Video: Ten Road Cars Born from Motorsport

The phrase “race car for the road” is often thrown around and usually it falls short of reality. Moreover, these marketing ploys often describe cars with little to no racing heritage. There are, however, plenty of street cars with the right pedigree. Some are made road legal for the purposes of homologation, whereas others have less to do with that and more to do engineering achievement. No stranger to the dedicated sports car that can get the groceries is, of course, Porsche.

The 911 GT2, known as the “widowmaker,” rightly struck fear in the hearts of even the most talented drivers. In the early ’90s, the racier version of the 993 Turbo went to race in the GT2 class. Like the racer, the road-going homologation version had the front drivetrain stripped, was put on a strict diet, and the engine’s output stretched. Whereas the road car made 430 horsepower, the racing version of the GT2 made as much as 650 horsepower, which, when combined with a rear engine-layout, meant lots of tire degradation. For this reason, and expensive engine rebuilds, the GT2 was eventually considered too pricy to race, and only replaced with the GT1, a midship car that went on to challenge the almighty McLaren F1.

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Riveted overfenders and that purposeful wing gave the road car a look that hardly differed from the racing version.

But circuit slayers aren’t the only kind of racer here. The Lancia Delta S4 needs little in the way of introduction, being one of the most iconic rally cars ever. Its road-going sibling, often known as the “Stradale,” shared the same twin-charged setup as the rally car, as well as the mid-mounted engine and, impressively, the chromoly spaceframe. Two hundred of these pricy roadcars were sold for homologation purposes in the one year of their production, 1986, but they’re seldom seen these days.

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The road-going Delta S4 was more racing car than road car.

Less obvious but equally impressive is the stylish Alpine A110. This Renault powerhouse was a rallying icon for years, earning a reputation in the skilled hands of French ace Jean-Luc Therier. Weighing a paltry 1,300 pounds, this car came with several engine configurations, the smallest of which only outputted 50 horsepower. Nevertheless, its success on the WRC trail has established it as a legend which can fetch six-figure prices at auction these days.

More obvious to the NASCAR fan is the outlandish Plymouth Superbird. Defined by its sloping front end and huge rear wing, this evolution of the Roadrunner featured a 7.0-liter V8 as used in the contemporary NASCAR sibling. It’s absurd aero parts have made it a memorable machine for any red-blooded gearhead, as has its terrifying roar.

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Any self-respecting gearhead has a soft spot for BMW’s Batmobile.

One of the prettiest machines to make this list is the inimitable BMW 3.0 CSL. The racing variant outfitted with the full aero kit was dubbed the “Batmobile,” but the road car was much more subtle. Sleek and purposeful, this shark-nosed sedan was a regular in the European Touring Car Championships among other categories.

One car with a fairly checkered past was the short-lived Metro 6R4. Forced to make a huge swathe of roadcars for homologation, MG was presented with a huge task, which they met. Unfortunately, this rally-bred beast, boasting a potent V6 mounted midship and a four wheel-drive system, was a major flop. After its inception in 1985, Group B died and the hundreds of cars made for road use weren’t selling. Thankfully, some of the racing cars were converted into rallycross specials, and collectors sought out the road-going variants after the Group B days were well and truly gone.

Included in the remainder of this list are a few familiar faces from brands like BMW, as well as some less-obvious machines that never truly caught on as road cars. There are parallels between the outright racer and the sporty street machine, but it’s always difficult to bridge that gap with a homologation special and make them sell. Nevertheless, these models show that with the right technology and the right timing, these racers-for-the-road will find a supportive home to go to.

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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