Racing homologation rules have produced some of the craziest cars to ever be sold for driving on public roads. In some cases, it's hard to believe automakers were crazy enough to build these cars at all, but motorsport is known to inspire strange behavior. Here are some of the best.
The road-going version of Panoz's wonderful Esperante GTR-1 race car came near the end of the 1990s. In order to qualify it for racing, the company had to build two examples. Like the race car, it uses a 6.0-liter V-8 making north of 600 horsepower. It also looks menacing.
Developed by Ford to compete in the World Touring Car Championship in 1987, just 500 road-going versions of the RS500 were built. The biggest upgrade was the engine—a 2.0-liter unit built by Cosworth that made 224 horsepower.
Unlike most Group B homologation specials, Rover's Metro 6R4 didn't use any sort of forced induction. It had a naturally aspirated V-6 with Cosworth underpinnings that later found a home in twin-turbo form in the Jaguar XJ220. It also had a chassis designed by Williams, making it very, very quick.
The first M3 was built to homologate BMW's racing in Group A, designed to compete against Mercedes-Benz and its 190E. The race car would go on to win the Nurburgring 24-Hour five times, while the road car has become a desirable collector's item.
Though it might not be as popular as some of the other rally homologation cars on this list, the Celica GT-Four is still serious business. It makes 250 horsepower through a turbo inline-four, and gets power to all four corners via a permanent all-wheel drive system.
It might look like a normal 205 from the outside, but the Turbo 16 was anything but. It had a mid-mounted engine behind the driver, and all-wheel drive to homologate Peugeot's Group B efforts of the time.
Though it sports 996-generation 911 headlights, the 911 GT1 is far from a 911. It has a flat-six engine, but it's mounted in the middle, and water-cooled. The body is made up of carbon fiber, and the transmission is a six-speed sequential. It was built so Porsche could go racing in the FIA's GT Championship.
Like the 911 GT1, the CLK GTR was built to compete in the FIA GT Championship, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Unlike the normal CLK, it sports a mid-mounted V-12 engine and a carbon fiber monocoque.
Produced to homologate the Quattro for Group B rally, the S1 sports a carbon-Kevlar body shell with a turbocharged five cylinder engine and, of course, all-wheel drive.
The 131 homologation special was built in a collaboration between, Fiat, design house Bertone, and Abarth. Just 400 examples were built to get the car homologated for the World Rally Championship.
A loophole in Chevy's custom ordering process let a handful of dealers order the baddest Camaro imagined back in 1969. It had a big block 427 V-8 like many other Camaros, only its V-8 was all-aluminum and designed for Can Am racers. There were plenty of fast Camaros in the late-1960s, but this was totally unhinged.
The homologation special is mostly dead today, but Ford brought it back in spirit with the new GT. From the outset, it's abundantly clear Ford had top-level racing in mind when designing the new GT: The street car's engine is adapted from a Daytona Prototype powerplant. The GT road car might not be as raw and untamed as some of the other cars on this list, but it's philosophically similar.
If you're a fan of the today's WRX STI, this is the car you have to thank. For the 22B, Subaru took the standard Impreza STI's 2.0-liter engine and increased displacement to 2.2 liters, with power rising to 280-hp. Big fender flares and a rear wing set the visual template for all STIs to come. Only 424 were built and apparently only two live in the U.S.
One of the weirder footnotes in Le Mans history is the , which won the race in 1994 thanks to some creative rulebook interpretation. Dauer took a handful of Porsche 962s, which were the dominant car of the Group C era, and modified them for street use. It is one of the most extraordinary cars to be sold for the streets, but that's what allowed Porsche to enter the 962 in the GT category at Le Mans in 1994.
NASCAR these days produces great racing, but the cars have no relationship to what you can buy in dealerships. In the late 1960s, though, an ingenious interpretation of the rulebook gave us these, the Plymouth Road Runner Superbird and the Dodge Charger Daytona. These bewinged NASCAR racers were so good they were effectively banned in 1971, but not before a handful of highly desirable road cars were built. One of the greatest icons of the muscle car era.
Lancia wanted to dominate rallying in the mid-1970s, so it built what could be argued as the first purpose-built rally homologation special, the Stratos. A V-6 lifted from the Ferrari Dino 246 was mounted in the middle and the body was kept as small as possible. Large door pockets were designed to fit a helmet and most of the parts were lifted off lesser Fiats.
The FIA GT1 class produced some of the best race cars of the mid-1990s and thanks to , some of the wildest street cars too. The Toyota GT-One was especially crazy because unlike the Porsche 911 GT1 and Mercedes CLK-GTR, the GT-One road car built was totally unlike anything else Toyota sold. It's a street car in the loosest sense, but a street car nevertheless.
Ford took the same general idea behind the Lancia Stratos–that a small, mid-engined car makes good rally racer–and updated it for the 1980s. The result was the stunning RS200. Ford engineered a truly wild drivetrain for this car, consisting of a mid-mounted turbocharged Cosworth four-cylinder that sends power to a front-mounted gearbox. A center differential sends power to all four wheels, so the RS200's layout is essentially like a Nissan GT-R going backwards.
One of the defining characteristics of the E46-generation M3 is its sing-song straight-six, but when BMW took that car racing, it decided to take a slightly different route with the engine. The used a V-8 due to inane rules, but other teams cried foul, with the V-8. BMW only built a handful, which were never sold, before pulling the M3 GTR out of competition.
The same homologation requirements that gave us the GT-One, 911 GT1 and CLK-GTR gave us the totally lovely . Just two road cars were built, which featured a mid-mounted V-8 making around 550 horsepower. The street and race cars were engineered by Tom Walkinshaw racing, which built the superlative Jaguar XJR-9 and XJR-15 road car, and designed by Ian Callum. Nissan kept one of the cars but allegedly, another is owned by a private collector. Consider yourself very lucky if you ever see it on the street.
Say "Mitsubishi Evolution" and immediately, images of Tommi Mäkinen throwing a Lancer Evo rally car sideways spring to mind. It's not the only Mitsubishi to wear an "Evolution" badge, though. Mitsubishi to homologate a more durable and competition focused truck for the T2 class, which featured stock production cars, in the Dakar rally. Beefed-up suspension, a 276-hp V-6 and other off-road goodies helped Mitsubishi win the Dakar overall in 1998.
Here's a truly oddball car you might not have known about. Buick a little over 100 LeSabre Grand Nationals in 1986 to homologate a more streamlined body style for NASCAR competition. Using smaller rear quarter windows gave Buick an aerodynamic advantage over its competition. Sadly, this road going front-wheel-drive coupe didn't get the turbocharged V6 from the Regal Grand National.
In the late 1970s, Renault a response to the mid-engined Lancia Stratos, but instead of developing a whole new car, it just radically redesigned its (already aging) 5 hatchback. The result was the R5 turbo, which relocated the 5's engine from the front to the middle. The rear-wheel-drive R5 Turbo didn't achieve rally glory thanks to Audi and its newfangled Quattro all-wheel-drive, but it did put one of the wildest hatchbacks ever built on the road.