Since 1997, with the introduction of the WRC regulations, the cars competing in the World Rally Championship, are little resembled from cars which they derive. Previously, the cars that raced in rally, were identical to the standard models with appropriate modifications for competition.

However, prior to the 80s, rally cars were simples and low powered, such as Mini Cooper or the Renault R8, or too expensive as the Lancia Stratos. Likewise, the B Group were too exclusive and their prices are extremely high.

However, after the disappearance of the Group B cars, emerged a new regulation that was a set of motorsport regulations introduced by FIA covering production-derived vehicles for outright competition: The Group A.

In contrast to the short-lived Group B and Group C, the Group A referred to production-derived vehicles limited in terms of power, weight, allowed technology and overall cost. Group A was aimed at ensuring a large number of privately owned entries in races.

In this new post, we will present the best Group A production cars that will make you feel a rally driver for less than 30.000€!

Subaru Impreza (1993-1996)

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The firt Subaru Impreza WRX was launched in 1992 and the name “WRX” to stand for “World Rally eXperimental”. As all WRX versions , feature rally inspired technology, including all wheel drive, stiffened suspensions and turbocharged four cylinder engines.

In 1994, Subaru introduced Subaru Tecnica International (STI) versions of the WRX in Japan. These models were upgraded from the standard WRX in many categories, including blueprinted performance-tuned engines, transmissions, and suspensions. The STI versions of the WRX were immensely successful in rallies and popular among street racers but were only sold in the Japanese market. Compared to the WRX, the STI had mostly mechanical modifications.

Colin Mcrae won the World Rally Cahmpionship for drivers in 1995 with his team mate Carlos Sainz Second in 1994 and 1995. The Group A impreza also won the manufacturer’s championship in 1995 and 1996.

A good unit could be yours for 10.000€-18.000€

Ford Escort RS Cosworth (1993-1996)

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The car was launched in 1993 and designed to qualify as a Group A car for the World Rally Championship, in which it competed between 1993 and 1998. It was available as a road car from 1992–96 in very limited numbers, and was instantly recognisable due to its large “whale tail” rear spoiler.

The main selling point was the Cosworth YBT engine, a highly tunable turbocharged 2-litre engine which had an output of 230 PS in standard trim. The car was widely acknowledged to have excellent handling. The Escort Cosworth was a rare car, with 7,145 vehicles produced from the start of production on 19 February 1992 until the last car rolled out of the factory on 12 January 1996, and was the first mass production car to produce downforce at the front and rear.

The car was driven by drivers like François Delecour, Miki Biasion, Tommki Makinen or Carlos Sainz. In 1993, the year of its debut, it took the victory in 5 rallyes. It failed to win the World Rally Championship, but it did win eight events between 1993 and 1996 as a Group A car, and two more in World Rally Car guise in 1997-8.

A good unit could be yours for 18.000€-30.000€

Mitsubushi Lancer (1992-1997)

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The Group A WRC Lancer had three version, from EVO I to Evo III, being every model an evolution of its predecessor. 

The first Lancer Evolution (October 1992 – January 1994) used the 2.0 L turbocharged DOHC engine and AWD drivetrain from the original Galant VR-4 in a Lancer chassis, and was sold in GSR and RS models. The RS version was released with a mechanical plate type rear Limited-slip differential (LSD). The GSR came with all of the conveniences of a typical street car, including a digital screen climate control system. It came with Mitsubishi’s 4G63engine producing 247 PS at 6000 rpm and 309 N·m  at 3000 rpm.

The Evolution II was laaunched in December 1993, and consisted mainly of handling improvements, including minor wheelbase adjustments, lighter front swaybar that connected via swaybar links to the front struts, bodywork tweaks including a larger spoiler, and tires that were 10 mm wider. This Evolution also has a 50 l fuel tank and the power output was increased to 256 PS from the same engine.

