It’s long been said by petrolheads that the phrase ‘race car for the road’ is overused. The Lotus Exige S, every 911 GT3, the Ariel Atom, the KTM X-Bow, every 911 GT3, the McLaren 12C, the Ferrari 458, every 911 GT3… They’ve all been described as such.
However, one can argue that the only true racers for the road are those that are homologation specials. And it makes sense, after all the purpose of these insane road cars’ existence was to allow the racing versions of them to compete in, well, races.
And in honor of these truly berserk, uncompromised, mouth-wateringly extraordinary road cars, FTT is listing five of the most insane, hair-raising, mouth-watering homologation specials that have ever found their way from the world’s greatest racing circuits to the world’s public roads.
5. Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3 and 2.5 16v Cosworth
It’s a shame that this car doesn’t get the recognition it truly deserves. When someone uses the words ’80s’ and ‘DTM’ in the same sentence, the car that first comes to mind is the E30 M3 (more on that later) followed by the 190E Cosworth a bit later. However, the fact of the matter is that this is one of the coolest and best-looking homologation specials that money can buy.
Anytime the name Cosworth is what a car owner uses to announce what type of engine they have the result is almost always spectacular. And this was no different. A 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine was the 185 bhp power plant and revved up to a 7,000 rpm redline, so when you were travelling up through the gears towards the 143 mph top speed, a screaming exhaust note was not only a pleasant sound, it was also quite commonplace.
However, this engine was quite often only enough to allow it to be embarrassed by the more potent E30 M3, and in order to deal with this problem the engine was upgraded to 2.5-liters which allowed the car to produce 195 bhp, much closer to the 200 which was produced in the M3; a 204 bhp car without catalytic converters made it an even worst nightmare for the Bimmer.
4. BMW E30 M3
It seems that every time a new generation of the 3-series is put on the new car market, the world does an Olympic-gold-medal-winning back flip in anticipation for the resulting 3-series with an ‘M’ badge on the back of it. And what can we thank for the new-M3 frenzy? This thing. This is genesis – the BMW E30 M3.
The E30 M3 is a car which we in the car enthusiast community consider a legend. The second generation of the 3-series and the first generation of M (for Motorsport) cars, the E30 M3 saw a production total of 17,184 cars over the run of five years from 1985 to 1990. The beating heart to the iconic straight-lined body of the M3 was a 2.3-liter inline-four that was capable of producing 200 bhp. Today, 200 horsepower is enough to call a BRZ under powered, but then it was capable of propelling this car to a very respectable 140 mph.
The M3 made a reputation for itself due to its great handling characteristics and butting heads with Mercedes 190E Cosworths on the DTM scene.
3. Porsche 911 GT1
This purpose of this list is to name five homologation specials that are mouth-wateringly cool. However, if the purpose of this list was to name five of the most insane, hair-rasingly rapid cars, this supercar would likely be placed at the top of such a list.
The GT1 racing category of the 1990s was planned as a class in which the world’s supercars could display their performance capabilities. Cars like the McLaren F1, Ferrari F40, and the Jaguar XJ220 were intended to demonstrate just how much performance these super sports cars really had. That’s part of the reason why the racing world was taken by surprise when Porsche pulled the wraps off of an unadulterated purpose-built racecar.
Only 23 of them were built, so it’s not very likely for you to see one on the road today. However, whether you see one on the road or — more likely — in a museum you may as well know why this car will make your mouth salivate.
A twin-turbocharged flat-six engine pumps out 443 lb-ft of torque which, in case you didn’t know, is enough to detonate the road and all surrounding villages in 3.8 seconds — the amount of time it takes for the 911 GT1 to sprint from rest to sixty. The flat-six power plant is also capable of making 544 bhp which is good enough to send you hurtling from one end of the earth to the other at a 191 mph top speed. Couple that with its non-road car looks and it’s no wonder why people were so surprised.
2. Ford RS200
It’s hard for an enthusiast to argue that the Group B rally era did not provide the motoring community with some of the coolest super sports cars ever in existence. And if one decided to take on the daunting task of arguing such an absurd theory, simply uttering the name ‘RS200’ is certainly enough to make that argument obsolete.
As much as you would probably like to think that the road-going Group B supercars were some of the most unadulterated driving machines on earth, you can’t. Sort of. Sitting behind the wheel of the RS200, you may notice how, well, plain it all is — that is unless you notice the red rim that wraps around the steering wheel, that’s a bit unconventional. But while the grey, uber-80s dashboard may seem a bit dull, the car’s performance on the road is by no means boring.
A 1.8-liter turbocharged inline-four-cylinder (that’s a mouthful) engine which is good for 250 bhp and a top speed of 118 mph. I’ll admit, 118 mph does not sound like much, but the way the car composed itself around corners is what made it such a success and legend on both the road and rally stage.
1. Audi Quattro Sport
When you think homologation specials it’s almost sacrilege to not think of this car. As I mentioned before, Group B is one of the most awe-inspiring eras of brilliant homologation specials and, taking that into consideration, one can argue that this one takes the cake.
On paper, 304 bhp and a $100,000 price tag seems like a bit of a rip off. However, watch any video of Stig Blomgvist hustling an S1 quattro through a forest in Europe and the fact that only 220 were made and suddenly a road version of that car seems unbelievably enviable. The 300-plus horsepower was the result of an all-aluminum 2.1-liter straight-five engine with a massive KKK turbocharger hooked up to it.
While the all-wheel drive system helped the rally version to dominate international stages, while on the road car it helped to send the quattro from rest to sixty in 4.8 seconds; may have been a bit, no, a lot faster if it weren’t for the stubborn turbo lag. And after the turbos (eventually) kicked in and sixty miles an hour was reached the car would keep on chugging toward the horizon at a top speed of 155 mph. Fast today, even faster in the 1980s.