Homologation rules exist to put production cars in racing series, but the number of cars that must be produced is kept low to let small manufacturers compete. This hasn’t stopped big-name automakers from throwing profits, and sometimes sanity, out the window to ensure race wins. These three cars show how far the definition of “road legal” can be pushed for motorsport.
Plymouth Superbird and Dodge Charger Daytona
Back when NASCAR racers were truly “stock” cars, Chrysler started selling special aerodynamics packages to make their drivers faster on the track. In 1969, they entered the race with the Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth Superbird. The nosecone and retractable headlights cut wind resistance, while the rear spoiler, standing tall enough to allow the trunk to open, helped keep the rear end planted at high speeds. The result was a coefficient of drag of 0.28, a respectable figure for a modern production car.
Buddy Baker used a Superbird to become the first NASCAR driver to go around the track at a speed of over 200 mph. Production versions equipped with the Hemi have an estimated top speed over of 180 mph, but with the terrible stock brakes and suspension of the era, going that fast is a death wish.
Ford RS200 Evolution
Ford of Great Britain built 200 RS200s and 24 Evolutions to quality for the Group B rally class. Loosely based on the Sierra, this racer added all wheel drive, a solid-mounted race suspension and a fiberglass body to give the best traction and power-to-weight ratio possible.
The Cosworth-tuned 2.1 liter turbocharged engine could handle up to 23 psi of boost for a output to a maximum of 580 bhp. With just over 2,600 lbs. to move around, the car held the 0-100 kph (0-62 mph) acceleration record for 12 years, hitting the speed in just 3.07 seconds.
The series ended after Henri Toivonen and Sergio Crestos died when their car crashed at the 1986 Tour de Course, but a 1.8-liter version went on to snag victories in the European Rally Championship.
The GT1 class was set up for the best performing production cars, which lead Mercedes to build the CLK-GTR. An F1-style aluminum and carbon fiber monocoque with a 6.9 liter V12 producing over 600 hp made it fast, while traction control and a height-adjustable suspension helped drivers navigate rain-soaked roads and speed bumps.
On the track, it was as famous for dramatic back flips caused by aerodynamic lift as it was for beating race-prepped McLaren F1s. Like Group B, the GT1 class was dropped over safety concerns. Mercedes stopped racing the CLK-GTR after it failed to complete the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but AMG kept producing cars for a few years, with a handful of models ending up with the 7.3 liter engine developed for the Pagani Zonda.
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