Journal: 8 Most Under Appreciated Group B Cars

8 Most Under Appreciated Group B Cars

By Michael Banovsky
August 9, 2016

To me, “under-appreciated” is a machine that never lived up to its full potential. In racing, that test is really easy: did it win? Group B winners are a group rightfully worthy of our praise, but what about their often-forgotten competition? 

As categories go, Group B was both broad and popular, consuming several manufacturers in doing all-out battle in international motorsport. No corner of the world was left untouched; the big Bs raced at Le Mans, the Paris-Dakar, and became art. Because of the incredible pace of development, huge technological advances, and the realities of how race cars gestate, however, there were several vehicles developed that never saw success. There were some that saw limited running, or crashed out, or were neutered by regulations.

Group B rules were designed to accommodate different vehicles from previous categories, so it’s important to note that many oddball cars were run under Group B rules but may have not been designed for the series. May seem like a small distinction, but it’s the difference between a Peugeot 504 pickup truck and Ford RS200.

The record books rightfully salute the winners, and in Group B, those cars are well-known. So what about the outliers?

Porsche 961

FIA Homologation no.: None; not enough were built

You should know, right away, that Group B wasn’t just for rally cars. No, its rules set was adopted by several series’ for both rally and sports car racing. The 959 (and later 961) were geared toward circuits, and would have competed against the BMW M1 and Ferrari 288 GTO. The M1 did rally, actually, and did pretty well, but the 961 couldn’t catch a break.

Its debut at the 1986 24 Hours of Le Mans was promising, finishing 7th overall; when run in North America at Daytona it suffered dangerous tire failures, and its second Le Mans ended in a crash-caused barbecue. Porsche still has the car, of course, and shows it from time to time.

Citroën BX 4TC

FIA Homologation no.: B279

It’s not a good sign when a manufacturer conceives, designs, tests, builds, races, and sells a car—before trying to buy them all back again. Citroën did just that, when its hugely impressive BX 4TC fell well short of expectations. In racing, it arrived too late and simply wasn’t fast enough: its engine was underpowered and the hydropneumatic suspension had a difficult time coping with all that weight slung out beyond the front tires. 

As notes, “The BX 4TC competed in one World Rally Championship rally, suffered three mechanical failures, was rolled back onto the boat, and was never seen again in competition”. Around 60 road cars were sold, before their owners were asked to kindly, uh, have them crushed. Some did, some didn’t—if you find one, buy it, then give us a call…

Toyota Celica Twincam Turbo TA 64

FIA Homologation no.: B239

Front engine, rear-wheel-drive, rally car…in the ’80s? While we don’t think of Toyota as being behind the times, when it came to Group B, its approach (until its very successful campaigns in Group A and WRC) was to build a quick-but-strong car. Simple. Robust. It won its second race at the Ivory Coast in 1983, becoming somewhat of a specialist in longer-distance African rallies. As notes, “The Celica won no less than six rallies in Africa, including three consecutive Safari rallies in Kenya from 1984 to 1986…making it the undisputed king of the desert during the Group B era”.

So why don’t you have one for hooning around in the desert?

Mazda Rally Team Europe RX-7

FIA Homologation no.: B255, B289

There wasn’t an official Group B effort from Mazda, instead, the Belgium-based Mazda Rally Team Europe took it upon itself to have the RX-7 homologated as a proper rally car. If you could have watched it race at any event, the one to be at would have been the 1985 Acropolis Rally in Greece, where it finished third with driver Ingvar Carlsson and co-driver Benny Melander, less than a minute behind the winning Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 Evolution 2 piloted by Timo Salonen.

MG Metro 6R4

FIA Homologation no.: B277

Obligatory, right? This car seems to be on so many of these lists, and the subject of so many magazine features, that I wonder how tired MG Metro 6R4 fans are of reading that the car had a normally-aspirated 3.0-litre V6 engine with 400 horsepower, was screwed together by Williams Grand Prix Engineering, and it still didn’t see much success.

Ferrari 308 GTB

FIA Homologation no.: B220, B236, and B241

In Italy, Michelotto developed a few 308 GTBs into rally cars—and saw some outright success, too. In Sicily, the cars were very fast against the competition and scored outright wins. The car was never going to be a world contender, or developed into a more advanced, quattro-fighting machine—Ferrari’s focus on the faster, road racing-focused 288 GTO sealed the 308 GTB’s fate.

Still, it’s worth planning your Sicilian holiday around a local rally, where it’s very likely one of these cars will be sliding sideways around the island’s narrow roads.

