If you've read Jalopnik for longer than 20 minutes, you just knew we were going to stick a "Killer B" in our Fantasy Garage. And why wouldn't we? Created by the FIA in 1982, Group B offered manufacturers a way to show off all their engineering prowess, achieve racing victories and reap the subsequent publicity windfalls, all without the need and expense of launching a full production model. Very low homologation numbers (200 streetable cars in this case) meant that for a modest investment — especially when compared to Group A with its minimum 5,000 production cars mandate — a company could claim some serious rewards. Group A also had more stringent restrictions in terms of power, weight, materials and overall cost, not to mention a four-seat rule that in essence prohibited mid-engine machines. Group B was essentially unlimited, especially in terms of power.
And we mean unlimited. While engine displacement was strictly categorized, Group B rules failed to specify any limit in terms of boost (insert maniacal cackling here). This proved to be a loophole engineers gleefully exploited with stupefying, almost dumbfounding results. Actual horsepower numbers are murky at best and even downright cryptic. Quoted numbers for the 2.1-liter Ford RS200 for example range anywhere from 550 hp to over 800 hp. Reasons for this secrecy are many and varied. The most commonly cited are that the primitive all-wheel-drive dynamometers weren't up to the job. And because there was no cap on power, manufacturers just didn't care all that much. We would wager however, that teams didn't want the competition to know just how full-on berserk each others' cars were. But here's the skinny: Group B cars could out accelerate F1 cars. 0-60 times of less than three seconds were common – on gravel. Sadly, in the days before computerized traction control, so much unwieldy power proved to be Group B's downfall.
At the start of the 1986 season, the big boys (Audi, Ford, Lancia and Peugeot) were simply (and literally) fire-breathing. And then everything went very wrong. Near Sintra in Portugal, driver Joaquim Santos came out of a gully only to find dozens of fans standing at the peak. His Ford RS200 careered into the crowd, killing three and injuring more than 30. Every team immediately pulled out of the race. Soon after, Lancia's Henri Toivonen inexplicably missed a tight left-hander and plunged into a ditch. The fuel tanks of his Delta S4 ruptured and burst into flames, incinerating him and his co-driver Sergio Cresto. A few more races took place that year, though rife with nationalistic argument (e.g., the Italians said the skirts on the Peugeots were too low). The 1987 season was canceled, and soon after the FIA banned Group B altogether. Notwithstanding the human tragedies, it was is one of the saddest days in the history of sport.
General Group B Radness
In Jeremy Clarkson's most excellent book, I Know You Got Soul, everybody's favorite Thatcherite discusses the Concorde, its crash in Paris and subsequent decommissioning. He quips, "for the first time since the Titanic we were actually mourning the loss of the machine itself." Jezza actually flew aboard the very last Concorde flight. As he walked off the plane in London he thought to himself, "This is one small step for a man. But a giant leap backwards for mankind." This also happens to be true of the Killer Bs. Group B was essentially a sanctioned hoon division. Unlimited forced-induction power, the first mature applications of AWD in motorsport and ultra-lightweight, exotic materials are the things our dreams are made of.
To quote Clarkson one last time, "You see, unlike any other machine that has been mothballed or donated to a museum, Concorde has not been replaced with something better or faster." With the exception of the Group B cars, Jeremy. Think we're being a bit dramatic? The Bugatti Veyron, with its 8.0-liter 16-cylinder engine, four turbochargers, 1,000+ horsepower,
Cray supercomputer and million-dollar price tag hits 60 mph in 2.5 seconds. The Ford RS200's 0-60 mph time was 2.1 seconds, you guessed it, in the dirt. Sigh...
Audi Quattro S1
Audi is of course the granddaddy of Group B. Because the class hardly had any rules, Audi was free to introduce AWD (with a little help from Jensen) to the world in 1980. The results were epoch making and are still being felt today. However, at first there was much doubt whether a heavy and complicated AWD system would be stout enough for rallying. Audi won its first rally on its first attempt by nine minutes. From that moment on, there was no doubt at all about AWD. Other manufacturers struggled to get AWD cars of their own into production.