The last Group A era Lancer, the Evolution III, was launched in February 1995, and it had several improvements over the previous models. New, more aggressive styling and a new nose moulding improved the air supply to the radiator, intercooler and brakes. New side skirts and rear bumper moldings and a larger rear spoiler were added to reduce lift. Improved engine had higher compression ratio than before, with a new turbocharger compressor (65 mm to 68 mm),  which gave power output of 270 bhp at 6250 rpm, and 309 N·m  at 3.000 rpm.

A good unit could be yours for 8.000€-25.000

Lancia Delta (1987-1993)

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The Lancia Delta dominated the World Rally Championship during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The homologation requirements of Group A regulations meant marketing road-going versions of these competition cars: the Lancia Delta HF 4WD and HF Integrale.

Group B rallying was dropped at the end of the 1986 season, and the Delta HF 4WD was the model that Lancia launched to compete to Group A rallying, later upgraded to Delta HF Integrale in 1987. The Lancia HF Integrale incorporated some of the features of the Delta HF 4WD into a road car. The engine was an 8-valve 2 L fuel injected 4-cylinder, with balancing shafts. The HF version featured new valves, valve seats and water pump, larger water and oil radiators, more powerful cooling fan and bigger air cleaner. A larger capacity Garrett T3 turbocharger with improved air flow and bigger inter-cooler, revised settings for the electronic injection/ignition control unit and a knock sensor. The boost power output to 185 bhp  at 5300 rpm and maximum torque of 304 N·m at 3500 rpm. The HF Integrale had permanent 4-wheel drive, a front transversely mounted engine and five-speed gearbox, with braking and suspension uprated to 284 mm ventilated front discs, a larger brake master cylinder and servo, as well as revised front springs, dampers, and front struts.

By 1989, Lancia introduced the 16v Integrale, which was developed for rallying. It featured a raised centre of the bonnet to accommodate the new 16 valve engine, as well as wider wheels and tyres and new identity badges front and rear. The torque split was changed to 47% front and 53% rear. Also the engine was upgraded, The turbocharged 2-litre Lancia 16v engine produced 200 bhp at 5500 rpm, for a maximum speed of 220 km/h and 0–100 km/h in 5.5  seconds. Changes included larger injectors, a more responsive Garrett T3 turbocharger, a more efficient intercooler, and the ability to run on unleaded fuel without modification.

The last series of the Delta, the Evoluzione versions, introduced in 1991, were to be the final homologation cars for the Lancia Rally Team. The Evoluzione, had a wider track front and rear than earlier Deltas. The bodyside arches were extended and became more rounded. The wings were now made in a single pressing. The front strut top mounts were also raised, which necessitated a front strut brace. The new Integrale retained the four wheel drive layout and  the engine was modified again to produce 210 bhp and later 220 bhp at 5750 rpm.

The Lancia Delta is one of the most successful rally cars ever, having won the World Rally Championship for manufacturers six times between 1987 and 1992. Lancia drivers won the drivers’ title in 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1991, and the four evolutions of the Delta won 46 world championship events between them, and their run of six successive manufacturers’ championships remains a world record.

A good unit could be yours for 15.000€ – +30.000€ (special editions evoluzione models)

Toyota Celica GT FOUR (1988-1995)

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Toyota introduced the GT-Four (ST165) onto the Japanese market in October 1986. With full-time all-wheel drive, including an electronically controlled central locking differential, and a turbochargedversion of the GT-S 2.0 L engine producing 200bhp. The ST165 chassis design was quite acclaimed in its time. Toyota chose not to make any drastic suspension changes for the AWD GT-Four. The front suspension comprises MacPherson struts with an anti-swaybar and strut tower brace, while the rear employs struts with a trailing link and twin lateral links per side plus an anti-swaybar. The ST165 GT-Four made its World Rally debut in the 1988 Tour de Corse and finished 6th. The first victory came in 1988 Cyprus (non-WRC), and the first WRC victory in 1989 Rally Australia.

