Road-legal lunacy: Top five Group B production cars
Few road-going race cars possess the savage mystique of the homologated Group B rally cars. The eighties saw the high point of international rallying's impact on the public consciousness as manufacturers embraced a set of rules that allowed them to field custom-built 500bhp race machines masquerading as production cars.
The street-legal versions were only built to satisfy the regulations of the day, and were produced in such low numbers (200 examples each) that manufacturers transferred the complex drivetrains of the competition cars straight into the showroom models, cut the power, slapped a suitably colossal price tag on the bonnet and then wheeled them out to the public and press for widespread adulation.
Over twenty years have passed since then. Time has cut down so many of the road cars that they now exist in the pages of classic car magazines as sought-after legends of the highest order. They're so collectable that the sight of one on eBay is enough to generate news coverage. We've been staring at this little beauty for most of the day, and it's not even in the UK. And it's up to $35,000 already.
It hasn't stopped us day dreaming though. So if money were no object what would our all-time top five Group B production cars be? Click below to find out...
5. Lancia Delta S4
It doesn't get much rarer than this. Peugeot and Audi were showing Lancia a clean pair of heels in the early eighties with sophisticated four-wheel drive cars so in 1985 the Italian manufacturer struck back with this mid-engined monster. The Delta was powered by a 1.8-litre engine which employed both a turbocharger and supercharger to produce around 550bhp. That was cut to 250bhp for the road-going version, but the exotic construction materials and brutal styling made it to the street. The rally car showed early promise, but was cut down by a fatal accident at the 1986 Corsica event, and finally killed by the deletion of Group B later that year.
4. MG Metro 6R4
That's right, a Metro. For the uninitiated this angular little gem had a bespoke 3-litre V6 engine at the centre of its stubby little heart. In road going 'Clubman' format it pumped out 250bhp through all four wheels, and was punted to Austin Rover customers for about £40,000. Its owners only needed to fit racing harnesses and an extinguisher to go rallying. Many did, and there's very few left as a result. Still not convinced? The V6 engine went onto form the basis of the turbocharged monster which propelled the Jaguar XJ220 to infamy.
3. Peugeot 205 T16
Unlike the last two cars, the standard production 205 was a fine car in its own right. The GTI is rightly regarded as a legend, but the T16 is a different kettle of fish altogether. Jean Todt (yep, that Jean Todt) was drafted in to Peugeot in 1981 to bring the manufacturer rallying glory, and the 205 Turbo 16 was the result. It crushed the Audi Quattros under its custom-made boot, and went onto desert rally glory when Group B died. The T16 road car had around 200bhp under those blistered wheel arches, and shares the racer's awesome mid-engined, four-wheel drive layout.
2. Ford RS200
The RS200 is one of the cars that can be held responsible for the FIA's abolishing of Group B cars after a spectacular crash at the 1986 Rally Portugal that resulted in the deaths of three spectators. That fact should temper our love of the little Ford, but it's hard to hold it against the Reliant built, Cosworth powered pocket rocket. Ford built the RS200 from the ground up to race – its chassis was the work of a former F1 designer – but they still dipped into their parts bin to finish it; the windscreen is from a Sierra. This is one car on the list that you might be lucky enough to catch on British roads, but don't expect to see it for long – the road going cars had 250bhp as standard from 1.8-litre engine, and most were upgraded with aftermarket kits.
1. Audi Sport Quattro
Audi conquered international rallying when it introduced the Quattro four-wheel drive system to the sport in 1980, but a few years later the other manufacturers had caught up. The S1 was introduced to defend Audi's name. The car's wheelbase was 12 inches shorter than the regular Audi to allow it to compete with the 205 Turbo 16 and packed a 500bhp punch thanks to its famous inline 5-cylinder engine. The Sport Quattro was the god-like road version which could out accelerate a Lamborghini Countach with a 307bhp version of the same 2.1-litre 20v engine. Of course, the carbon-kevlar body certainly helped, and the car was packed with the latest self-locking differentials to keep it on the road. It was expensive when Audi launched it – now, a mint condition example fetches the kind of money you'd expect to spend on a new Porsche 911.