Rally cars are a special breed. Leaping through the air, surging through water, and covering rough ground faster than anything else on four wheels, they are awe-inspiring. From the legends of Group B to today’s modern heroes, there have been some truly iconic examples.
Here are our top 10 most iconic rally cars of all time.
When the Audi Quattro introduced all-wheel drive to the world of rallying, it fundamentally changed the sport forever. Even today AWD is the dominant formula, and in period the Quattro set the example. The S1 E2 was arguably the ultimate Audi Quattro.
Taking full advantage of menacing aerodynamic bodywork, the lightened rally fighter made use off over 500bhp from its inline five-cylinder engine. This was Audi’s final Group B rally car.
Another legend of Group B, the 205 T16 was more of a caricature of the regular 205. It featured all-wheel drive, a heavily modified body, and the engine was mounted in the middle. It won 16 WRC events and proved to be a real force in the world of Group B.
To comply with Group B rules, 200 road legal T16s had to be built.
Images of a blue Subaru with gold wheels made for fond memories of rally fans the world over, and in 2001 Richard Burns became champion driving his Impreza WRC. Noted for its bug-eyes, the all-wheel drive machine was totally revised for this season.
They came, they conquered, they left. Volkswagen’s stint in rallying resulted in total domination thanks to the Polo WRC. The all-wheel drive hatchback quickly upset the order and delivered multiple championships consecutively.
Volkswagen’s misdeeds with diesel ultimately lead to the plug being pulled don this project.
Arguably the most successful rally car of all time, the French hatch cleaned up in the hands of Sebastian Loeb. Winning 36 events and four drivers titles in a row, its momentum was only stopped by a rule change.
Mitsubishi always tussled with Subaru, but it would have to wait until 1998 to take the title. It was rally ace Tommi Mäkinen that defeated the blue cars, only serving to intensify the rivalry between these two Japanese manufacturers.
Mäkinen was honour by a special edition road car named after him.
Another iconic livery, this time sported by the Peugeot 206 WRC. The silver and red Total colours flashed to victory multiple times, with 206 WRCs taking 24 wins in their career. If you grew up watching rallying in the earl 2000s, this car was a staple.
The Mazda RX-7 was a Group B rally car? Well, yes and no. With the outlawing of Group B, this amazing car never actually got to realise its potential. It came third in the 1985 Acropolis Rally, but the only rotary WRC car didn’t have the time it deserved to develop.
Engineered specifically for rallying, the Lancia Stratos is a real automotive legend. Its Bertone design was as striking as its performance, and it wasn’t long until rivals followed suit in making homologation specials.
The Stratos won the WRC three years in a row, from 1974 to 1976.
Some would argue that the 037 was outdated in the wake of the mighty Audi Quattro, but this car remains the last rear-wheel drive machine to win a championship. The 037 replaced the Lancia Stratos and won the constructors title in 1983 with the help of Walter Röhrl.
While AWD proved the only means of success going forward, 037s continued to be used in various competitions for many years.