Let's Remember That Time Daihatsu Almost Rallied A Group B Charade

Flip the pages of rallying history and you’ll find a number of planned Group B contenders that never saw a single special stage. From the Porsche 959 to Nissan’s MID4 concept, the Ferrari 288 GTO Evoluzione and Toyota’s MR2-based 222D, it seems like almost every major European and Japanese automaker was mulling over a turbocharged all-terrain monster of its own to do battle with the likes of Lancia and Audi. Even Lada tried it!

One lesser-known Group B project that never quite made it off the ground belongs to Daihatsu, of all makes. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, the little Charade was a compelling option for Group A rallying in the lower displacement classes. By 1985, Group B had hit a fever pitch, and Daihatsu decided to take the proven Charade and call upon its friends at De Tomaso, with whom the Japanese carmaker already shared an unlikely relationship with since supplying engines for the Italian Innocenti Mini. The pair debuted a homologation special that was truly the king of the rallying Charades: the 926R.

The 926R bowed at the 1985 Tokyo Motor Show. Intended for Group B’s lowest-displacement B/9 class, the car derives its name from its turbocharged, 926cc dual overhead cam 12-valve three-cylinder. That engine had already been deployed in the limited-production 926 Turbo, but there it produced just 75 horsepower; in the 926R, it churned 118 HP, according to Rally Group B Shrine. Oh, and Daihatsu moved it behind the driver’s seat.

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Yes, while all other Charades were front-engine and front-wheel drive, the 926R stashed the engine in the boot and spun the rear wheels. That explains the dramatically flared fenders and copious vents up and down the hatch.

The 926R truly had all the makings of a proper Group B homologation special: a super-wide track, a turbocharged engine in the proper location and gratuitous badging and stickers to hammer the point that this was no ordinary Charade, if the other hints didn’t already give that away.

Alas, I probably don’t need to tell you how or why this fairytale ended. The 1985 Tokyo Motor Show, where the 926R made its first public appearance, happened in late October of that year. Seven months later, in May 1986, Group B was canceled following a series of spectator and competitor deaths. Group A was then promoted to become the WRC’s top category.

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If Daihatsu was to clear the 926R for Group A, it would have had to build 5,000 units under the homologation rules — simply too great a commitment for the maker of quirky compacts. And so the 926R never raced or saw production, ending the story of the best Charade that nearly was. Alongside its other incomplete Group B stablemates, it remains a sneak peek into an alternate rallying universe that never came to pass.

Staff Writer at Jalopnik. 2017 Fiesta ST. Wishes NASCAR was more like Daytona USA.

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