Ah the good old days… When rally cars were actual cars modified to compete in different championships rather than being manufacturer prototypes developed as a technological window for the world to witness. I am not saying that current rally cars are not impressive or interesting, but they surely lost the appeal that made them so close to the public and makes anyone lucky enough to have witnessed that era nostalgic about how impressive they were to watch.
Of course, we are talking about Group A and especially B, AKA the golden era! Launched in 1982 by the FIA, the Group B regulation applied to production cars with at least 200 units built for homologation. The main characteristic of the division is that the cars did not suffer from power limitations and high grade materials were allowed as well as the latest technological innovations, resulting in cars closer to prototypes than large scale production vehicles and with a power output twice as high as their predecessors. The Group B cars were also divided in 4 classes depending on the engine displacement (and if it was naturally aspirated or had forced induction), weight and track width.
On the other hand, the Group A cars were derived from production series and limited in power and weight while a decent amount of upgrades was still permitted to make the cars competitive and exciting to watch. Unlike the Group B, the A cars had to be produced at 5000 units per year to qualify which meant the cars were initially designed to be road cars.
Finally, the Group N were mass produced cars with 4 seats and almost no modifications allowed aimed for amateur and small budget teams to take part.
The Group B regulation resulted in some of the most explosive cars to ever compete in rally courses thanks to their utterly ridiculous power output and bespoke development which put on a hell of a show for anyone lucky enough to have witnessed these monsters in their natural habitat.
The golden era came to an unfortunate end in 1986 after many fatal accidents including spectators who were hard to control by being too close to the action. Ultimately, the death of Henri Toivonen and his co-driver Sergio Cresto in the 1986 Tour de Corse marked the end of the killer B’s and was then replaced by the Group A which allowed the Delta Integrale to win 6 championships in a row from 86 to 92.
There are too many legends to be listed, but we can retain the most successful ones being the Audi Quattro (83 and 84 champion) and the Peugeot 205 T16 (85 and 86 champion) but all of the models that competed are worth mentioning. If you are not familiar with them yet, you can also take a look at the Lancia Delta S4, the MG Metro 6R4, the Porsche 959, the Renault 5 Turbo or the Ferrari 288 GTO!
If you are into rally cars of that era, check out the impressive work that Ricardo Santos is doing on his amazing prints like this Lancia Delta S4!