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Five of the Most Successful Rally to Road Cars of All Time

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Rally Racing Topics:  Peugeot 205, Ford Escort, Audi quattro, Subaru Impreza, Mitsubishi Lancer

Five of the Most Successful Rally to Road Cars of All Time

Alex Honeyman
29 April 2016

Rallying is the oldest form of motorsport, predating Formula 1 by over 40 years. The ultimate test of a motor's mettle, it demands speed, endurance, power, and performance from its champions. Its victors are a study in sleek, streamlined beauty, expertly designed lines and curves hiding away beneath their garish paint and dazzling patterns.

The best of them provide an incredible versatility. They are morph motors, able to transform from rough around the edges rallying champion to sleek city car when their days on the track are done. Yet even then, they possess an undeniable verve and vivacity, and this is never more apparent than with these five ultimate rally to road cars...

#1: Peugeot 205 T16

The Peugeot 205 T16 will forever deserve a place in the rally car hall of fame. It was the epitome of everything that a racing machine should be, with its mammoth rear wing, four-wheel drive, and four-cylinder 450bhp engine. Its roar reverberated around forests and mud tracks around the world, like the bellow of a war horn, letting all around it know of its coming. Crowned the WRC champion for two consecutive years, in 1985 and 1986, it was the star of Group B racing, its record unparalleled.

#2: Ford Escort

The Ford Escort was once the mainstay of the rally car circuit. Its career spanned from the 1960s, with the inception of the Escort RS1600. Based on its Twin-Cam counterpart, it had every design feature necessary to create a racing behemoth, from an uprated engine to strengthened body shells, competition suspension, and precision handling. Still guaranteed to draw a roaring cheer from the crowds at historic rallying events, its legacy endures in every Ford hot hatch to come after it.

#3: Audi Sport Quattro S1

Few people would argue with the excellence of Audi's offerings, so the fact that it enjoyed as much success on the race track as it has on the roads should come as little surprise to its enthusiasts. The Quattro S1 was its greatest triumph, and it blew up the rallying scene when it was introduced in 1980. Featuring four-wheel drive, an advanced gear changing system, and a shortened chassis to provide precision handling, it cut through the competition like a gun fired in a knife fight. Exceptionally brilliant on slippery surfaces, it adapted to all terrains, a feature that translated well to its road car counterparts, offering ordinary drivers exceptional performance and versatility.

#4: Subaru Impreza

The Subaru Impreza dominated the rallying scene during the 1990s, achieving three consecutive WRC manufacturers titles between 1995 and 1997. Its string of impressive podium finishes earned it an eternal right to a place in the rally car hall of champions. The model for most people's perceptions of a rally car, it featured garish blue paintwork, striking yellow logos, and a roaring engine, most commonly covered over by a layer of churned up dirt and mud.

#5: Mitsubishi Lancer Evo

Perhaps the most successful rally car of all, however, was the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, which left even the names mentioned above standing when it roared into life. Famously partnered by Richard Burns, it claimed four drivers title wins during its sterling career, as well as two manufacturers championships. Dominating dirt tracks around the world, it offered raw performance and exquisite handling, and birthed a number of road versions built in its mighty image, which are still available to buy today. Indeed, take a look on AA Cars, and you're guaranteed to be able to find your very own rally car inspired racing machine.

Which one of these exceptional motors would you take home to add to your garage?

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