10 Cars we can thank motorsport for

10 street-legal race cars, really

Nissan R390

Built to race in the 1997-98 Le Mans season, it required a homologated road-going example, of which only one was built. The road car claimed a top speed of 220 MPH (360 KMH) like the Jaguar XJ220, but was surpassed by the McLaren F1’s over 230 MPH (370 MPH) claim.

A joint effort between Nissan and Tom Walkinshaw Racing, the R390 uses the 3.5L (3,495cc) V8 from the R89C Group C car. Because of its styling by TWR, the car bears some resemblance to the Jaguar XJR-15 and used a cockpit reminiscent of the XJR-15. Problems on the track (like the third of three prepared cars surviving the race and changes in regulations in the ‘98 season) made Nissan withdraw from LeMans.


A homologation special for the European Touring Car Championship, the 3.0 CSL was built with lighter metals (steel, aluminium, Perspex). 1, 265 were built, none of which were sold in the United States. Following a string of adjustments, the CSL would seize victory in the ETCC from 1975 to 1979 and IMSA the former year. It was also built to Group 5 spec and won three races in the 1976 World Championship for Makes. Initially sharing its engine with the 3.0 CS, it later received a small increase in displacement to 3,003cc (183.3 cu in) by increasing the engine bore by a quarter of a millimetre to 89.25mm (3.51 in). This was done one August 1972 day to allow the car to race in the “over three-litre” category. It’s one of three classic BMWs to receive a modern re-imagining. The CSL’s add-ons earned it the nickname “Batmobile”.


The first in an ever-growing line of performance models from BMW, the M1 was a homologation special for Group 4 racing, which it competed in via its exclusive M1 Procar division, which saw drivers from various disciplines competing in identically-built cars. It’s 3.5l DOCH 16 engine produced 277 HP, granting a top speed of 260 KM/H (162 MPH). Its 2009 re-imagining inspired the i8, the first mass-produced mid-engined BMW since the M1.

Porsche 993 GT2

Built for GT2-class racing, the 993 GT2 road cars were labeled accordingly (but sold as the 911 GT), The 993 GT2 featured add-ons like widened fenders and a rear wing with air scoops in the struts. The car’s 3.6L (220 cu in) produced up to 424 hp; in 1998 it was upgraded to an additional 20. 13 of the 57 road-going examples were right-hand drive.

Renault 5 Turbo

Primarily built for rally, the R5 Turbo was Renault’s answer to the Lancia Stratos and had mechanicals that set it apart from the standard R5 like a rear-drive/rear mid-engine layout instead of the standard car’s front-drive/front-drive. It was the most powerful French production car at the time of its launch. The first 400 R5 Turbos were built to comply with Group 4 homologation.

Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 (T16)

A homologation model of the two-door 205, the T16 used its own components, among which is a Diesel engine with a specially developed 16-valve head and a Citroen SM gearbox that was mounted transversely. It had an all-drive layout. Apart from appearance, the road cars had little in common with the standard production models but shared the 1.8L; 1 108.3 cu in engine. The T16s driven by Peugeot Talbot Sport’s Jean Todt were the most successful cars in the WRC’s Group B era, taking the 1985 and 1986 Constructors’ and Drivers’ titles with Timo Salonen and Juha Kankkunen respectively racing against the likes of Audi, Lancia, and Ford. An Evolution 2 model was introduced for the latter of the two seasons.

Alpine A110

Introduced in 1961, the A110, like other Alpines of the time, used mostly Renault parts such as the engine. While the preceding A108 used Dauphine parts, the A110 used newer R8 parts. It was first available as a Berlinette and then as a cabriolet. It achieved much of its fame in early 1970’s rally, like the then-new International Championship for Manufacturers, claiming victory in several events around Europe and earning a reputation as a strong rally car. Notable performances include the 1971 Monte Carlo Rally under Swedish driver Ove Andersson. Renault celebrated the car’s 50th anniversary in 2012 with a one-off concept and currently produces a successor that shares its name with the original car.

Shelby Daytona

A coupe related to the AC Cobra and based on its chassis and drivetrain, the Daytona was built to take on the Ferrari 250 GTO in the GT class. Only six of this car were built before Shelby was reassigned to the Ford GT40 project for LeMans. The Daytona netted Shelby its first title in the international in the FIA World Sportscar Championship in 1965.

Maserati MC12

The MC12 road car was built so a racing example could compete in the FIA GT Championship. 50 cars were made between 2004 and 2005, each of which carried a price tag of E600,00 ($670, 541 USB, $888, 041 CAD). Maserati built the car on the chassis of the Ferrari Enzo but made the final car larger and with a lower drag coefficient. The MC12 has a rounder, smoother body than the Enzo, which has better performance (acceleration, braking speed, and top speed). The cars’ top speeds compare at 330 KM/H for the MC12 and 350 KM/H for the Enzo. The MC12, developed to commemorate Maserati’s return to racing after 37 years, saw success in the FIA GT. The race cars were in the ALMS series in 2005 but exceeded the size restrictions and suffered harsh penalties as a result.

McLaren F1

The fastest car in the world at the time of its launch and one of the fastest naturally-aspirated cars in the world (as tested by Top Gear magazine in its April 2017 issue) the technologically-advanced McLaren F1 would shine at the 1995 24 Hours of LeMans where it finished first, third, fourth, fifth, and 13th, beating out purpose-built LMP’s. Nine F1 GTRs were prepared for the 1995 season. This success was followed up in 1996 at the JGTC under David Brabham (youngest son of Sir Jack Brabham) and John Nielsen and in 1997 by the Long Tail model. The F1’s advances in technology put it the same league as the modern Ferrari Enzo and Aston Martin One-77.

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