Updated: Apr 1

Car Designers are a peculiar bunch, and design is so subjective that it's usually difficult to find common ground among peers. I often joke that, if you put ten designers around a car, you'll end up with eleven opinions about it.

Unless that car it's the Zero.

Bertone's 1970 wedge is perhaps the most revered object among car designers of all ages and provenance. One can see why...

"Il Maestro" Gandini is on record saying that the Strato's idea (yes, Strato's should be written with an apostrophe, but this has gotten lost over time) was born when Nuccio Bertone asked him to design a car where the passenger compartment didn't "stick out" like a turret as in most cars did: the ultimate monovolume, we could say in hindsight.

Looking at the "Zero" (the "zero" moniker has been added later, to distinguish this car from the later Lancia rally car of same name) now, almost fifty years after its creation (!), we can say that Gandini definitely achieved the goal Bertone gave him, reaching a vehicle packaging extreme that simply can't be beaten... See below for further proof!

The two occupants sit like they would on a space capsule, and the steering wheel tilts forward to allow entry from the big, almost horizontal, windscreen. Yet the overall ergonomics seem to work (well, almost!): shifter and auxiliary controls fall easily to hand. Lateral visibility is very obviously limited, but it looks less of a pain than it seems by looking at the Strato's from outside.

Who could have imagined, in 1970, that both Bertone and Lancia one day would be no more...

The Strato's is a runner, contrary to most concept cars: Nuccio Bertone himself famously driven it to the Lancia HQ in Turin, startling the guard at the gates by passing with the car under the bar meant to stop him...

The whole front subframe of a Lancia Fulvia HF 1600, complete with engine, transmission and suspensions, is mounted at the rear.

My jaded eyes have grown quite accustomed to the sight of the Zero, as I've had the chance to see it in several occasion when I was growing up... But having it left alone and open in the spectacular atrium of Turin's "MAuto" was a photo opportunity not to be missed...


Proudly created with many, many hours and tons of patience.