We take rally cars based off front-wheel-drive subcompacts for granted now, but the Mini Cooper was the first of the breed. The humble Mini was originally designed to be an affordable city car, but others saw different possibilities. Race car engineer John Cooper took a 997cc engine out of one of his Formula Junior racers and fitted disc brakes to the Mini to create the Mini Cooper. In hotter Cooper S form, the Mini won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965 and 1967, setting the template for so many rally cars to come.
The First World War brought a lull to rallying. The Monte Carlo Rally was not resuscitated until 1924, but since then, apart from World War II and its aftermath, it has been an annual event and remains a regular round of the World Rally Championship. In the 1930s, helped by the tough winters, it became the premier European rally, attracting 300 or more participants.
Not much is known about the BMW M1 rally car other than the fact that it exists, but that alone warrants inclusion. BMW intended its mid-engined supercar for competition, but not Group B competition. That didn't stop this straight-six masterpiece from entering rallies in the early 80s. Set aside some time to watch some videos of the M1 rally car in action, and thank us later.
Anyone who has ever played Sega Rally 2 will instantly be familiar with this car. Mäkinen won his fourth consecutive WRC title in a red Evo VI, and this car was commissioned as a road-going replica to celebrate that fact. The Tommi special was fitted with a faster-responding titanium turbo, lower suspension, a front strut brace, and quicker steering. The car made 280hp and hit 60mph in 4.5 seconds.
1968 brought the first of a series of British-organised intercontinental rallies, the Daily Express London-Sydney Marathon, which attracted over 100 crews including a number of works teams and top drivers; it was won by the Hillman Hunter of Andrew Cowan/Brian Coyle/Colin Malkin. Not to be outdone, the rival Daily Mirror sponsored in 1970 the London-Mexico World Cup Rally, linking the stadia of two successive football World Cups, on a route that crossed Europe to Bulgaria and back before shipping out from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro, after looping around South America, and a run through some of the most frightening sections of Peru's road race, the Caminos del Inca, they wrap it up being shipped to Panama and a final run up Central America. The Ford Escort of Hannu Mikkola and Gunnar Palm won. These were followed in 1974 by the London-Sahara-Munich World Cup Rally, and in 1977 by the Singapore Airlines London-Sydney Rally.