THERE’S SOMETHING INTRINSICALLY sad about a racing car that never got to race, we count down our top 10 stillborn racing car projects.
Racing projects get cancelled all the time and for many reasons. They’re usually kept secret and end before they even leave the drawing board, but sometimes they get that little bit further and give us a tantalising glimpse at what could have been. These are our top ten.
10. Ferrari 637 Indy CART
It was the late 1980’s and Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, were proposing a regulation change for the 1989 season meaning V8 engines would be used. Enzo Ferrari wanted to use V12 engines though and threatened to leave the championship if the new rules came into effect. In an attempt to make the threat more credible they even designed a new car to run in America’s CART championship (later known as Champ Car and now Indy). In the end the threat worked, the FIA caved and the Ferrari 637 remained just a pawn in a very expensive game of chess.
9. Proton Putra WRC
In the early 1990’s, Proton were looking at entering the World Rally Championship. They approached Prodrive (who would later build Legacys and Imprezas for Subaru) to develop two WRC prototypes of the Putra coupe complete with 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, four-wheel-drive, aero kit and carbon fibre interior. For some unknown reason though, probably financial, Proton pulled the plug and the prototypes were returned to Malaysia where they remain to this day.
8. Ferrari 288 GTO Evoluzione
Group B was a set of regulations introduced by the FIA in 1982 which governed sports cars and, more famously, rally cars. Ferrari, always keen to further its motor racing heritage began developing a Group B racing version of its 288 GTO. Group B was already under fire from the press for being “too fast” and “too dangerous” after several high profile and high speed accidents but on the 1986 Tour de Corse rally, Henri Toivonen’s Lancia Delta S4 left the road and all but exploded, killing both Toivonen and co-driver Sergio Cresto. Within hours, a decision was made to disband Group B. Ferrari would use knowledge from the 288 Evo project to make the F40 supercar.
7. Volkswagen Golf A59 WRC
Volkswagen was looking to enter the World Rally Championship in the early 90’s with a Group A Golf. As per the regulations at the time, VW needed to build 2500 road-going versions in order to homologate the rally car, so began work on the prototypes. However, with just two cars built, the project was quietly shut down. With carbon-kevlar bodywork, an integral roll cage and four-wheel-drive, the A59 could have been a cult classic, but today it simply sits as a museum oddity.
6. Mazda 323F BTCC
Roger Dowson Engineering spent nearly £200,000 building this Mazda 323F for entry into the 1996 British Touring Car Championship, complete with 2.0-litre V6 super touring engine, but the car never raced. Instead it sat in storage until 2000 when it was bought and raced in a regional saloon car championship for a year. It then went in and out of storage for the next decade before being sold at auction a few years ago. The nineties was a golden age for the BTCC and the bright tangerine Mazda would have been a welcome addition.
5. Marussia MR04
It is well known that Formula One teams begin work on their cars for next year very early. The Marussia F1 team, despite being at the back end of the grid, were no exception. Unfortunately, in late 2014, the team went into administration and in January 2015 the vast majority of their assets were auctioned off. These items included a scale wind tunnel model of what would have been their 2015 F1 car, the MR04. Currently, Marussia are attempting to enter the 2015 F1 season with an old car, which is a shame because now having seen all the other 2015 cars, the MR04 looks like could have done a respectable job.
4. Volvo C70 DTM
Legendary racing car manufacturer Zakspeed were looking to enter Germany’s DTM series and built a prototype Volvo C70 coupe in an attempt to lure the Swedish marque into taking on Mercedes, Audi and Opel. Volvo wasn’t interested though, and without manufacturer funding Zakspeed cancelled its program and instead privately entered the one car they had built into a handful of low-key endurance races before retiring it to their museum.
3. McRae R4
The reason this car never raced to its full potential is rather sadder than the rest. 1995 World Rally Champion Colin McRae began developing a new type of rally car in 2005 that would be cheaper to buy and run than conventional WRC cars, thus allowing privateer drivers to compete on a more level playing field with the manufacturers and those with big name sponsors. Sadly on 15th September 2007, Colin, his young son Johnny and two family friends were killed in a helicopter crash. The car ran at events and exhibitions but it wasn’t finished and it certainly wasn’t competition ready yet. It was a wonderful idea that, sadly, will never reach its full potential.
2. Toyota MR2 WRC
In 1985, Toyota’s European motorsport division began developing a rally version of the popular mid-engined MR2 sports car to enter into the WRC. Powered by a 600bhp 2.2-litre turbocharged engine and with rear-wheel-drive and tiny dimensions, the MR2 could have been a real force to be reckoned with on the twisty tarmac rallies of Europe, but the little Toyota would be yet another victim of the axing of Group B. Today just two of the ten prototypes built survive.
1. Alfa Romeo 164 Pro-Car
The car at the top of this page may look like the prototype for a humble Alfa Romeo 164 touring car. A modified road car, probably front-wheel-drive, maybe 200bhp. Instead, as you can see just above, it is in fact the prototype for a totally bespoke racing car with rear-wheel-drive and a mid-mounted 620bhp 3.5-litre V10 F1 engine, capable of 211mph. Pro-Car was meant to be a support series to Formula One in the late 1980’s. Car’s that look like everyday saloon cars, fitted with mid-mounted F1 engines. How awesome would that have been?! Unfortunately the series was canned before it even started and the Alfa 164 remains the only Pro-Car ever built. Luckily for us though, it did at least get to run. Watch, and more importantly listen, below: