1. Lancia 037
Over the years, we have had plenty of stories about some great rally cars on Car Build Index. (a quick search will show exactly that), with the most recent featuring in-car footage of the legendary rear-wheel drive Lancia 037 being put through its paces during a vintage tarmac rally. That got us thinking about some of the top rally cars of yesteryear. So, in no particular order, let’s take a look back at five of our favorites.
The Lancia 037, of course, must be included in anyone’s list. It was built for the short-lived Group B era of the FIA World Rally Championship and was piloted by the likes of Walter Röhrl and Markku Alén. It’s also famous for being the last rear-wheel drive car to win the manufacturers’ crown back in 1983.
2. Audi Quattro A1
The Audi Quattro is another one from that infamous Group B time and it remains a firm favorite today. A reminder of simpler times—although this car was a beast—it has a four-wheel drive marvel with a top power of almost 600bhp by the time it had morphed from A1 to A2 and then finally to the Sport Quattro version in 1986.
It took 23 victories including the back-to-back titles that Hannu Mikkola and Stig Blomqvist secured for Audi in 1983 and 1984. It was also a real beauty, which did it no harm whatsoever–then or today.
Another one, and this is quickly turning into a bit of a Group B era appreciation that we can’t help but mention, is the mid-engined MG Metro 6R4.
Developed by Williams Grand Prix Engineering—yes, the Formula 1 team—it never enjoyed the success of either the Lancia 037 or the Audi Quattro because of its late release, but it certainly had the potential to do so, and is still impressive now, some 32 years later.
3. MINI Cooper
It’s just rather sad that its best result in the WRC came on its debut, with British driver Tony Pond finishing third on the Lombard RAC Rally in 1985. It was a little gem, not unlike our next pick, the MINI Cooper.
This little iconic car won against the odds back in 1964 with Paddy Hopkirk piloting it to victory in the Monte Carlo Rally. It was an unexpected and popular victory, the likes of which are rarely seen—making it even more memorable. The fact it happened in Monaco, too, a place still renowned for a certain mystique and exclusivity, has merely added to the legend. Although it might be more popular in Europe, as opposed to in the States, it remains one of those truly iconic cars of the 1960s. It also won the Monte Carlo Rally again in 1965 and 1967.
4. Ford Escort
We can’t finish without mentioning the Ford Escort, the machine to have in a rally during the 1960s and 1970s. It also took Björn Waldegård to the inaugural WRC Drivers’ title in 1979—albeit now using the Mk II RS 1800. It’s also worth mentioning that for two rallies Waldegård also used the Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC, but we will skip over that! To this day, the Escort Mk1 and Mk2 continue to be campaigned in historic rallies, most noticeably in recent years by the likes of Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala, which is a testimony, if any is needed, to its ongoing appeal and regard in the rally world.
We could go on and should probably have mentioned the Lancia Delta S4, the Ford Focus RS WRC, or the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, but with the latter two, at least, the “yesteryear” tag doesn’t seem quite fitting. We just need to give them time, though. They were made to be rally cars.