Group B was all the rage in the early '80s, providing some of motor sport's most spectacular thrills. It was also responsible for creating some of the wildest road car homologation specials ever created. Here are ten of the greatest
We’re not going to get into any arguments about which era of rallying is the greatest. While there’s no doubt that Group B was easily the most popular around the world – we only have to look at those huge crowds standing alongside the stages – it was an era that quickly became out of control.
Group B was intended to revolutionise motorsport. It was effectively a technology-based formula for track and rally events, which encouraged manufacturers to pour in money (in return for limited production volumes) and create the ultimate racers.
There was a flurry activity, with European and Japanese carmakers building cars in anticipation of the series. The track-based cars, typified by the Ferrari GTO and Porsche 959 never saw circuit action, but the rally cars went on to enjoy one of the sport's greatest periods – cut short in 1987 by the FIA’s ban on the extreme cars.
While the full fat rally cars are the real stars – take a look at the best Group B rally cars here
– many of us are fascinated by the road car variants that were built to satisfy the homologation rules. We’ve picked out ten of the most interesting examples, but It's far from complete. Cars to receive Group B certification were as wide and diverse as the BMW M1 and Peugeot 504.
Many of the cars that did well under Group B, including the Toyota Celica and Opel Manta, were effectively revised Group 4 campaigners, so we're limiting our gallery to the weirder and more wonderful cars – and those that just look cool on your driveway...
Peugeot 205 T16
Is this the best-looking Group B car of them all? Certainly it was the most successful, establishing the formula for all challengers to follow – mid-engine, turbo, four-wheel drive and a spaceframe chassis. Jean Todt, who masterminded the programme, went on to greater things at Ferrari and the FIA.
The T16 shares a general look with the regular 205 road car, such as the front grille and light arrangement. The iconic Pepperpot alloys actually preceded the GTI too. In reality very little was shared with the production car, but the extremely successful rallying exploits ultimately helped to transform Peugeot and the 205's image through the 1980s.
> Have a look for Peugeot 205s for sale in the classifieds
Lancia Delta S4
You have to love any car that features both a supercharger and turbochargers – it's a shame there aren't more out there. The Lancia Delta S4 was one such car, and proved to be an even wackier rally weapon than the 037 that preceded it. Again, a great idea, who's best competitive days were denied it thanks to the abandonment of Group B at the end of 1986. > Take a look at Lancia Deltas for sale in the classifieds
MG Metro 6R4
Austin Rover Motorsport was moving towards a hugely successful period in touring cars, and it was hoped that the Metro would do the same in the forests, and eventually joined forces with Williams Grand Prix Engineering to produce the wonderful little spaceframe Metro 6R4 for Group B. Unlike its rivals, the car didn't boast any form of forced induction, and its jewel-like V624V engine - contrary to popular opinion - was not based on the Rover V8 or Honda V6. It did go on to gain a couple of turbos and power the Jaguar XJ220, though...
Developed under the auspices of Ford's brilliant motor sport boss Stuart Turner, the RS200 was a pure-Group B challenger that replaced the stillborn Escort RS1700T. Cosworth developed the turbocharged engine, and Reliant ended up putting the cars together at its factory in Tamworth. A brilliant piece of design which would have dominated Group B rallying had events not got in the way. > Read the Ford RS200 buying guide, and see if there are any for sale
Ferrari 288 GTO
The Group B car that will need no introduction at all. But the GTO never actually competed in any Group B events and ended up being one of the most delectable road cars of all time. Massively different from the 308GTB that many people mistake it for - featuring a longitudinal V8 twin-turbo, Kevlar panels, and a Harvy Postlethwaite designed chassis. > Read the Ferrari 288 GTO buying guide and browse the classifieds
Audi Sport quattro
Note that from the rear, the Audi Sport quattro is very similar to the standard model. This worm's eye view doesn't give too much of the game away, but note those deep dish Ronal alloy wheels. Lovely stuff. The original quattro was engineered for Group 4 rallying, but became the Group B era's most potent force in its early years. However, by the arrival of purpose built cars (such as the Peugeot 205 T16), it was shortened to become the Sport quattro (in roadgoing trim) and S2 (on the stages). Note the Audi 80 windscreen, and inside it had a bespoke dashboard based on the 100... > See if there are any Audi Sport Quattros for sale in the classifieds
Initially known as the Gruppe B, the Porsche 959 became known as the '80s ultimate supercar. Maximum speed was close to 200mph, and its performance was easily exploited... but wouldn't you rather have the Ferrari 288 GTO? > Read the Porsche 959 buying guide and browse the classifieds here
Lancia 037 Stradale
Kudos to Lancia for producing a mid-engined supercar to go rallying, just like the Stratos back in the 1970s. The 037 was an early Group B challenger, that would soon make way for the amazing Delta S4. This early prototype of the Lancia Rally shows that the company had long since given up with the idea of producing a car that looked like the delectable Montecarlo, even if that had been the intention. The mid-engined 037 was the last bastion of RWD success in a category soon to be swamped by the Audi quattro.
Citroen Visa 1000 Pistes
A sensible first entry for Citroen into Group B rallying, with four-wheel drive and a 1.6-litre PSA engine and four carburettors. Against the mighty Audi quattros, though, it was outgunned - pure and simple.
Citroen BX 4TC
Is this the Group B car with the longest front overhang ever? It was powered by a CX Turbo-based engine mounted longitudinally, and rather a long way forward. The 4WD system was never going to make up for this car's bulk and unflattering weight distribution - and in 1985, company overlord Peugeot sensibly pulled the plug. If you want one now, you'll have a hard time finding a working car. Citroen actually tried to buy and destroy as many as possible, and the remaining cars are often bought as museum or collector pieces.> Want more Group B? Read our Top 10 Group B rally cars feature