Five of the weirdest racing cars ever made
Sometimes, inspiration strikes from the least likely places. This is more true of motorsport than in any other sport. While our imagination of a racing car is often limited to either purpose-built prototypes, like endurance machines, or GT racers made out of existing sports and supercars, sometimes the usual just will not do. That is the case with these machines, which looked at the rulebook, gave it a grimace and did what no one thought could be done. Here are five of the weirdest racing cars ever made.
Volvo 850 Estate BTCC
Estates are inarguably the coolest body style, and Volvo is probably its most prolific advocate. For the 1994 British Touring Car Season, while everyone else was using highly tuned-up sedans to race in the season, Volvo rocked up with the unusual 850 Estate, turned into a racecar by the legendary Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR). The body style was chosen because of its aerodynamic advantage, which gave it a higher top speed. Powered by a 2-litre five-cylinder producing around 300bhp, the estate weighed only 950kg. The car was successful too, helping driver Rick Rydell to third place overall in the championship in 1995. The saloon version introduced later eventually won the manufacturer’s championship as well.
Rolls Royce Corniche Dakar Rally
Sometimes called the ‘Maharaja of Rallying’, this was the most opulent way to compete in the Paris-Dakar rally in history. Powered by a Chevrolet V8 producing 350bhp, with a chassis and drivetrain derived from a Toyota Land Cruiser, both choices made for bolstering the reliability of this staid land yacht. Raced in the 1981 Dakar Rally, this Rolls Royce was considered a joke. But running as high as P13 overall by the midpoint of the rally, the whole paddock sat up and took notice. However, the Corniche had to end its rally after a crash with a tree (how very Dakar of it), but was allowed to finish unclassified.
One of the most original ideas ever tried in motorsport, the Nissan Deltawing was a ridiculous concept turned into a respectable racing car which espoused good ideals: less weight, less fuel consumption and more speed. With a Originally pitched to Indycar, the car eventually found its home at Le Mans. Powered by a 1.6-litre 4 cylinder with 300bhp at first, which was later upgraded to a 2-litre with 350bhp, the most astounding spec was the ridiculous 475kg weight figure. This, allied to a strange body shape with a very narrow front track allowed the car to have a low drag coefficient. As an entry in Le Man’s experimental Garage 56 class, the car never fared well in France. However, it has managed a best finish of 4th at Petit Le Mans in America with respectable lap times. Unfortunately, the concept was killed off in 2017 with no future visible for the ideas it had.
Yes, the famous six-wheeled F1 car. Not the only six-wheeled F1 car (Ferrari and Williams also made concepts), but the only one to have raced and been successful. The idea was to immediately increase grip at the front, with the smaller tyres being more steerable and wear-friendly. The car was surprisingly usable and competitive, even scoring a win at Sweden in 1976 at the hands of Jody Scheckter, while scoring 14 podiums across its two seasons in service, finishing as high as 3rd in the championship. The car was eventually retired from service after a rule change which mandated that F1 cars should only have four wheels. FIA and banning things? Never-ending story.
Renault Espace F1
While not strictly a racing car in its truest sense, the Renault Espace F1 concept is the culmination of everything we love over here at evo India. Take a fantastically practical thing and make it unlivable - all for the pursuit of manic speed. In 1994, Renault did just that with its humdrum Espace MUV, by putting a contemporary F1 engine into it! The mid-mounted V10 engine producing more than 800bhp was lifted straight out of the 1993 Williams FW15C F1 car and allied to a modified track and suspension, with space for four people. The rear passengers got to experience the best of that engine’s shriek, as it was placed right in the middle of them! Truly a fantastic era.
Tata Indica Silhouette
Before the Tiago and Tigor JTP cars, Tata had made a souped-up hatch with Jayem Automotives. However, this was not an ordinary hatchback with tuned specifications. The Tata Indica Silhouette was basically a Formula 2000 racecar frame on which was mounted a body that looked like a road-going Indica with a skin ailment. Powered by a race-prepped 3.5-litre V6 engine producing 325bhp, this was the VQ engine also used in Nissan models like the 350Z and Skyline. Power was sent to the rear wheels by way of a 6-speed sequential gearbox. Rumour has it that Jayem benchmarked this car against the Porsche 911 GT3 RS, and it has the numbers to talk. With a weight of just 850kg, 0-100 was a matter of 4.5 seconds, on to a top speed of 270kmph. What a car!