Historic mash-ups: '50s and '60s Le Mans cars reimagined with Group C liveries

3 months ago

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Ask Jeremy Clarkson what his favourite Le Mans racer is and he'd probably say the Ford GT40. Ask Mr May and he'd most likely say the Ferrari 330 P4. I, however, look to the 1980s to get my endurance racing fix, with cars like the Sauber C9, Porsche 962 and Jaguar XJR-9 fulfilling my automotive dreams.

At DriveTribe, we aim to please all petrolheads, so to keep everyone happy we've combined these two epic eras of sportscar racing through the talented renders of our very own Marco Van Overbeeke. From crowd pleasers to extremely niche matchups, these designs will have all true motorsport fans frothing at the mouth.

Ferrari 330 P4 meets Lancia LC2

Famous for its exploits against the might of the Ford GT40, the P4 was a 450bhp V12 mid-engined beast that had to settle for 2nd and 3rd to the GT40 at Le Mans in 1967.

The beautiful Martini livery seen on this car comes from the Ferrari-backed Group C Lancia project which saw the LC2 take on the dominant Porsche 956. In 1984, Porsche took the first seven places at Le Mans with its 956s, with Lancia spoiling the top ten party with the Ferrari-engined LC2.

The Lancias' twin turbocharged powertrains were actually more powerful than Porsche's flat-six which meant the LC2 managed many strong qualifying sessions. Unfortunately the Ferrari V8 struggled with reliability, meaning that only three wins were recorded over the LC2's three years of Group C racing.

It may not have been a successful beast but through Lancia's friendship with Martini, the LC2s emulated the Delta Integrales, S4s and 037s of the Group B rally era with the iconic striped livery. And with that gaping front intake, I'd say it's one of the prettiest sportscars Le Mans has ever seen.

Ford GT40 meets Ford C100

This car-livery combination looks almost as if it was period dress for the GT40 but the 7.0-litre Le Mans legend is much more famous for its Gulf colours or a set of racing stripes from bonnet to ducktail.

The GT40 won four Le Mans titles on the trot from '66-'69, the first with one Bruce McLaren at the helm. The original 7.0-litre monster had to give way to a 'puny' 4.9-litre V8 car midway through the GT40's lifespan but it smashed Ferrari and Porsche into submission in the latter half of the '60s, fulfilling the desire of the Ferrari-hating Ford board at the time.

The car that featured the livery seen above was nowhere near as successful. In fact, the C100 was essentially useless as a Group C contender.

Using the Cosworth DFL V8 (a reworking of the famous DFV F1 engine but for endurance racing), the C100 was plagued with horrendous reliability issues and quickly brought an end to Ford's involvement in Le Mans racing in the 1980s.

It did look nice with that plain white livery though...

Jaguar D-Type meets Jaguar XJR-9LM

In Shortnose and Longnose guise, the Jaguar D-Type was the Coventry firm's most successful Le Mans car, winning three of the latter races of the 1950s. Being the first racing car to feature a monocoque construction which was complimented by the aeronautical engineering talents of Malcolm Sayer, the D-Type reached its ultimate form through the shark finned Longnose of 1955-57.

Powered by the legendary XK straight-six that saw action in both the XK120 and C-Type Jags, the D-Type took the eventual victory in the tragic Le Mans race of 1955 and then went on to take the '56 and '57 titles at the hands of Ecurie Ecosse.

The livery you see here is from the Silk Cut TWR Jaguar Group C programme that led to the next win for the company at Le Mans in 1988, 31 years after the Ecurie Ecosse lads smashed the Ferrari and Porsche competition.

Powered by 7.0-litre V12s and designed by the expert hand of Tony Southgate (who previously penned improvements to the aforementioned Ford C100), it took Tom Walkinshaw's team three goes at the Circuit De La Sarthe to finally shove Porsche off the top spot of endurance racing with the XJR-9.

I actually prefer this Jag Group C livery to the Silk Cut look...controversial, I know.

I'd probably have chosen the green and white livery of the original XJR-6 Group C car (as it's a little more 'D-Type', as seen above) but there's no questioning the legendary mauve and gold colour scheme of the XJR-9LM.

