13 of the coolest specials we’d love to drive

Homologation specials are road-legal versions of race cars designed to meet certain specifications and quotas for the race car allowed to enter competition.

For car enthusiasts, there are few models as desirable as homologation specials, because they tend to have unique styling, crazy specifications and lots of power.

We’ve put together a list of 13 great homologation specials we’d love to drive, but there are a lot more out there, from light and affordable to pure Optinium.

Dodge Charger Daytona/Plymouth Superbird

1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird
Image credit: Wikicommons.

Originally, NASCAR race cars were based on models available at dealers, but by the late 1960s, they had to be matched. In 1969, Dodge had to build 500 Charger Daytona cars to go racing. Equipped with a nose cone, massive rear spoiler, and a 426 Hemi engine, the Charger was ready to race.

The following year, Plymouth built its own version, called the Superbird, and these two winged warriors dominated the NASCAR circuit until aero cars were banned in 1971.

BMW M3 (E30)

1990 BMW M3 Sport Evolution III1990 BMW M3 Sport Evolution III
Image source: axisboldaslove1/Flickr.

The first and most famous BMW M3 was designed to win touring car races in the German DTM racing series. While they look similar to the regular BMW 3 Series, the two share only a few parts.

Over the years, it received some updates, including updated aero parts, and the engine grew from 2.3 to 2.5 liters and gained about 40 horsepower in the process. It would dominate touring car championships around the world for years to come, and was crowned king of DTM racing until Mercedes-Benz created the 190E Evo II.

Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evo II

Mercedes-Benz 190E Evolution IIMercedes-Benz 190E Evolution II
Image credit: WikiCommons.

The MB 190E Evo II wasn’t as popular as its rival, and we had to include it because it was the car that dethroned the legendary M3 DTM.

It had wider fenders, a massive rear wing, and functional aero, and there was no doubt that it was a regular 190E. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine produced a very respectable 232 horsepower, and with only 502 cars built, it’s both highly desirable and ridiculously expensive today.

Sierra RS500 Cosworth

Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500
Image credit: Wikicommons.

Ford blew everyone’s minds when it unveiled the Sierra RS Cosworth in 1986. With 200 horsepower going to the rear wheels, it was a supercar that ordinary people could afford. However, Ford had more tricks up his sleeve.

On paper, the limited edition Sierra RS500 Cosworth developed a bit more power, but the engine can produce ridiculous amounts of power with the proper tuning. The Sierra RS500 Cossie then went on to dominate racing series around the world for years to come. Statistically, it is the most successful road-derived race car ever, winning 84.6% of the races it entered.

Porsche 911 GT1 Strassinversion

Porsche 911 GT1 StrassinversionPorsche 911 GT1 Strassinversion
Image credit: Valder137/WikiCommons.

The Porsche 911 GT1 Straßenversion was supposed to resemble the 996, but besides the headlights, it doesn’t look alike at all. It was designed to take advantage of some loopholes in the rule book, where regulations were more relaxed for homologation cars than pure race cars.

With 540 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque, the road-going 911 GT1 was incredibly powerful in the late 1990s. It could reach 62 mph in just 3.8 seconds, which was practically unheard of at the time.

Nissan R390

Nissan R390 GT1 road carNissan R390 GT1 road car
Image credit: Wikicommons.

In the late 1990s, Nissan competed against big names in motorsport such as Porsche and McLaren in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. They clearly needed a proper GT1 race car to do this. Since homologation rules stipulate that manufacturers must build at least one version of the race car, that’s exactly what Nissan did.

The Nissan R390 road car uses the same 550-hp 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V8 as the race car. Its acceleration is claimed to be similar to that of a race car, but because its body is more slippery, its top speed exceeds 220 mph. However, no one dared to know about it.

Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR Straßenversion

Mercedes-Benz CLK GTRMercedes-Benz CLK GTR
Image credit: David Merritt/WikiCommons.

Porsche and Nissan weren’t the only ones to build road-legal versions of their GT1 race cars. Mercedes has joined the party with the CLK GTR Straßenversion. The racing version was so dominant in its class that all competitors dropped out within two years.

