Ford GT (2017): The new Ford GT was conceived by the firm as a vehicle that could win the GTE Pro class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. To meet the rules of the class, that meant building a road car version. And what a road car – a £420,000, 647bhp technical marvel.
Ford GT40 (1964): The story goes that the GT40 was born of out Henry Ford II’s desire to win Le Mans to spite Enzo Ferrari, after the Italian pulled out of a deal to sell his eponymous firm to the US firm. Ford partnered with Lola to develop the GT40, with various iterations of the racing car taking four straight Le Mans wins from 1966-’69. The Mk1 GT40 road car shared the same glass fibre shell as the racing machine, and was fitted with the same 4.2-litre V8, detuned to around 335hp at 6250rpm. It could reach 164mph.
Ferrari 250 GTO (1962): This was Ferrari’s entry into the Group 3 Grand Touring Car category. But to enter the car, which was powered by a 3.0L V12 Tipo engine, Ferrari was required to produce 100 road-going versions. That said, only 39 were ever built - legend has it that Ferrari used non-sequential chassis numbers in a bid to fool rule makers. The 250 GTO helped Ferrari win three straight GT manufacturers’ titles between 1962 and ’64.
Dauer 962 (1993): Porsche dominated Le Mans in the mid-1980s with the prototype 956 and its successor, the 962. But after 1987 the wins dried up – but when race organisers overhauled the rules to make GT cars more competitive in 1994, Porsche and fashion magnate Jochen Dauer spotted a loophole. Dauer converted a 962 racing car into a road-legal GT machine, christened the Dauer 962 Le Mans. It was fitted with the same 730hp 3L turbocharged flat six engine, along with hydraulic suspension to lift it to road-legal levels. That allowed a racing version to run in the GT class at Le Mans. Predictably, it won. Le Mans organisers changed the rules again to stop the Dauer 962 returning for 1995, but its popularity means that the firm continued to produce road car examples.
Porsche 911 GT1 Strassenversion (1996): Porsche didn’t even attempt to hide the fact this was a homologation special: they even named it ‘street version’. It had the same 592hp, twin-turbo 3.2-litre engine as the GT1-class race car (detuned slightly to meet European emission standards), which took an outright Le Mans win in 1998. This was the first machine to essentially subvert the mid-1990s GT class regulations by being a pure racing car rather than a converted road car. But it wouldn’t be the last…
Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR (1997): Following the collapse of the DTM touring car series in 1996, Mercedes turned their attention to the FIA GT Championship for 1997, building the mighty Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR. In order to run the car in the category, 25 road versions had to be produced between 1997 and ’99. It featured a 6.9-litre 604bhp engine (and precious little luggage space). AMG later produced a small number of variants.
Nissan R390 (1997): Technically, this car doesn’t belong on this list: Nissan built the R390 road car first, and then worked on the racing car. But we’re including it, because they only built the road car in order to build a race car - and it never actually went on sale, anyway. The road car had the race car’s 3.5L aluminium V8 engine, detuned from 641bhp to 550bhp. When built, it was the third quickest road car ever made. The sole surviving road car is kept in Nissan’s Zama storage facility in Kanagawa, Japan.
Toyota TS020 GT-One (1998): To enter the GT-One into Le Mans, Toyota built two road-going versions. The road car version was made out of carbonfibre and weighed 900kg. It featured the racing car’s 600hp twin-turbo V8 – with top-speed limited to 236mph – a smaller fuel tank and catalytic converter to meet emissions regulations. The best trick couldn’t be seen: rules stipulated GT cars were required to have a storage space big enough to fit a suitcase. Toyota convinced scrutineers the fuel tank should count as trunk space, since you could, technically, fit a suitcase in it…
BMW M3 GTR V8 (2001): Even when GT cars were no longer capable of winning Le Mans outright, manufacturers were still producing homologation specials in order to fight for the class wins. BMW wanted to run the M3 GTR in sportscar racing, but reckoned it needed a 4-litre V8 engine to be competitive. Since it didn’t have a V8-engine M3 road car, it made one - actually, it made ten, purely to meet homologation requirements. The road car was detuned from 493bhp to 380bhp. The M3 GTR V8 was also 220kg lighter than the regular M3, and had plenty of other tweaks to boost the race car’s potential.
Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II (1990): It’s existed in various guises, but the DTM German touring car series has always featured some of the most spectacular tin-tops on the track – and the homologation specials were pretty mighty too. Mercedes-Benz opted to race its entry-level compact saloon, the 190E (internally codenamed the W201) in the DTM, developing a 195hp Evolution version that had revised suspension, a new spoiler and wider wheel arches. By 1992, Merc was feeling the heat from rival BMW and developed the Evolution II – with an even bigger wing and engine tweaks that produced 235hp. Mercedes produced 500 of the Evolution I models, and 502 of the Evo II.
Alfa Romeo 155 Silverstone edition (1994): To spot the difference between most Alfa Romeo 155s and the 2500 Silverstone editions (labelled the Formula in Europe), you had to look in the boot. Yes, in it. That’s where buyers of the £13,990 special edition would find a host of attachable bodykit parts, along with some nuts and bolts. Those parts could be fitted to the wing and splitter on the car – if you could work out how, since Alfa didn’t provide any instructions. Why? Because that meant the 155s Alfa entered in the 1994 British Touring Car Championship could be homologated with an adjustable splitter and wing, exploiting a loophole in the BTCC’s Super Touring rules. Alfa duly won the title, albeit after much off-track controversy. The Super Touring rules were changed for 1995, allowing every car to sport wings.
Ford Sierra RS Cosworth (1986): The Sierra RS Cosworth was conceived purely to return Ford to the front of top-line touring car racing. Ford turned to Cosworth for the engine, who produced a turbocharged, 16 valve twin car, which produced 300hp in race trim and 204hp in the road car. This was shoved into a reworked Sierra, chosen for its ideal rear-wheel-drive layout and aerodynamic shape. With concerns about whether dealers could shift the 5000 road cars required for homologation, Ford kept the price down by limiting both colour and equipment options. An RS500 version later followed and became a dominant force in tin-top racing - it won races and championships in Britain, Australia, Germany, Japan and several other countries. The Sierra RS500 Cosworth was also used for rallying, taking a WRC in in Corsica in 1988.
Dodge Charger Daytona (1969): In 1969, NASCAR stock cars were still supposed to be, well, stock. But opening of Daytona and other high-banked speedways put a premium on aerodynamics. With the Dodge Charger 500 uncompetitive on such tracks, the firm produced put the Charger Daytona – with a drooping nose cone in place of the front grille and a huge rear wing – into production. 503 examples were built; most featured a 7.2-litre V8, although 70 were fitted with a 7.0l Hemi V8.
Plymouth Road Runner Superbird (1970): The Road Runner Superbird was Plymouth’s equivalent of sister company Dodge’s Charger Daytona, and sported nearly a nearly identical front nose and rear wing. NASCAR had upped the road car production minimum for the 1970 season, so Plymouth produced 1920 road-going cars (which it had considerable trouble selling). There were three engine choices, topped by a 7.0l V8 that produced 425hp.
Lancia Stratos HF (1974): With a mid-mounted engine, lightweight shell wedge shape and short chassis, the Lancia Stratos was the ideal car to go rallying with in the mid-1970s. That was, of course, entirely by design: the Stratos High Fidelity was developed as a rally car first – one capable of winning three straight World Rally Championship titles from 1974-’77 – with the road-going Stradale version following. The Stradale models, built to homologate the rally car, were fitted with a 2.4L 190hp Ferrari Dino engine. While 500 were required for homologation, it’s believed that only 492 were built.
