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

Kamil Kaluski June 12, 2012 Cars You Should Know 24 Comments

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.

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

  • m4ff3w

    That car is pure win.

  • Irishzombieman

    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.

  • m4ff3w

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

    • PowerTryp

      Or 3, one in the car and a couple in reserve.

    • Raze1138

      It doesn't need to be an Alfa, but definately something Italian. Preferably mid-engined Italian, perhaps a Fiat X1/9?

  • 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.

  • Where are these free Polonez of which you speak?

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

    • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      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.

      • 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

          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.

  • Number_Six

    "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

      "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.

      • Number_Six

        Kielbasa on a genuine Italian pizza? Couldn't be anything but great. Even better: Poland has some of the most beautiful women in the world, while Italy has some of the most stylish.

        /Europe might be broke, but…

      • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        <img src="http://ewelinastephan.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Golabki.jpg"&gt; Actually Poland has some dishes that are sort of a mix between Italian and Polish. The above are gołąbki. They are basically huge long meatballs with grain (usually rice here in US, barley in Poland) wrapped in cabbage leaves and in a tomato sauce. Then there are kopytka (image below). These are a lot like gnocchi, just different shape really and what they are served with. I like then fried a bit after boiled (not like in this photo) and then with the butter and bread crumbs, mmmmmmmm…. Oh and yes Polish women are very beautiful, I am very lucky to be married to one. Polish families have personalities a lot like Italian families as well, go figure. <img src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_d10uOeQoSFI/SgV6hSzYMGI/AAAAAAAAAko/YWH2T8NUK0o/s320/kopytka-polish-dumpling+(1+of+1).jpg">

      • BlackIce_GTS

        Thanks to my Ukrainian grandmother, perogies (she calls them something different I can't spell, but it's the same thing) are often a thing in my fridge. I've had them with other-things-in-the-fridge bolognese and pesto, both were pretty good.

        • jogden

          Did she call them "pyrohy" with a rolled "r"? That's a New World term used by the decendants of Urkainian immigrants (at least in western Canada), and that's what my Grandma used to say.



  • JayP2112

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

    • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      Whoa… Now I wonder why?

  • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

    <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.

    • Oh, no doubt about that… but that was so over the top that it wasn't worth mentioning here.