Ford RS1700T

FIA Homologation no.: None; remained a prototype

Remember that one time in the early ’80s when Ford decided to fit a 1,778-cc turbocharged 4-cylinder Cosworth engine into a three-door, rear drive hatchback? You know, the one with more than 300 horsepower? No? As the car was being developed, Ford realized rear-drive was a losing proposition and cancelled the project.

Reports say hundreds of body panels, transaxles, engines, and various other components were made—and ready—before the project was cancelled. As an interesting footnote, in addition to a few race versions, one of the road-going RS1700T prototypes survives, rightfully, with M-Sport.

Nissan 240 RS

FIA Homologation no.: B233

Did you know that the 240 RS is the first (and only) Group B car raced-and-won-in by the late Colin McRae? The 240 RS is a proper Group B car, and was actually made in a limited number—box flares and all. Like its competition from Opel, Toyota, and others, Nissan kept the car rear-drive.

It was wildly unlike its competition underhood, however, with the FJ24 engine: a 2.4-litre, normally-aspirated, carbureted…and still was developed up to 277 horsepower. Over two years, its best finish was a 2nd overall—just not good enough.

Which Group B car do you feel is the most under-appreciated?

Images courtesy of their respective manufactueres & by James Mann courtesy of RM Sotheby’s,

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Pedro Mendonça
Pedro Mendonça(@pedro_mendonca)
2 years ago

It’s not true about BX: The truth is that 4tc was a solution that had to be cheap for private customers to run. An evolution of the concept of Visa rally cars. The PSA group owned the peugeot 205 t16 for larger flights. so BX should be cheap and fast enough and used by an entire family and a dog. And so it was. With the Evo kit, it looks like a nuclear bomb on wheels. Seeing one live is amazing! So bx made 4 wrc rallys – montecarlo, sweden, portugal and acropolis. They take 5th place in Sweden and the Acropolis, Andruet was sixth and he was being the fastest in the section where the suspension broke. Following the group’s withdrawal by the fia for 1987, Citroen went to rallycross and was a strong competitor. Like the other manufacturers (Lancia and Peugeot included), the 200 cars for approval were not completed and it was more expensive to complete than destroy them … no one could say that these cars would last in people’s hearts.


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Martin Bohacek
Martin Bohacek
3 years ago

I believe you forgot the Skoda 130LR – an underdog that even won a rally!

Per Eldh
Per Eldh(@per)
5 years ago

Please – stop the mixing of RACING Group B with RALLY Group B.. They’re virtually two completely different things!
Also Mazda RX7, Renault 5Turbo etc etc are really Group 4 cars, re-classed in Group B.
The Group B “monsters” were only 6 (six!)
Lancia Delta S4
Peugeot 205 T16
Ford RS200
MG Metro 6R4
Citroen BX 4TC

Pedro Mendonça
Pedro Mendonça(@pedro_mendonca)
2 years ago
Reply to  Per Eldh

the audi sport quattro has more common parts with the audi ur quattro than the renault 5 turbo tour de corse with the r5 t gr 4 car …

5 years ago

The 6R4 won several rounds of the ’86 British Rally Championship in the hands of Jimmy McRae and David Llewellyn (the champion, Mark Lovell, didn’t win a single round in his RS200), as well as leading and scoring a podium on it’s WRC debut in the hands of Tony Pond (RAC ’85), so I wouldn’t say that it was that unsuccessful.

Brandon Strickland
Brandon Strickland(@brandonstrickland)
5 years ago

What? No Toyota 222D. That’s a group B AW11 MR2

5 years ago

It didn’t make it to race day, so rather than under appreciated it was never appreciated. And since it was a prototype, it would’ve been a Group S car. Oh, what could have been.

Pedro Mendonça
Pedro Mendonça(@pedro_mendonca)
2 years ago

group S…

5 years ago

Didn’t Mitsubishi have GroupB Starion? Crazy as it may be, I distinctively recall seeing Daihatsu Charade GroupB car, too.

De Dion
De Dion(@de-dion)
5 years ago

How about the Lada VFTS or the later Lada EVA

5 years ago

Group B was the last time sports cars were also rally cars. Every once in a while we see a RWD car that’s about to compete, but nothing happens. The Toyota GT86 is eligible for R3 class in WRC3, but I have yet to see an entry.

And as much as I love the RX-7 in rally form, it was actually just under one hour behind the Puegeot 205. That’s just how dominant 4WD is on the loose stuff.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange(@365daytonafan)
5 years ago

Colin McRae might have raced a 240RS but he also used a 6R4 as a course car on the Colin McRae stages rally (and others rallies as well I think). The car is for sale on ebay at the moment (no affiliation)