What are some of the best rally cars of all time? If you’ve been reading you’ll know I’m a fan of rally racing. In fact, in a previous article, I promised that I would explore some of the best rally cars of all time. So what is my criteria for ‘best’ and how is it applied? Well, there really isn’t one. Winning helps but overall the car just has to be cool. What makes a rally car great is that it wins and the production car that it’s based on is also awesome. So right off the bat we knock off the Toyota Celica and Yaris because their civilian counterparts are dreadfully dull. Unless they are rental cars then they are the fastest cars in the world!
Another criteria is that it had to compete at the highest level in the World Rally Championship (WRC). That means cars like the awesome Bentley rally cars are out (look them up they’re hilarious!). This list also doesn’t include baja trucks, which are equally awesome but rarely have a true civilian equivalent. As I mentioned, winning is important so the car had to have won a constructors championship. No time for losers on this list! Unfortunately, that knocks out the Porsche 911 rally car. I still need to build one of those! This still leaves us with a great list of awesome rally cars. Now, without further ado, my list of the best rally cars of all time.
The first WRC construtor champion happens to be one of the coolest cars of all time. The Alpine A110 is an absolute icon whose unique looks would still turn heads today. The A110 was absolutely minuscule weighing in at just over 1,500 lbs. Combine this small weight with a Renault 1.6 L making up to 140 hp in the road going version and you’ve got a pint sized rocket on your hands. Like a Porsche, the engine was in the back and the A110 was rear-wheel drive. In the first season of WRC the car went on to win six rallies and eventually the first ever constructors championship. The cars reign at the top was short-lived however with the introduction of the next entrant on the list.
The road going version of the Stratos weight in at a colossal 2,100 lbs compared to the spritely A110. The Lancia Stratos featured a mid-mounted Dino Ferrari V6 making nearly 200 hp. Rally versions of the Stratos High Fidelity (HF) would make over 300 hp with a Group 5 car making 560 hp. Much like the A110, the Stratos is a unique looking car much sought after by collectors with prices reaching the half a million mark. The rally cars also had a pretty cool livery, which I mistakenly left out of my list of best racing liveries of all time. The Stratos was an absolute monster winning three years in a row from 1974 to 1976. Overall, the car would take 18 rally victories. Surprisingly, this would not be their most successful rally car.
If you’ve been paying close attention you will notice that the first two cars are rear wheel drive. At the time, all-wheel drive was considered too complex to work in racing. Audi changed that with the introduction (and loosening of the rules) of the Audi Quattro. This boxy little car was designed by a team including Ferdinand Piëch, who I still have to profile. In race form the just over 2 liter engine pushed nearly 15 pounds of boost to make 300 hp to all four wheels. In 1982, Audi won a staggering 7 out of 12 rallies on the way to their first constructors championship. Audi would go on to win one more constructors championship and Quattro’s would also win the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in 1987.
Lancia Delta Integrale
Speaking of 1987, Lancia would come back with a vengeance with the introduction of the Lancia Delta. The Lancia Delta Integrale is one of my favorite cars and this started the obsession. Spoiler alert, the Lancia Delta is tied for the winningest rally car of all time. Lancia would go on to win every constructors championship from 1987 until 1992. Besides having arguably the best looking wheels of all time, the Lancia Delta Integrale was a four-door, all-wheel drive terror. There were several variants but the best was the 2 liter turbo that kicked out just over 200 hp and 230 lb ft of torque. Like any true Italian car, I think they look best in red. After racking up a serious 46 total wins, the Delta succumbed to the death of Group B.
Subaru Impreza WRX STi
This is the car that the incredible Lancia Delta Integrale is tied with, the venerable Subaru Impreza. If you were a fan of rally racing in the mid-1990’s you likely recognize the iconic Subaru Impreza 555 racing livery. These cars absolutely dominated winning three constructors championships in a row from 1995 to 1997. The World Rally eXperimental (WRX) Subaru Tecnica International (STi) featured a blueprinted performance engine, an upgraded transmission, and upgraded suspension. Perhaps the baddest civilian version at the time was the WRX STi type RA which had just over 370 hp, reduced weight, and a driver controlled center differential. The U.S. wouldn’t get the STi until 2001 but demand was likely driven by their success in rally racing. That and the car’s appearance in Gran Turismo.
Ford Focus RS
Trying to decide on just one Ford rally car to include is actually pretty difficult. I know I have two Lancia’s but those are on a whole other level. The Ford Escort RS Cosworth of the mid 1990’s won some rallies but never the championship. The earlier model Escort RS won a ton in the 1960’s and 1970’s but this was before the establishment of the WRC. I’m partial to the Ford Fiesta rally car since I own a Fiesta and they have won a championship but it is too soon to tell if they will dominate. That leaves the venerable Ford Focus RS. Ford won the constructors championship two years in a row in 2006 and 2007. They are also 2nd on the all-time wins list behind the WRX and Lancia Delta.
The Ford Focus RS raced during this time is different than the one currently available in America. The rally version again had a turbocharged 2 liter engine and all-wheel drive. The car was also originally piloted by one of the most famous rally drivers ever, Colin McRae. He was followed up by Carlos Sainz. No, not the F1 driver, his dad. Time will tell if the Fiesta will end up with as many wins but I doubt it since Ford pulled the plug on all their cars. Idiots. Well, that is my list of my favorite rally cars. What are some of yours?