Of all the many categories and formulas of racing, rally consistently seems to remain in the background compared to circuit-based series. However, the sport is arguably one of the most interesting and dangerous of all of motorsport. From a design angle, what makes rallying from the world championship level down to local amateur competitors unique is the use of production-based cars. Sure, the top end pro WRC vehicles stretch the definition of production vehicle pretty far. But next to NASCAR or Touring Car where you really have to squint to see production car similarities, rally is still a lot closer.
Why go on about this? Well, Classic Car Club Manhattan held the first Gears on the Pier edition dedicated to historic and current rally cars. The Gears on the Pier series typically is based around featuring a single vehicle mark or capability. And all the cars presented were essentially modified to do something they weren’t originally intended to.
This means you get to see cars with larger wheel arches to contain multi-surface tires, bash guards to prevent off-road damage, and a variety of bolt on lighting to aid in nighttime stage races. What results is the distinctive ‘rally look’, a collision of different forms and functions.
There is the mantra that race cars aren’t designed, they’re engineered. I think that becomes less so with rally cars since they already start with a base product that’s the result of a lot of manufacturer design effort. And it’s this adapting to the punishing conditions of rally that create some truly beautiful and weird looking vehicles.
This rally distinctiveness has long been a thread through Subaru’s line specifically with the Impreza (although less so in the last decade). And more recently, Porsche introduced the 911 Dakar, a rally raid inspired off-road version of their iconic sports car model. Not to be outdone, the Lamborghini Huracán Sterrato is billed as a true off-road supercar. It takes elements from many of the cars on show at CCC including additional frontal lighting, a lifted ride height and a roof rack.
Photos and Text: Dave Pinter