of of race modifications. Why did a conversion which would take any good old boy few weeks in his home garage took a facotry over a year? Communism: lack of resources, tools, and everything else wrapped around in a bureaucratic tape.

The Stratopolonez was raced up until 1985, often seen along side of cars such as Porsche 911 or Renault 5 Turbo, the heavy hitters of te era. Obviously only one was made, because there was only one wrecked Stratos available. It currently resides in the Museum of Technology in Warsaw. 

With 0-62mph in between 5 and 6 seconds and the top speed of 155mph, the Stratopolonez was competative for its time. However, it was not easy to drive. There was a significant lack of downforce, imperfect suspension geometry, and  poor weight distribution which resulted in snap-oversteer.

Now… imagine showing up to a LeMons race with an old Polonez that pays homage to this car. A old Polonez chassis can be picked up for free. I’m thinking a Fiero engine in the middle but I am open to other suggestions.

Currently there are "24 comments" on this Article:

  1. IronBallsMcG says:

    I’m thinking a Fiero Toronado engine in the middle but I am open to other suggestions.

  2. m4ff3w says:

    That car is pure win.

  3. Irishzombieman says:

    HA! My first thought: This'd make a great LeMons project theme.

    My second thought: Like chocolate and pretzels (both good alone), the combination of that long 4-door hatch body and the Stratos coffin mag wheels is unexpectedly cool.

    Also, love the skinny louvers.

  4. m4ff3w says:

    A LeMons version would be required to have an Alfa V6.

  5. mdharrell says:

    A 24 Hours of LeMons version would require a waiver for Rule 2.1:

    "Vehicle Eligibility: Entry limited to mass-produced, four-wheeled vehicles legal for US highway use at the time of their manufacture…"

    which I suspect would be granted in record time.

  6. Alff says:

    Where are these free Polonez of which you speak?

    • Kamil_K says:

      Rural Poland… the ones with less rust will cost you more.

    • mr. mzs zsm msz esq says:

      I looked into this a while back. I wanted a 126p. But since I looked a few years back the prices have gotten knd of absurd on them. More recently I had my FiL look into Polonezy. Turns-out you can get two into a shipping container, one above the other. But my FiL went and looked at a couple and said they were in really bad shape. Now there is an aspect to this that my FiL and my wife think me bringing over these cars is really stupid, so they might not have been too honest, but a lot of the cars I saw online were really obvious the sellers were not being honest about condition. Poles are really pretty big time liars when it comes to money typically. Anyway they are not that expensive though $1-2K seem not that bad.

      So when I looked into shipping, I learned it was not a good idea to ship from Poland. All the bribery and what not. That is was better to transport to Netherlands or Hamburg. It would have cost $2500 to get a car to NY back when I was thinking of a 126p. I don't know how much for two now. Then maybe $500 to ship from NY to me here in IL, maybe a discount for two.

      • Alff says:

        I like the way you think. I would love to have a 126p, but the shipping cost would be more than the car is worth to me.

        • mr. mzs zsm msz esq says:

          I wonder if there is room for a 126p in front of the two Polonezy? Maybe loaded via fork lift transversely? Maybe the shipping would not be that bad then for you? But then again, like I said, some nostalgia kick must have happened in Poland and the prices have gone-up on nice ones now, so probably not.

          Also did you see this? http://hooniverse.com/2012/06/07/hooniverse-truck… Tanshanomi put out a call for KC area folk for a meet-up.

  7. Number_Six says:

    "You put a bigger motor in your Polish car?"
    "Yep. But I forgot to beef up the chassis….Now I've got……spaghetti Polonez."

    • PowerTryp says:

      "You put a bigger motor in your Polish car?"
      "Yep. But I forgot to beef up the chassis….Now I've got (puts on glasses) ……spaghetti Polonez."

      I know very little about Polish food beyond garlic sausage and perogies, I'm curious how an Italian/Polish fusion dish would taste.

  8. HTWHLS says:


  9. JayP2112 says:

    Interesting exhaust. I don't think I've ever seen headers like that before…

  10. mr. mzs zsm msz esq says:

    <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/03/Rover_Vitesse_19850706.jpg/500px-Rover_Vitesse_19850706.jpg"&gt; To be fair, being the greatest Polish rally driver might not have been so much his skill (he did kill the Stratos and poor defenseless tree after all) and more to do with who his father was. Some more equal than others and all that. Anyway, I still think there is a waaaay better theme for a lemons Polonez ;)

    PS: Nice write-up Kamil.


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