Renowned Watch Collector Branched Out to Purchase a Childhood Dream—a 1970 Lancia

  • Acquired by Thomas Mao in 2011, the doorless 1970 Lancia Stratos HF Zero offers entry via the front of the cockpit.
  • Photo by Dr. Ming Woo
    Thomas Mao Photo by Dr. Ming Woo
  • Photo by Dr. Ming Woo
  • Shaun Tolson

<< Back to the 2016 Bucket List

During an RM Auctions sale at the 2011 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in Italy, THOMAS MAO, founder of the watch-collector community ThePuristS.com, raised his paddle and placed the winning bid for the 1970 Lancia Stratos HF Zero, a one-of-a-kind concept car that he had coveted since childhood. The car is now on long-term loan to the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

“I’m attracted to cars that are exceptional in their design and in their performance. I’d find it difficult to drive an ugly car, no matter how high its performance—but I would also get frustrated very quickly if I were driving a beautiful car whose looks promised more than the chassis or drivetrain could deliver. The Zero is widely recognized as the ultimate car of the wedge design language. It directly inspired the Lamborghini Countach, which was the ideal for a car-loving boy during the 1970s. And as outlandish and beautiful as its design is, the Zero actually runs. It drove from Turin to Milan on the autostrada back in the ’70s, and the sound from the car’s handmade custom exhaust is glorious.

“While I was wiping the morning dew off my Lamborghini Diablo VT during a road trip years ago, a passerby asked me, ‘How does it feel to drive a car that makes other people smile?’ That encapsulates why I acquired this car. It’s a transcendent vehicle, a seminal design that was—and still is—an inspiration. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the automotive design houses Pininfarina and Bertone constantly tried to one-up each other by creating the lowest car. Pininfarina designed the Modulo, which looked like a flying saucer, and the Lancia Stratos HF Zero was Bertone’s retort. The car’s impact is so visceral and emotional that you can’t help but be wowed by it. Love it or hate it, you can’t walk away from it untouched.  

“Prior to the Villa d’Este concours, I never would have believed that I could be the caretaker of such an important piece of automotive history and design. I don’t consider myself a savior of any sort, but it would have been a tragedy if the car had disappeared into a private collection, hidden from public view. That’s why the car is at the museum. It was an inspiration in its time, and so long as it remains in the public eye, the Zero will continue to be an inspiration. Being able to share it and knowing that the car will inspire a new generation of artists and automotive designers is the greatest reward of all.”

<< Back to the 2016 Bucket List

From Around the Web...
A BMW 507 once owned by Elvis Presley.
Found deteriorating in a barn, the roadster was meticulously brought back to its original beauty…
The 250 LM that took the checkered flag at Le Mans in 1965.
The 15-car exhibition includes some of the marque’s most memorable machines…
 2018 Jaguar F-Type
The 2018 Jaguar F-Type now offers a wider range of power trains and tech features to choose from…
Lamborghini Huracán RWD Spyder
The recently released raging bull is a wilder ride than its all-wheel-drive counterpart…
Infiniti’s QX80 Monograph concept.
Revealed at the New York Auto Show, the vehicle displays the marque’s enlightened exterior design…
Porsche Design Tower Miami
We head to the opening of the Porsche Design Tower Miami for a ride in the famed Dezervator…
The 2015 McLaren P1 GTR being offered at the RM Sotheby's Villa Erba sale.
A McLaren P1 GTR, a Ferrari LaFerrari, and Porsche 918 Spyder to be offered at Villa Erba sale…
The Fittipaldi EF7 VGT by Pininfarina
The coachbuilder teamed with renowned racer Emerson Fittipaldi to create the carbon-fiber...
Jaguar and Bentley are among the marques charging ahead on all-electric cars and concepts…
The Callaway Corvette Aerowagen Shooting Brake
The performance package gives the car 757 hp and a rear hatch…