Feels Like Heaven
Updated: Jan 30
As a car fanatic boy grew up in the 70’s, my favorite exotic car poster pinned up alongside with Ace Frehley and Farrah Fawcett ones had shown no Lamborghini Countach, instead it was a Lancia Stratos HF in its iconic Alitalia airline livery, which came almost a decade earlier than another iconic Martini Racing livery which would associate closely with the works Lancia team starting 1982. To many it was as striking as it gets visually and works perfectly well on a car which was so ahead of its time on both form and function -purposely built to win the rallying motorsport, and it did conquer big time. And the rest is history.
Back in the days when intellectual property licensing practice wasn’t by all means respected, you could see almost every iconic car of the era such as Lamboghini Muira & Countach, Porsche 930 Turbo, AC Cobra or even Mini Cooper were popularized in all categories of boy’s toys: from R/C to die-cast Tomicas, right down to rubber erasers, let alone countless sticker sets and jigsaw puzzles sold at just about every corner shop where kids would show up. My very first Lancia Stratos kit arose from this unlicensed toy rush and wasn’t even in scale! It was made out of polypropene and came as a free toy with a tube of Japanese made bubble gum or candies which I can’t recall but imagine it’s pretty much a Kinder Surprise from the East.
Then came my first proper injected Lancia kit in 1/24, made by Nichimo and released circa ‘77/’78, Instead of in rally guise it was a track raced Group 5 silhouette racer in Marlboro livery (before the tobaccos imageries ban on all toys circa early 90’s). Motorized with a tiny FA-130/RE-140 motor and driven by 2 x AA batteries which marks a common set up of these kits between the competitions back then. Some provided option of fitting tiny light bulbs (non-LEDs) front and rear to add authenticity of the real thing.
Quite a few Japanese model manufacturers had raced to get a share of this booming market segment of such affordable car kits. As a young model buyer, I was almost certain that it was the box arts which usually drew my first attention and made an impact, followed by their competitive shelf prices, which would in turn dictate where the hammer should fall.
The build was pretty straight forward and could be finished in a matter of hours or so. Many kids back then couldn’t afford to have them finished to the highest standard as the box side prints would have suggested mainly due to the lack of resources to acquire extra spray cans or paint pots after the kits spending. And since they were hardly remote controlled once taken to the playground and ran flat-out, they usually couldn’t endure a good few weeks before they fell apart…Fond memories!
The marque has haunted me ever since and some later models just grew on me. Fast forward 4 decades, after the ownership of six 1:1 Delta integrale's and a record low bank balance, I can safely admit it is a pure guilty pleasure to be a true Lancista.