Some of the coolest cars on the street had their beginnings on the racetrack. Here’s our list of the greatest homologation cars of all time.
Car manufacturing and car racing have gone hand-in-hand since the beginning of the automobile. Over the decades, car makers have used competitive racing as a valuable testing ground for new technology and a showcase for brand quality. A key component of racing rules is the homologation requirement that manufacturers actually produce, in some capacity, a road-going version of the car they are racing. The homologation requirement has resulted in some of the coolest, fastest, and, in many cases, the most collectable cars ever made. While the number of awesome homologations is practically endless, here’s a short list of what we consider the best-of-the-best, the greatest homologation cars of all time.
In the 1980s, the most exciting and notorious of motorsports, the Group B rally, was a performance testing ground for the world’s auto makers. One of the few rules in Group B was the homologation requirement, which gave us some of the coolest and most exciting cars of the era. Ford’s RS200 was one such car. The RS200 was a showcase of Ford engineering knowhow. It featured an unusual mid-engine 4WD layout where the front mounted transmission sent power first to the front wheels and then back to the rear wheels. The RS200’s run didn’t last long, just two years from 1984 to 1986, after which Group B was canceled due to safety concerns.
In accordance with FIA homologation requirements Ford produced some 200 RS200s, making it a highly desirable collector car today.
Another hero of the Group B rally series is the Audi Sport Quattro S1. Following the success of the Audi Quattro and its game changing all-wheel drive system, the German automaker needed to up their game for Group B and the result was the Sport Quattro, which debuted in 1984. It had a shorter wheelbase than the original Quattro, and, in accordance with regulations, a smaller turbo 2.1L five-cylinder engine. Audi said the engine produced 470 horsepower, though many put the number closer to 500 hp. They also added a front spoiled and massive wing for improved aerodynamics and a carbon-Kevlar body for weight savings.
The Sport Quattro S1 and S1 E2 (and updated version of the Quattro S1) won multiple racing titles including the 1985 San Romeo Rally and multiple wins at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. 164 of the 224 Sport Quattros built were sold as road cars.
The BMW M3 saw its beginnings as a race homologation in the mid-1980s. In order to compete in the German DTM touring car series, BMW was required to produce and sell 5,000 road-going version of their entry car. It initially featured a 2.0L four-cylinder engine making 200 horsepower, but displacement grew over its years of competition. It would take numerous championships in the mid to late 1980s including the World Touring Car Championships, two DTM titles, and four titles at the Italia Superturismo Championships.
In addition to it’s racing heritage, the M3 E30 has become the iconic ‘80s BMW. Few cars are blessed with a timeless design, but the M3 E30 is one such car. Its assertive lines, bulging fenders, and perfect proportions would have made it a classic of the era regardless of its racing bona fides.
This Ferrari encapsulates the companies most renown attributes, racing and rarity. Ferrari 250 GTO has the august distinction as one of the most expensive and desirable collector’s cars in the world. Per homologation regulations, Ferrari made a road-going version of the 250 GTO. They produced a grand total of 39 examples, making this car exceedingly rare (and expensive). A 2014 auction for a 250 GTO exceeded $38 million dollars. Another private sale in 2018 when to the tune of $70 million.
So what makes this arguably the greatest Ferrari of all time? In addition to its rarity, the 250 GTO has a serious racing pedigree. The first prototype of the 250 GTO was based on the 250 GT SWB and first raced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1961. Its official debut came in 1962 at the 12 Hours of Sebring, placing second overall in the GT class. The car would go on to collect dozens of wins for Scuderia Ferrari and other independent race teams.
We already gushed over the technological innovations of the Porsche 959 in our Retro Review, but, as it was originally designed as a Group B rally homologation, we couldn’t leave it off this list. First conceived in 1981, the development of the 959 was so thoroughgoing that by the time it was finally finished in 1987, Group B had already come and gone. But all that development time wasn’t to waste, as intended the 959 was a testing ground for all sorts of new tech that would eventually make its way into the 911.
Among those innovations was the use of AWD, the use of water cooling for the new four-valve heads, and the utilization of lightweight materials like aluminum and Kelvar. Even though Group B was over, the Porsche 959 would see its chance for racing glory in the Dakar Rally series in the 1986. A total of 337 Porsche 959s were produced, including prototypes and road cars.
There are few more signature looks from the muscle car era than the rear wing and nose cone of the Roadrunner Superbird and its twin the Dodge Charger Daytona. Those signature features are what got the Superbird effectively banned from NASCAR after a brief but dominating run. After numerous first place finished in the 1970 season (many with Richard Petty behind the wheel), the Superbird’s radical design came under fire. The improved aerodynamics were such an advantage over the competition that in 1971, NASCAR implemented a new rule stating that aero-cars would be limited to a displacement of 5.0L or less. That meant the 7.0L and 7.2L V8s that the Superbird ran were out of the question. Given the challenges of such a weight-to-power ratio, a smaller engine just wasn’t feasible, and the Superbird’s stint as a NASCAR phenom came to an abrupt but memorable end.