The Quattro did very well in the early 1980s, including a win by Michèle Mouton, the first woman to win an international rally. While the initial Quattro had an AWD advantage over the competition, it was too heavy, too complicated and handled rather poorly. In 1983 other manufacturers began making huge strides and even though it was still RWD, Lancia's 037 won the constructor's title.
Audi fought back in 1984 with the Sport Quattro. Power was up to over 450 hp. The Sport did retain its monocoque chassis (as opposed to most of the competitions' tubular frames) but was re-skinned in fancy kevlar. The gearbox gained a gear (from five to six) and most important, almost 13 inches were chopped out of the wheelbase, giving the Sport Quattro massively improved handling. One of the greatest hoons of all time, Stig Blomqvist, even took to driving the car sideways. Audi won the both the constructor's title and the driver's championship.
1985 saw the introduction of Peugeot's 205 TI6 (more on that in a bit). To fight this French monster, Audi released the devilish Sport Quattro S1. Long story short, its 2.1-liter inline five produced over 600 horsepower and had massive wings festooned all over the place to provide downforce. Although the S1 was too heavy (and too front-engined) to fully be competitive in Group B, Michèle Mouton drove an S1 up Pike's Peak. Not only did she win outright, but she set a record in the process. The next year Bobby Unser drove an S1 up Pike's Peak, also winning outright and setting a record. The next year Walter Röhrl did the exact same thing. And Audi wasn't even warmed up. Legend has it Audi worked up a 1000 hp engine that it tested in several hillclimbs, but drivers deemed it too batshit insane to drive. We can't even imagine.
Arguably the best looking of all the Killer Bs, the Ford RS200 was and is totally mad. And out of all these rally studs, we like the RS200 homologation the best. It's not only fierce, but also rare. Seeing one is like stumbling on a leprechaun. The RS200 represented Ford's second, more serious attempt at Group B. Its first rather botched attempt was the Escort RS 1700T. Details are sketchy as to what went wrong; most references indicate, "troubled development," sometimes followed by "complete disaster." However, even without specifics, I imagine trying to get a front-wheel-drive economy car to run with an Audi Quattro in 1983 would be troubling and disastrous.
Not so with the RS200. Much of the development was outsourced. Tony Southgate designed and Reliant built the space-frame chassis. The kevlar body was designed by Ghia and constructed by Reliant, which had considerable expertise with composites. The RS200 featured AWD with adjustable torque split, a Group B first. Without stopping the car, the driver could rout all the power to the rear wheels, choose a 37/63 front-to-rear split or go for 50/50. The RS200 employed three viscous couplings to make this possible. It also had a mid-engine layout and dual-shocks at each corner. Legendary F1-er Bryan Hart tuned the 16-valve, turbocharged 2137 cc BDT-E Cosworth engine to at least 550 hp, and some claim as much as 800 hp. In reality, the RS200s probably competed at 650 hp.
Under the RS200's Kevlar Hood. Clock the Dual Shocks
Regardless, 60 mph arrived in a hair over two seconds, depending upon the gearing. In fact, two separate RS200 Evolutions hit 100 km/h in 2.1 seconds, which is basically two seconds flat to 60 mph. That is ludicrous. More important (to the drivers), the RS200 was extremely tough and faired well in crash tests. The only drawback was that all that overbuilding meant the Ford was heavier than its competition. Extra pounds coupled with horrid turbo lag meant the RS200 had to be beaten with a go-faster stick. And that's fine by us. Plus, if you watch the video, it shot fire out of its tail pipe constantly. That's even finer by us.
Lancia Delta S4
Like the rest of the competitors, Lancia got caught with its pants down when Audi arrived with its mean, old Sport Quattro. In 1983 the rear-drive Lancia 037, predecessor to the S4, managed to hold off Audi (Lancia had Walter Röhrl at the wheel and somehow the Italian car was much more reliable than the fancy-pants German). But by 1984 competition was just too stiff for the mid-engined 037. Lancia had to make a move. And boy, did they.
