Purpose-built racing cars – be they single seat open wheelers, sports prototypes, dragsters or any other automobile whose sole reason for being is to compete – have always inspired awe and been capable of extraordinary performance. But when it comes to truly connecting with the fans in the stands, these thoroughbreds are no match for production-based (even if it’s just the shape of the body) machinery. The idea of watching a particular car win a race and then walking out to the parking lot and driving home in or driving to the local dealer to check out an identical (save for some safety and performance equipment and a whole heap-o-decals) car holds widespread (if not universal) appeal.
Of course, to stand a better chance at winning on Sunday so they can sell on Monday, manufacturers load their showroom-bred competition models with go-fast bits. However, many sanctioning bodies used to require (though, sadly, very few still do) that those same upgrades to be fitted to a certain number of the street-legal models Joe Bloe can buy, meaning the factories have to sell what are known as homologation specials in order to race that model. The annals of automotive history are brimming with such four-wheeled entry forms, yet we’ve managed to pare that manifest down to the 25 fastest, coolest and most outrageous ones ever to wear a license plate.