Top Rally Classics to see at the NEC
Celebrated classic rally cars up close at the 2017 Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show: here are our favourites
A world away from your standard supermini, the 1984 MG Metro 4WD bore only a superficial cosmetic resemblance to the humble Austin city car. With a mid-mounted V6 engine producing more than 410bhp and transmission enclosed within the tubular chassis, Tony Pond took the 6R4 to a respectable third place, behind two Lancia Delta S4s, in the 1985 Lombard Rally. Although the good start wasn’t replicated for the following season, where not one of the 6R4s completed a single course due to teething issues with the V6.
Austin Rover retracted from the rally scene at the close of the season, with a small number making it into private hands and proving hugely successful in rallycross competitions, but it wasn’t the end of the engine – Tom Walkinshaw Racing purchased all the remaining parts, where it then appeared with turbochargers in the ill-fated Jaguar XJ220 supercar.
Triumph TR7 V8
Triumph unleashed the TR7 V8 rally car onto the competition scene in 1978, bringing in a strong series of results with BL-legend Tony Pond behind the wheel. The biggest hurdle was adapting the bodyshell, with a roll cage created to ‘let in’ both the roof rails and the A-posts, alongside additional welding for extra strength. With 260bhp on tap and all-round disc brakes, the TR7's Achilles heel proved to be the early rear suspension. Once stiffened and reinforced, the wedge-shaped rally track hero proved to be a major force to be reckoned with.
Nowadays, genuine works rally TR7s change hands for serious amounts of money, but it’s a proper amount of car and history for the dosh. And who doesn't want a V8-powered TR7?
Austin Mini Cooper
While the Mini is already renowned for revolutionising the small car market, it was the rally pedigree on offer that cemented the Mini as a proper driver’s car. The humble Austin went on to battle top names and marques dominating the sport to huge success. The true underdog, it left competitors open-jawed as it regularly outpaced far more powerful, yet cumbrous, rivals on tight, unrelenting rally courses.
Winning the Monte Carlo Rally three times, most famously in the hands of Paddy Hopkirk, and suffering the indignity of unfair scrutiny from biased marshals in one of history’s biggest racing scandals, the indefatigable little Mini has been harassing period rally cars during historic rally events ever since. Arguably the most successful front wheel drive competitor of its time, if you venture over to gaze upon its minute splendour, you’ll be in the presence of an all-time great.
There have been plenty of game changers on the rally scene, but nothing quite like the Audi Quattro. Manufacturers competing in the World Rally Championship had originally defied the temptation to adopt four-wheel drive for their cars – believing that the extra weight and complexity of the system would provide a severe disadvantage. Yet, when the original Quattro was unveiled in 1980, everyone jumped on the bandwagon.
Figures reported 591bhp for the 1986 rally season, which set the blueprint for modern rally cars. What really gets petrolheads sweating however, is the addition of enormous wings and that embryonic pitch of the five-cylinder at full pelt. Go and pay your respects to rallying Valhalla, if you can get through the already massed worshipers.