Aston Martin DBR1 meets Aston Martin AMR1/01

Both the cars combined above were essentially obliterated by the D-Type/XJR-9 combination respectively but that doesn't stop this DBR1 and AMR1 mashup being the best looking render on this list.

The DBR1 did claim one Le Mans victory once the D-Type had had its day, taking the 1959 race with style. That has been Aston's only outright Le Mans victory to date. A sister car of the Le Mans winner has gone on to become the most expensive British car ever to sell at auction at £17.5 million.

In the late 1980s, a revived Ecurie Ecosse teamed up with Aston Martin to produce the AMR1 - a Group C1 car designed by Ray Mallock (of RML fame) that was powered by a Callaway 6.0-litre V8. Sadly, the car was majorly underpowered compared to the Jags, Porsches and Mercs that it fought against, leading to a fairly woeful time for the car in 1989.

The FIA then brought in the 3.5-litre engine ruling for 1991 to bring Group C racing inline with Formula 1, blowing a hole in the side of Aston's plans to further its endurance racing endeavours at that time. Despite its performances, one thing you can't fault the car for is its aesthetic, and that Mobil 1 livery strangely suits the classically styled DBR1.

Porsche 550A Spyder meets Porsche 962C

Easily the dinkiest car here, the 550 Spyder is as simple and complete as car design gets. With perfect balance in its shape, the 550 has gone on to inspire the Boxster and itself led to the birth of Porsche's first Le Mans class winner, the 718.

Although this car is pretty and is synonymous with the late great James Dean, the Rothmans livery that it possesses here is thanks to one of the greatest endurance cars of all time. The twin turbocharged, two-time Le Mans winning, ground effects Porsche 962C.

Developed from the untouchable 956, the 962 brought in an updated engine that could be tuned far past the reaches of its rivals thanks to bulletproof engineering from the men and women of Stuttgart.

The Rothman's car is the most famous 962 of them all, followed closely by the Jaegermeister and Shell liveries of later years. By winning at Le Mans in 1987, the 962 contributed towards a record 7th consecutive win at the circuit, a run only snubbed by the Jaguar XJR-9LM in '88.

Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR meets Sauber C9

Last but certainly not least, we have a slightly niche matchup that takes the livery of the brutal Sauber C9 sportscar of 1988 and splays it over the iconic curves of Sir Stirling Moss' 300 SLR.

What's especially poignant about this render is that the two cars technically followed one other - Mercedes withdrew itself from endurance racing after the Le Mans disaster in 1955 and only returned in 1988 with the AEG-liveried C9.

The '55 SLR was a giant of motorsport in its day, using a bored and stroked straight-eight engine from the Mercedes W196 Formula 1 car. This gave it 310bhp and would see it past 180mph - much faster than any of its competitors at the time.

Although the C9 had a tough break-in year in 1988, the twin turbo V8 package came into its own in 1989, bringing home a 1-2 finish at Le Mans in front of Porsche and Jaguar. The 5.0-litre, 905kg sportscar provided the success that Merc was desperately looking for, allowing the company to leave the category yet again until the GT1 era came to being.

This is the classic Silver Arrows livery that most of us are used to but the AEG C9 makes for a seriously cool render with the SLR.

Some of these you may find a little painful and some may be right up your street. I for one have fallen in love with the Aston Martin combination, as well as the absolutely stunning SLR/C9 mashup. Surprisingly (being a Jag man), the D-Type looks a bit wrong to me. Mauve on a D-Type just seems to lack a bit of class.

We want to hear what you guys think however, so dive into the comments below and tell us which of these renders floats your boat or which send shivers up your spine. Let us know what you think!

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Comments (7)
  • Hi congratulations - your post has been selected by DriveTribe Classics Ambassador for promotion on the DriveTribe homepage.

    3 months ago
    1 Bump
  • Love the Ferrari and the little Porsche

    3 months ago
    1 Bump
  • the sauber is not a mercedes. mercedes just threw money at it so that it got branded as a mercedes in 1989.

    3 months ago
  • My favorite one is the Martini livery on the Ferrari

    3 months ago
    1 Bump
  • Hi congratulations - your post has been selected by DriveTribe Motorsport Ambassador for promotion on the DriveTribe homepage.

    3 months ago

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