The T185 Celica  received new Super Round organic styling, upgraded wheels and tires, more powerful GT-Four with better cooling system. Toyota engineers claimed that the round styling and lack of straight edges increased strength without adding weight.  The the new engine delivered 221 bhp and 304 N·m torque, a result of more aggressive ignition advance and ceramic turbine. The Full-time 4WD system in the GT-Four has viscous coupling limited slip center differential and Torsen rear differential.

Last Group A generation, the ST205 version, was to be the most powerful Celica produced to date, with 240 bhp from an updated 3S-GTE engine. Influenced strongly by Toyota Team Europe, Toyota’s factory team in the World Rally Championship, the final version of the GT-Four included improvements such as an all-aluminum hood to save weight, four-channel ABS (with G-force sensor), an improved turbocharger (incorrectly known by enthusiasts as the CT20B), and Super Strut Suspension. The 2500 homologation cars built to allow Toyota to enter the GT-Four as a Group A car in the World Rally Championship also sported extras such as all of the plumbing required to activate an anti-lag system, a water spray bar for the Intercooler’s front heat exchanger, a water injection system for detonation protection, a hood spoiler mounted in front of the windscreen to stop hood flex at high speed and the standard rear spoiler mounted on riser blocks.

Celica GT-Four competed in Group A Rally racing from the 1988 to 1997. Celica GT-Four have won two manufacturer’s titles, and four driver’s titles.

 A good unit could be yours for 7.000€ – 30.000€ (ST205 GT-4)

Ford Sierra Cosworth (1987-1992)

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The Ford Sierra RS Cosworth was the result of a Ford Motorsport project with the purpose of producing an outright winner for Group A racing in Europe. The Sierra Cosworth was fitted with the highly tunable turbocharged 2-litre Cosworth YBD engine which had an output of 204 PS in standard trim.  The Borg-Warner T5 gearbox, also used in the Ford Mustang, was chosen, but the higher revving nature of the Sierra caused some problems. Eventually Borg-Warner had to set up a dedicated production line for the gearboxes to be used in the Sierra RS Cosworth.

The Sierra Cosworth was also pressed into service as a rally car, and saw some success. On tarmac it was a serious competitor, and a young Didier Auriol won the 1988 Corsica Rally outright, the only time that season that Lancia were beaten in a straight fight.

In January 1990 the third generation Sierra RS Cosworth was launched, this time with four wheel drive. The Sierra RS Cosworth 4×4 received, if possible, an even more flattering response than its predecessors and production continued until the end of 1992, when the Sierra was replaced.

The 4×4 Cosworth made a few appearances as a works rally car in 1990, and then tackled a full World Championship programme for 1991 and 1992. It was not a great success and never won a World Championship event, although in the hands of drivers such as Francois Delecour and Massimo Biasion it did take several second and third places.

A good unit could be yours for 15.000€ (4×4) – +30.000€ (RS500)


Bonus track: 

Renault 5GT Turbo (1987-1991)

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The R5 GT Turbo was a very popular model in the late 80’s and the early 90’s. It was a the Renault “hot hatch” version of the R5, and was introduced in 1985. It used a modified four cylinder, eight-valve Cléon 1,397 cc engine, a pushrod unit dating back to the 1962 original (in 1,108 cc form). It was turbocharged with an air-cooled Garrett T2 turbocharger. Weighing a mere 850 kg  and producing 115bhp. it had an excellent power-to-weight ratio. Unfortunately, turbo lag was an issue, along with poor hot starting, and was considered rather difficult to control. In 1987, the facelifted Phase II was launched and included a watercooling to the turbocharger, aiding the Phase I’s oil-cooled setup, which extended the life of the turbo. It also received a new ignition system which permitted it to rev 500 rpm higher. These changes boosted engine output up to over 120 bhp.

It was a very popular rally car, which was used for many rally drivers and a cup was created during its production life. 

A good unit could be yours for 9.000€

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