12 Of The Most Intense Homologation Special Cars In History

Homologation specials hold a special place in the hearts of automotive enthusiasts. These are the same cars that you watched tearing down tracks at warp speed, but for the road. Okay, maybe not exactly the same, as road-legal cars are subjected to different rules, but there is a connection. Homologation rules brought us legends like the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, Lancia Delta HF Integrale, and most recently the excellent Toyota GR Yaris, a hot hatch we wish was sold in the U.S.

However, though all of those cars are definitely remarkable, they are not nearly as intense as the models you are about to see here. Homologation specials have become a sort of a dying breed today — partly because racing organizers don't require exact street-legal versions, but also because of the quest for ever higher profits from automakers. Homologation cars once sprouted from all sides of the globe. Seemingly, every automaker had one. In today's world, low-volume production cars simply don't make much sense.

In this feature, we will focus only on the most intense ones. These models had the closest connection to the race breeds, with bonkers numbers even by today's standards. So, buckle up because, on this homologation journey, you'll see everything from mid-engine European hot hatches to one-off Le Mans giants!

Audi Sport Quattro (1984 to 1987)

Think about the notorious Group B rally, which hosted some of the most intense motorsport in automotive history, and the Audi Sport Quattro will probably be the first car that comes to mind. The car didn't only compete in Group B — it totally annihilated the competition. With its short wheelbase, potent inline-five engine, and the Quattro AWD system, the Sport Quattro is the most iconic rally car of all time.

While the Ur-Quattro represented Audi's first try at rallying, the reworked Sport Quattro was much more intense, both on the rally course and public roads. What's more, the homologation special was street-legal, so you could drive it with other (normal) cars and people around. With a mega-short 86.8-inch wheelbase and ultra-lightweight 2,800-pound body made from carbon-Kevlar and fiberglass, the Sport Quattro was one of the most focused road cars of that era, period.

To add to this car's insanity, Audi equipped it with a 2.1-liter inline-five turbocharged engine, good for 306 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Today, these numbers might not seem too impressive, but the beloved BMW M3 E30 DTM homologation special, introduced two years later, had up to 238 hp in the most powerful version. Thanks to its Quattro AWD system, the Sport Quattro was a rocket off the line, hitting 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds!

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 (1969)

While the current ZL1 is the most beloved Camaro in enthusiast and tuning circles today, the lineup's origins were pretty unlikely. The first Camaro ZL1 was developed to compete in the Can-Am road racing series and was never intended as a production vehicle. However, an Illinois dealer for Chevrolet, Fred Gibb, had another idea: Bringing the race car's V8 to the showrooms. So, he ordered a few ZL1 Camaros from Chevy's Central Office Production Order system (COPO) and offered them to customers. That initial success eventually led to the car entering production with subsequent models.

The fact that the first ZL1 had a racing engine made it somewhat of a homologation special. The 427-cubic-inch big block brought a significant performance upgrade over the existing 327-cubic-inch V8, producing over 500 hp! The engine was paired with either a heavy-duty four-speed manual or a Turbo hydra-matic automatic gearbox.

Crucially, the racing-focused aluminum block made the larger engine 500 pounds lighter, too, which must have been beneficial for handling. It also brought race car acceleration times to the table — the first Camaro ZL1 was capable of a quarter-mile time of just 11.6 seconds with slicks, upgraded exhaust, and different headers. Chevy built 69 examples of the first Camaro ZL1, and today, the car is a prized collectible, costing just short of $700,000 on average.

BMW M3 GTR Strassenversion (2001)

The E46 M3 holds a special place in the hearts of BMW enthusiasts. With its high-revving inline-six engine designed with motorsport in mind and balanced chassis, it might be the best M3 generation. Even so, the inline-six-powered E46 M3 is not the ultimate version of that generation. That's because BMW also offered a limited V8-powered homologation special that took performance to the next level.

BMW built the M3 GTR specifically to tackle the American Le Mans Series. The Bavarian company was already successful in competing in Europe, but to succeed in North America, it needed a larger engine. Thus, it developed a lightweight and compact 4.0-liter V8 engine, which, in the racing car, produced 460 hp. However, in order to compete, BMW had to incorporate the same engine in a road-legal car for homologation purposes.

That is how the Strassenversion (road version) was born. Only ten examples were made, but they were completely road-legal. As expected, the engine, which was not used in any other BMW, was detuned for this version, producing 350 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. Even so, that was enough for a top speed of 183 mph. Fortunately, BMW opted for a six-speed manual for the street-legal M3 GTR, equipped with a two-disc motorsport clutch and an LSD on the rear axle.

Ford RS200 Evolution (1986)

The RS200 was Ford's take on the Group B craze in the 1980s. At the outset, it was an even crazier car than the Sport Quattro that dominated the category: A dangerously light, mid-engine sports car driving all four wheels. The engine, a potent 1.8-liter turbocharged unit producing 250 hp and 215 lb-ft of torque, was enough to propel the RS200 to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds. However, that was only the regular homologation special, as things started to get really interesting with the Evolution model. Namely, the FIA required each manufacturer to produce 25 more cars of any upgraded model (200 of the first edition), and Ford did just that.

The RS200 Evolution was a much more maniacal car than the regular because, in the middle, it had a larger 2.1-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing coma-inducing 600 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque! It was still made from fiberglass, tipping the scales at just 2,600 pounds, so performance was out of this world. Notably, 0-60 mph took only 3.3 seconds, but it would've been quicker if it wasn't for the hard-to-shift, non-synchronous five-speed manual. As you can imagine, it is a pretty difficult car to drive, with a significant turbo lag. Still, there is no denying the sensations you'll get from the shove in the back once the turbo spools up properly. The RS200 Evolution is as intense as it gets in a car!

Lancia Stratos HF Stradale (1973 to 1978)

With a futuristic design that still turns heads today and World Rally Championship wins (1974, 1975, 1976) that would make most jealous, the Lancia Stratos HF is a true motorsport icon. Better yet, Lancia made 492 road-legal "Stradale" versions to comply with the homologation rules. They featured the same eye-catching styling from legendary designer Marcello Gandini, then at Bertone, and a Ferrari 2.4-liter V6 borrowed from the Dino, producing 190 hp.

Doesn't sound like much? Keep in mind the Stratos HF Stradale was introduced in 1971, and it weighed just 2,161 pounds. Thus, it sprinted to 60 mph in just 6 seconds and could reach 143 mph. In the 1970s, these were world-beating numbers. More than that, the homologation special Stratos HF Stradale was an extreme road car. Apart from the slightly softened suspension and more comfortable seats, it was the same car as the rally-conquering Stratos HF.

As you can imagine, driving this car is a festival for the senses, an occasion that leaves a lifelong impression. It is a very loud car because there was almost no sound insulation, and vibrations were part of the experience. Even so, being very light, the Stratos HF Stradale is a joy to drive on a twisty road, with responsiveness and balance that set it in a class of its own.

Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR Strassenversion (1997 to 1998)

Before Mercedes-Benz's AMG division dominated Formula One, it was busy beating the competition in other championships. In the 1990s, the German brand was almost unbeatable in the FIA GT Championship. The car behind that success was the CLK GTR, which, unlike most of its competitors, was tailor-made for the championship. McLaren, for example, heavily reworked its F1 supercar into a GTR race car to meet production requirements, as FIA mandated that 25 cars be sold to private customers. Not a problem for the F1, since 106 examples were already made.

Still, Mercedes-Benz and AMG were ready to make 25 homologation specials of the CLK GTR in their quest for winning races. Twenty of those cars were coupes, and five were roadsters, with both body styles being as wild as cars get. Equipped with a 6.9-liter V12 producing 600 hp and 572 lb-ft of torque, the CLK GTRs brought AMG's whole racing pedigree to the masses. Well, only to a lucky few, but you get the point. 0-62 mph in these sleek machines took 3.8 seconds, while the top speed was 214 mph.

Customers also got to play with a six-speed sequential gearbox with a clutch, just like in the race car. Still, the rest of the interior is pretty tame, with most switchgear borrowed from the W210 E-Class. Not that this stopped the CLK GTR from becoming an automotive icon, as in a recent auction, it hit $10 million.

MG Metro 6R4 (1985 to 1986)

If you are into driving simulators, you have surely met the funny-looking MG Metro 6R4. But that ugly-duckling body hides a very serious car, made to eat the other Group B competitors for dinner. It was based on the Austin Metro hatch, but the ties were incredibly loose. So, instead of the front-engine, front-wheel-drive architecture of the original, the 6R4 had a V6 engine in the middle, powering all four wheels. Its name is an abbreviation for "6 cylinder, Rally, 4 wheel drive".

The best part is that MG made 205 street-legal homologation specials to comply with Group B rules. They were also quite special because most other Group B cars were turbocharged, with serious turbo lag. Not the 6R4, though, as its quad-cam 3.0-liter V6 produced 410 hp in race trim, while also being responsive at all times. Thanks to the AWD, it reached 60 mph in just 3 seconds.

The road-going version, obviously, got a detuned version of the engine with 250 hp, but even then, it easily overpowers the 2,205-pound curb weight, reaching 60 mph in mere 4.5 seconds. The frantic sounds of the V6, the differential buzzing behind your ears, and the hyper-responsive chassis just made everything more extreme. The 6R4, then, is not a car for the faint-hearted.

Nissan R390 GT1 (1997)

Nissan wanted a piece of the GT racing craze in the 1990s. However, unlike its German competitors, the Japanese brand focused mainly on the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, where the organizers required only one street-legal unit to be made for the manufacturer to compete. Since Nissan was only into competing and not selling hugely expensive hypercars to customers, it built the one required example. So, yeah, it's as rare as it gets. As expected, only a few people inside Nissan ever drove the R390 GT1, though it does make appearances at car shows, like Villa d'Este.

But it's also quite special. Low and wide, with a great focus on aerodynamics, the R390 GT1 looks almost similar to the race car. Moreover, it packs the same 3.5-liter twin-turbo V8 with 550 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque, connected to a six-speed sequential gearbox that sends the power to the rear wheels. 0-60 mph in this car took only 3.1 seconds, but the 221-mph top speed was probably even more impressive. And since it weighs only 2,425 pounds and has a stiff chassis developed by Nissan engineers, it must be fantastic to drive. Still, we could only ever speculate!