Mercedes-Benz built 28 CLK GTR road cars. Two of these were prototypes, there were six roadsters and 20 coupes. Two of those coupes were “SuperSport” models and were equipped with 7.3-litre engines instead of the 6.9-litre unit found in the “regular” models.

Audi Sport quattro

Audi Sport quattroAudi Sport quattro
Image credit: WikiCommons.

By the mid-1980s, competition had caught up with Audi and its Quattro on world rally stages. Something had to be done, and that led to the Sport Quattro.

Audi shortened the Quattro’s wheelbase by five inches and then used fiberglass, carbon fiber and Kevlar to make new body panels to make it lighter and stronger than ever before. The five-cylinder engine has also been given some attention and can operate at a maximum of 7,300 continuous revolutions for 24 hours. If that’s not impressive, consider that its massive turbocharger was pumping out 44 psi of boost. Unfortunately, it only took two WRC victories before the Group 2 rally was banned.

Lancia Stratos

Lancia Stratos HF - front quarter viewLancia Stratos HF - front quarter view
Image credit: Wikicommons.

The Lancia Stratos looks like a 1970s supercar, but it was actually designed from the ground up as a rally car. Only Italians make a stunningly good looking rally car.

Even its engine had supercar roots, having been sourced from Ferrari. More specifically, it was a 190-horsepower 2.4-liter V6 from the Dino. On the road, the Stratos feels choppy and unstable, but it was a convenient weapon in the hands of professional rally drivers.

Ford RS200

Ford RS200Ford RS200
Image credit: WikiCommons.

Ford has been involved in the sport of rallying for many decades, and its efforts have resulted in some of the best road cars ever created. One of these models was the RS200, a car designed specifically for Group B racing. Rally greatness was never achieved, as the FIA ​​closed the entire category due to accidents and deaths after the RS200’s first year.

The RS200 remains very popular and became one of the most popular cars of the Group B era. As its name suggests, only 200 cars were built, and all were powered by a 1.8-litre mid-turbocharged engine sending up to 450 horsepower to all four wheels.

Peugeot 205 T16

Peugeot 205 T16Peugeot 205 T16
Image credit: WikiCommons.

So far we’ve covered some great Group B rally car homologation specials, but the Peugeot 205 T16 is arguably the greatest of all. The T16 may look like a regular 205 with a wide body kit and raised suspension, but there’s so much more to it than that.

It has a 1.8-liter mid-mounted four-cylinder engine that produces nearly 200 horsepower — roughly half the power of a rally car. All of those horses were sent to all four wheels, which meant they remained stationary for days. Only 200 were made, and you rarely find one for sale.

Evolution of Mitsubishi Pajero

1997 Evolution of the Mitsubishi Pajero1997 Evolution of the Mitsubishi Pajero
Image credit: Dennis Elzinga/WikiCommons.

Moving on from Group B rally cars, we find a different off-road vehicle. Mitsubishi is best known for its Evo lineup of WRC cars, but in 1997, Mitsubishi wanted to try the Dakar Rally and needed a beefed-up SUV.

The Pajero Evolution is a two-door model with a 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine that’s usually found under the hood of a Galant or Eclipse. Externally, the Pajero Evo looked purposeful, with its hood scoop, mud flaps, and aggressive body kit. Perhaps most surprising is that Mitsubishi built 2,300 Pajero Evolutions.

Toyota GR Yaris

Toyota GR YarisToyota GR Yaris
Image credit: M93/WikiCommons.

The last car on our list is a modern rally car – Toyota GR Yaris. It’s not the first special rally car built by Toyota, as the first Celica GT-Four (or All-Trac in the US) arrived in the mid-1980s. However, the GR Yaris is one of the best cars Toyota has ever made (in terms of fun), and it’s even more accessible to ordinary people.

Powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine, the GR Yaris sends 270 horsepower to all four wheels via an adjustable all-wheel drive system. You can set it up to provide a great deal of control or endless oversteer. With 0-60mph in 5.5 seconds and a top speed of 142mph, it’ll keep up with some proper sports cars, too.

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