What is the coolest touring car of all time? It was an innocuous question that sparked a fierce debate between the Wheels team.
So, like any good family, we’ve decided to air our dirty laundry in public to let you, the reader, decide.
Everyone in the team was given the opportunity to put forward their suggestion, and some of our friends from WhichCar even got in on the action.
So, here are the pitches:
Audi 90 quattro IMSA GT
Unbelievably, it seems no one has picked the BMW 3.0-litre CSL to be included on this list. Even more unbelievably, I’m not either, though the mighty Batmobile deserves at least an honourable mention. That image of it taking off with considerable air at the Nurburgring helped capture an entire generation of touring car fans. Still, even the BMW can’t hold a flame to the IMSA Audi quattro.
Read next: The best of Nissan’s Australian touring cars
This is one of the more fearsome looking racing cars ever constructed. Concocted on a tubular steel spaceframe and draped in a flexed and stretched body that only just resembled a 90 quattro, it was effectively Walter Rohrl’s 1987 Pikes Peak car shoehorned into a silhouette touring car. The numbers are huge: nearly 550kW from 2.2-litres of five cylinder madness with an enormous KKK turbocharger bolted to it. The side exhaust is legendary, as is that impossibly wide bodywork/narrow glasshouse, but it’s those aero wheels that get it over the line for me. – Alex Inwood
Volvo 850 Estate
How can I possibly justify nominating a touring car that never won a championship? Heck, Volvo's 850 Estate never even won a race and its total of pole positions is a big, fat zero. I can because this is about the coolest touring cars, not the most successful ones and when the British Touring Car Championship kicked off in 1994, Walkinshaw's wagons attracted all the interest, driven by Jan Lammers and Rickard Rydell.
The concept came about by accident. Volvo approached Stefansson Automotive (SAM) to develop a race version of the 850. By the time the concept was agreed, the production 850 had been facelifted, and the factory was only initially turning out the more popular wagon shells. Luckily, wind tunnel testing showed that the long roof offered more downforce than the sedan for the wingless BTCC rules. Walkinshaw confirmed this, the company shaving weight down to 975kg.
Even today, few remember that Gabriele Tarquini aced the championship in his Alfa 155 TS. Everyone recalls those Swedish tanks that came 15th and 16th, leaping over kerbs and scoring best finishes of fifth place at Oulton and Brands. That's the thing with cool. It's hard to define. You just know it when you see it. – Andy Enright
Ian ‘Pete’ Geoghegan’s Ford Mustang GTA
‘Big Pete’ Geoghegan and his wild ’67 GTA notchback Mustang are one of the most competitive combos in ATCC history, sweeping three consecutive championships (1967, ’68 and ’69). But, it’s not the racing success that makes this the coolest touring car. No, it’s the driving style used by Geoghegan in the process of destroying the competition; his Mustang was often seen sliding around the track with the inside front wheel wagging in the air.
Geoghegan’s engineer, John Sheppard, was responsible for tuning and maintaining the GTA, which was fitted with a four-speed gearbox and 302-cubic-inch engine from a ’67 fastback. The engine was hotted up with four Weber carburettors, before eventually being converted to fuel injection.
But the GTA’s three-wheel cornering style was due to a modified suspension geometry.
"We were limited to standard bodywork and 8.0-inch rims, but there was nothing to govern the rim offset," Sheppard told Unique Cars.
In order to widen the track, and fit fat rubber under the flared arches, the top wishbones were shortened by an inch to allow the unladen wheel to lean in and clear the mudguard.
Fast, wild, and loud: exactly what a cool touring car should be. – Cameron Kirby
Ford Sierra RS500
I think the Ford Sierra often gains a bad rap down under simply because it isn’t a V8. But I have a massive soft spot for the racing RS500 Cosworth and how it utterly dominated world touring cars in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
Hilariously, it’s been documented that the 2.0-litre four-pot produced a meek 67kW naturally aspirated, but when the big turbo kicked hard with 2.4 bar (35psi) of boost, it developed a staggering 507kW. Dick Johnson sticking it to the Eggenberger Sierra’s (putting his car on pole by half a second) at Silverstone for the 1988 RAC Tourist Trophy is also a special highlight. – Trent Giunco
BMW E30 M3
Start discussing the greatest touring car of all time and it’s not long before the BMW E30 M3 is mentioned. First rolling to the start line in 1986, the E30 M3 is the most successful BMW in motorsport worldwide and shines on as a hallmark of touring car racing to this day.
Racing widely throughout Europe and even making its way to our own Australian Touring Car Championship, the E30 M3 not only holds countless wins around the world but can also claim to be a true race car for the road. That’s thanks to its BMW Motorsport-derived high-revving four-cylinder S14 engine and wild bodywork – most of which makes its way on to the homologation road car. – Tom Fraser
JZA80 Toyota Supra GT500
The Castrol TOM'S Supra is an icon of a time when the Japanese auto industry was asserting its dominance in a big way, both in showrooms and on circuits. What are its coolness credentials? Well just look at it - the classic Castrol livery is worn well by the Supra's big curves, and its long-bonnet proportions telegraph its athletic potency.
However, this particular Supra wasn't just cool, it was smart: instead of plonking the factory-issue iron block 2JZ boat anchor up front, TRD grafted in the much lighter and motorsport-tested 3S-GTE four-pot to give the racing Supra even better dynamics than its road-going brethren, while big boost sidestepped the loss of two cylinders and 1.0 litre of displacement. – Tony O’Kane
Which touring car do you think is coolest? Let us know below in the comments!