The Delta S4 is the rally car Vincent van Gogh would have driven. Mid-engined, all-wheel-drive, extra-light, all that stuff. But what sets the S4 apart and always makes us smile is its compound charging. In order to fight off the nasty effects of turbo lag on twisty, hairpin dirt courses, the Delta S4's 1759 cc engine was both supercharged and turbocharged. Developed with Fiat's tuning shop Abarth, this lag-free set up screamed out at least 550 hp from a 1.8-liter four banger. And, like all these cars, the actual output come race day was most likely higher, if not much higher.
Lack of displacement did affect torque output, and that meant that the Delta S4 could "only" accelerate from a standstill to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds. On gravel. We're laughing just typing. Point being, this was the first compound charged engine ever raced, and the S4 was one of the most advanced cars ever built. Lancia and the Delta S4 finished 1-2 in the 1985 RAC Rally. The 1986 campaign looked to be much more of the same, but then Henri Toivonen tragically crashed his Delta S4 and the gas tanks blew, killing him and effectively ending Group B forever. Still, what a brilliant maniac of a vehicle it was.
Peugeot 205 TI6
How can you not love a car nicknamed L'enfant terrible? Right, in good faith, you can't. Like the other cars mentioned, Peugeot's Group B entry followed the winning formula. Or in this case developed the winning formula. Mid-engine, lightweight composite body, AWD, a space-frame chassis and turbo power out both the ying yang and wazoo. And, even in the face of more powerful competition, the 205 T16 constantly won races.
Unlike the R200 and Delta S4, the 205 T16 was based upon the econobox 205. Only they tossed the engine in the trunk (er, backseat) and swapped out every component. Visually it maintained the hatchback aesthetic first laid down by Giugiaro's Golf. As a result, fans loved the 205 because it looked as if the scrappy little grocery-getting David was stoning all the tweaked out Goliaths dead. During the 1986 season, with competitors' offerings turned up past 11, Peugeot's little pugilist punched above its weight and beat them all. The 205 T16 then went on to dominate Pike's Peak and win Paris-Dakar. If we were to be honest with ourselves, we would admit that the Peugeot 205 T16 is probably the greatest car raced last century. Too bad it's so funny looking.
A Note About Our Selection Process:
Davey G points out that like in Can Am, there are no bad Group B cars. Yes, we did leave off the Renault R5, the Manta 400 and the Rover 6R4. And we did so purposely, because the four cars you will be voting on in a moment stood so much taller than the rest of the admittedly awesome competition.
The elephant in the room is Porsche's legendary 959. We made the decision not to include it in this week's nomination for a number of reasons. One is that people (i.e. you) tend to love the 959 so much as to skew the results. It would be like trying to convince certain people quarter-mile time is not the ultimate performance measure. We'd be talking to a wall.
The other main reason is Porsche's dirty little secret: the 959 couldn't compete. Not in the rallies at any rate. Other manufacturers had too many years' head start. Remember, the 959 ran in the 1985 Paris-Dakar (actually, it also ran in 1984 with a few 911s pumped up to 959 spec) and again in 1986. But Porsche wisely didn't bother with Group B competition and the race was off for 1987, which only added to the 959's legend. Will the 959 make it into the Fantasy Garage? Pope. Shit. Woods. Also, had the 1987 season happened, Ferrari may have entered the 288 GTO. Chew on that for a while.
One more thing before you vote. We decided to go heavy with the videos this week because in the words of Han Solo, these cars, "may not be much too look at, but [they] got it where it counts." Thanks for reading.
[The Jalopnik Fantasy Garage appears every Tuesday. Readers vote the cars in or out. The idea is that we'll have 50 cars in our Fantasy Garage, the world's greatest mechanic and endless wads of cash. Would you like to nominate a car for the Fantasy Garage? Write firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Fantasy."]
The Jalopnik Fantasy Garage, So Far:
RUF RT12 | Maserati Quattroporte Executive GT | 1978 Aston Martin V8 Vantage | Honda 1300 Coupe 9 | 1931 Daimler Double Six 50 Corsica Drophead Coupe | Ferrari 288 GTO | Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 | 1970 Buick GSX 455 | First Generation BMW M Coupe | Bugatti Veyron 16.4 | Ford GT | Citroen SM | Porsche 928 | Jensen FF | DeTomaso Vallelunga