Renault R5 Turbo (1980): The French response to Lancia’s rallying domination was to wheel out… a Renault 5 Alpine. This was no ordinary 5 though: it was rear-wheel-drive, featured entirely new Bertone-styled rear bodywork, and was powered by a mid-mounted 1.4-litre turbocharged engine. The initial run of 400 road car versions ensured the car was homologated for the World Rally Championship, where it notched up four wins between 1981 and 1986. It might had won more, had it not come out shortly before Audi changed the rallying world through its four-wheel-drive Quattro...
Ford RS200 (1984): Ford achieved plenty of success in rallying with the Escort in the 1970s and early ’80s, and in 1980 began work on a rear-wheel-drive Escort 1700T to fit the new Group B rules. Then Audi invented the four-wheel-drive concept, forcing Ford back to the drawing board. The result was the RS200, developed with input from Formula 1 designers and featuring a plastic-fibreglass body and a mid-engined 1.8L turbocharged engine. Group B rally cars were banned after the 1986 season, so the RS200 lasted just one problem-filled season. 200 road cars were produced to meet homologation requirements.
Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 (1985): The Peugeot 205 T16 looked similar to the regular 205 - but looks were about all they had in common. While most 205s were front-engined and front-wheel-drive, the 205 T16 was a mid-engined, four-wheel-drive monster. The rallying 205 T16 was designed at virtually unlimited cost to take the fight to the Audi Quattro in the World Rally Championship, and was a bespoke 4WD rally machine crammed into a shell that just about looked like a 205. The 200 road-going 205 T16 models produced (all in one colour, for ease of production) had the same mid-mounted engine as the rally car, accessed through lifting up the rear bodywork of the car. Perhaps sensibly, the engines of the road cars were detuned to around 197bhp.
Ford Escort Cosworth (1992): In a bid to win the World Rally Championship, Ford took the chassis and mechanicals of the Sierra RS Cosworth and shoved them into an Escort shell, along with a new 2.0-litre, 227hp engine and four-wheel-drive. And then slapped a massive great big rear wing onto it. The rally car won 10 rallies between 1993 and ’97, but never quite dominated the WRC in the way Ford hoped. The road car became a cult classic, with just over 7000 produced. The great big rear wing was actually an option on later models. Most buyers chose to have it fitted.
Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution (1997): Yes, this is the SUV equivalent of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Why? It’s all about the Dakar Rally. Mitsubishi has won the ultra-tough event 12 times using various versions of the Pajero (better known in the UK as the Shogun). From 1997 until 1999 they ran in the production-based T2 class – and their entry on the limited-run Pajero Evolution. As well as a bunch of aero flourishes, the model featured a 3.5-litre, 276bhp V6, Recaro seat, skidplates, a widebody kit, and revised suspension and differentials.
Peugeot 206 GT (1999): When Peugeot returned to the World Rally Championship in 2000, the 206 was the perfect car to use – except it was too short. The 206 was 3.83 metres long, but World Rally Cars rules stipulated a minimum length of four metres. The solution was to produce the 206 GT (pictured above in slightly more outlandish WRC trim), featuring a 147bhp 2.0-litre 16 valve engine – and, crucially, over-sized front and rear bumpers that made it exactly four metres long. 4000 GT examples were built, allowing it to be used to homologate the 206 WRC that was exactly four metres long.
Citroën BX 4TC (1986): Not all homologation specials are a success in competition and on the road. The Citroen BX 4TC, built to rallying’s Group B regulations was a flop in both environments. It featured an unusual longitudinal turbocharged four-cylinder engine (borrowed from a Simca Type 80) that sat over the front axle, and odd hydropneumatic suspension. It lasted three rallies, with a best finish of sixth, before its competition career was mercifully ended by the axing of Group B. The road car version featured a shorter wheelbase than the regular BX, 4WD and 200hp. Citroen had sold less than 100 when the project was canned, and tried to buy back the cars and scrap them. Only a handful survived – ironically making it a collector’s item now…
As Matt Prior detailed in his in-depth review, the new Ford GT was conceived by the firm as a vehicle that could win the GTE Pro class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. To meet the rules of the class, that meant building a road car version.
And what a road car – a £420,000, 647bhp technical marvel, as you can see in this video.