Subaru Impreza 22B STi (1998)

Subaru was no stranger to producing excellent homologation machines. Moreover, its popular Impreza WRX STI rally-derived sports cars were always quite special thanks to the turbocharged boxer engines and advanced AWD systems. However, the car that got the closest to Subaru's rally-winning race cars was the Impreza 22B STI — a wide-body coupe that looks the same as Collin McRae's rally car. Designed to celebrate Subaru's third manufacturer title in the World Rally Championship and the 40th anniversary of the brand, the 22B STI is anything but a regular Impreza. Subaru only made 424 examples of this coupe, so it holds quite a special place in the brand's history.

Under the front bonnet, this boxer-powered beast packs the turbocharged 2.2-liter EJ22 unit, one of the most reliable JDM engines ever built. In this iteration, it produces 276 hp, but that's only because of Japan's gentlemen's agreement for all new cars to be no more powerful than that figure during the 1990s. Still, that was more than enough for a 0-60 mph time of just 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 144 mph. Not bad for a 1998 vehicle with a five-speed manual transmission!

Still, the 22B STI was not only about a straight-line speed, providing outstanding grip in the corners. It also allowed you to drive like a rally driver, flicking it side to side to tackle tighter corners, with the AWD system taking care of acceleration traction.

Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 (1984)

The Peugeot 205 GTi is one of the most beloved hot hatches in Europe. Quick enough to give you the thrills and with a superbly balanced chassis, it showed that you can have a lot of fun in a car strictly designed for urban driving. However, the GTi wasn't the ultimate version of the small hatchback. Not even close. It was the 205 Turbo 16 — a crazy homologation special designed to tackle all those overpowering Group B rally cars of the 1980s.

The 205 Turbo 16 rally car was very successful, winning 16 WRC races of the 26 in which it competed — a staggering 62% success rate. Here, though, we will be focusing on the road-going version, which is closely connected to the successful rally car. Like most Group B hatchbacks, the T16 is a mid-engine sports car with AWD for excellent balance and lateral grip. It also looks the part, particularly the side-mounted air intakes that reveal the mid-engine layout.

The engine itself was a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder unit producing 200 hp. That was short on its rivals but still enough for a 0-62 mph sprint of 6 seconds. Still, the highlight of the 205 T16 was its suspension, which, in true French fashion, was smooth on public roads, but it never unsettled the handling. In fact, the 205 T16 remains one of the best-handling hot hatches, even if few can ever enjoy it, as Peugeot made only 219 examples.

Porsche 911 GT1 Strassenversion (1998)

The story of the 911 GT1 is similar to that of the Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR. In an effort to win as many GT races as it could in the 1998 season, Porsche tailor-made a special machine that looked like an amped-up 911, but it had nothing to do with the road-going sports car. Thus, to compete in the FIA GT Championship, Porsche produced 20 homologation special road cars.

The company wasn't very successful in that championship, where Mercedes reigned supreme with its CLK GTR because it was ultimately the slower car. However, the 911 GT1 won where it mattered –- at the 1998 24 Hours of Le Mans, thanks to the excellent reliability of the race car and its engine. The 911 GT1 Strassenversion retained many of the components of the Le Mans-winning car like the 3.2-liter twin-turbo flat-six producing 537 hp, independent rear suspension, and ventilated/cross-drilled Brembo disc brakes. It also had a six-speed manual and a limited-slip differential at the back axle.

The result was some very respectable numbers at the time, like a 0-62 mph in 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 193 mph. That was, of course, short of the race car's 205 mph at the Mulsanne straight, but even then, the 911 GT1 is a wild and loud ride that will massage all your senses. Unfortunately, the 20 911 GT1 Strassenversions spend most of their time in museums today.

Toyota GT One (1998)

Before Toyota dominated the 24 Hours Le Mans race with five straight wins from 2018 to 2022, it had several unsuccessful attempts. Perhaps its most legendary early races were in 1998 and 1999, where the Toyota GT-One TS020 was the fastest car, but due to some bad luck, the best it could muster was second place. In 1998, the team retired an hour before the finish, giving the 911 GT1 the win, while in 1999, its number one car suffered a tire blowout on the Mulsanne straight.

Still, there is no denying that the GT-One is one of the most handsome machines that ever raced at Le Mans. That also holds true for the street-legal version, of which only two examples were made. Namely, just like with the Nissan R390 GT1, Le Mans organizers required one homologation special to be made for the car to compete. And since Toyota was only interested in racing, it only made two cars.

And the GT-One street version is as wild as it gets. Interestingly, Toyota made some workarounds in the street version, like claiming that the fuel tank can hold a suitcase and thus can be used as a trunk, and regulators were okay with it. Elsewhere, the GT-One homologation special had the same 3.6-liter twin-turbo V8 as the race car, producing almost 600 hp. As a result, the GT-One reaches 62 mph in 3.2 seconds and has a top speed of more than 236 mph!