These Are The Top All-Wheel Drive Classic Cars Ever
We asked you which car was the greatest classic all-wheel drive auto ever built. And I don’t think we’ve ever had such unanimity in the answers to one of our questions before. Basically, it came down to one of two cars: The Audi Quattro and its variations and the Lancia Delta and its variations. If we’re being honest, those two are really the greatest whereas the rest simply receive honorable mentions. It was so unanimous in fact that there are really only seven choices. And please bear in mind that we asked about all-wheel drive, not four-wheel drive, discounting cars such as the Willys Jeep.
#7 Jensen FF–The Jensen was the first modern car equipped with all-wheel drive, and was named for it too: Ferguson Formula, after the company that devised its AWD system (Ferguson Research). It never raced and only about 320 of them were ever built, but this car launched the breed.
#6 Hurst Hairy Olds–This was a bonkers exhibition drag racer built with General Motor’s help and intended to show off GM’s new chain-driven automatic transaxle (used in the 1966 production Oldsmobile Toronado). The car was equipped with not one but two (!) 7.0L V8s, producing around 1000hp each. Each engine powered the front wheels and rear wheels, respectively, through a dedicated transaxle. Why was it called the “hairy” Olds? Due to the copious torque-steer generated by the front transaxle, extreme amounts of tire smoke that limited visibility, and the unloading of the front wheels which caused the front engine to over-rev. Certainly not for the faint of heart.
Photography by Yoav Gilad for Petrolicious
#5 Nissan Skyline R32–Once again, the Skyline R32 just makes it onto the list having debuted in 1989. It dominated the JTCC (Japanese Touring Car Championship) and it won Bathurst in ’91 and ’92 earning it the nickname “Godzilla” from the Australian press. “The monster from Japan” is truly a car to be reckoned with.
#4 Porsche 959–Nowadays, every virtually every supercar is equipped with AWD, but less than thirty years ago rear-wheel drive was the name of the game. The first supercar to change that was the amazing Porsche 959. Designed to compete in Group B rallying, it had to have AWD to compete on the same level and when the street car was released it too had AWD. Sadly, Group B rallying went away before its racing counterpart (the 961) was able to establish a name for itself otherwise it might sit atop this list.
#3 Peugeot 205 T16–Built for homologation purposes, the road going T16 had less than half the power of the Group B rally version. But as a Group B racer, the 205 T16 was immensely successful, winning the World Rally Championship (constructors’ and drivers’) two years in a row, 1985 and ’86, until Group B was retired.
#2 Audi Quattro–In all of their variations the Audi Quattros were superlative. Whether driven by Ms. Michèle Mouton or Mr. Walter Röhrl, the car was a force. It won the WRC Constructors’s trophy twice (’82 and ’84) and the Drivers’ trophy twice as well (’83 and ’84). Coupled with a terrific, hair-raising soundtrack and beautiful livery, the Quattros are unforgettable.
Photography by Daniil Matyash for Petrolicious
and, finally… #1 Lancia Delta–Some variation of the Lancia Delta won the WRC four out of five years in a row (1987-’89, 1991). So yes, the Audi Quattro was an amazing racer. But the Lancia Delta was twice as successful. And in the hands of Messrs. Juha Kankkunen or Miki Biasion it was effectively unbeatable. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the best classic AWD car ever.