‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ always used to be the motorsport maxim. By proving their product on the race tracks and rally stages of the world, car manufacturers hoped to lure impressed buyers into their showrooms. And, to be honest, it worked, particularly for people like you and me, who know there’s something innately satisfying about driving a car with genuine motor racing pedigree.
These days, that’s not really the case. Most motorsport campaigns are now as much a branding and marketing exercise as a true test of mettle and metal. Look at many series and most competing cars are bespoke designs aimed at meeting very strict performance and budget regulations. Just glance at the latest breed of WRC rally car or TCR tin-top for proof. The days of Group A ‘homologation specials’ have long gone.
Well, yes and no. Sift carefully through the classifieds and you’ll find plenty of cars that have been touched by motorsport magic in some way or other. Sometimes this results in a car that’s better to drive, sometimes it just adds a little desirable street cred, and sometimes it opens up the opportunity for you yourself to compete. Whatever you’re looking for, here are 14 of the top motorsport-infused buys.
Years built: 2005-2006 Price now: £3500-7000
The greatest motorsport-infused BMW is the E30-generation M3, but with their prices now rising into six figures, these boxy slices of 1980s track-focused brilliance are becoming the preserve of speculators. However, there is another 3 Series that has bona fide competition pedigree and it can be bought for less than the price of a new city car: the E90-generation 320si.
It was created to win the World Touring Car Championship and just 2600 examples were made, with 500 of them coming to the UK. Under the bonnet is a special, hand-built, over-square 2.0-litre petrol motor that features bigger valves, aluminium cylinder liners and, the crowning glory, a carbonfibre cam cover. Oh, yes. Power is a modest 171bhp, but the 320si likes to rev. (The redline is at 7500rpm.) The standard 320i M Sport on which it was based was a crisp handler, so changes run to just 18in alloy wheels and bigger brakes.
As a used buy, the only real issue is the potential cracking of those special cylinder liners, but a number of companies offer repairs. So with prices starting at around £3500, the big question is this: can you afford not to take the plunge?
One we found: 2006 320si with 81,000 miles, a full service history and a recent BMW main dealer replacement engine. All for £5295.
Suzuki Swift Sport
Years built: 2006-2012 Price now: £1500-£4000
With two Junior World Rally Championship titles to its name, the first-generation Swift Sport isn’t short of pedigree. The wide-bodied rally car borrowed rather a lot from the road machine, not least its motor. With forged pistons, high-lift cams and strengthened springs, the 123bhp 1.6-litre four-pot has a properly racy character.