If there is one thing I have learned in five years of writing these BangShift Top 11 lists it is that nothing gets the Hater-ade flowing harder and faster. Today’s list will probably be more of the same as we bring you our picks of the Top 11 most dominant race cars of all time, in all genres. Yes, this isn’t just about drag cars or some particular straight line class. We’re talking about rally cars, road race cars, drag race cars, formula one cars, etc. The list is in no particular order so you can comment below and tell us if we did stack them up from best to bestest which one you’d have on top of the heap. Race cars don’t drive themselves and we realize that the cars only dominate because the drivers are good. We could also argue that a great car makes a midland driver look like a hero. This grouping of 11 cars were completely dominant in their particular time period and genre of racing. Did we pick the right 11? Did we leave out any? Are you peeved that there are furrin’ cars in this list?
11.) The Porsche 917/10 and 917/30 CAN-AM 1973/73– The Porsche 917/30 still stands as the most powerful road racing car of all time. With a turbocharged 12-cylinder engine capable of producing 1,580hp in qualifying tune up mode, this car was capable of going 0-60 in 1.9 seconds and 0-200 in 10.9. It whipped the McLaren’s so bad in 1972, they stopped showing up and by 1973 the Porsche was beating all the other machines in the series to dust. During the 1972 season George Follmer won the championship in an 850hp 917/10. That win broke a half decade streak of McLaren manufacturer’s championships. Donohue was the primary drive in 1973 and he managed to win every race that year but two. Trying to save their series, Can-Am rules makers essentially legislated the 917/30 out of existence. The 917/30s made one appearance in 1974 and then were no longer part of Can-Am. It is important to note that the Porsche 917 was the only non-Chevrolet powered car to win a Can-Am title.
Lots of people claim that this car single handedly killed Can Am. We’re not sure of that but we are sure that it killed the competition over a two year period with little trouble. That’s why it is on the list.
10.) Don Prudhomme’s 1975/1976 Monza Funny Cars – In 1975 and 1976 if you owned a funny car and showed up to an NHRA National event, chances are that you got your ass kicked all over the joint by Don Prudhomme. How can we make such a bold claim? Well in 1975 he won six of eight NHRA national events held and then in 1976 he went seven for eight in national event finals. There’s never been an undefeated season in NHRA history since they have held more than four events a year. Prudhomme has come the closest…twice in a row. We’re not sure there was a lot of magic built into the cars but there was a fire-brand driver who’d just assume knock your grandma down to get to the winner’s circle. He and Garlits were the most focused and mentally tough drivers of their era and their win-loss records show it.
9.) Richard Petty’s 1967 (1966) Plymouth Belvedere – We told you that this list was going to span the gamut in racing and so far we’re not lying. When the 1967 NASCAR season rolled around, the Petty boys started off with a new 1967 Plymouth Belvedere race car. After about two outings, Richard declared that the car was not as good as the ’66 they ran the previous season. Between races Dale Inman and crew swapped the ’67 sheet metal onto the ’66 and voila…a stone cold killer car was born. Petty went on to have the winningest season in NASCAR history, racking up 27 victories. There was a streak when he won races 10 weeks in a row. An incredible stat is that in 48 starts Petty ran 12,739 laps and lead 5,537 of them. That’s (ironically) 43% of the total laps he lead!
His average qualifying position that year was 2.4th place. He was top ten 83% of the time and he won 56.2% of the races he entered. That Hemi Plymouth was one bad son of a gun. If there was an season where Petty first got the nickname, “The King” this was it and the Petty blue Plymouth was his steed.
8.) The Kurtis/Watson/Etc Indy Roadsters – This is less a single car but a style of car. In the early 1950s, Californian Frank Kurtis developed a car for the Cummins corporation to house their huge diesel engine in a sleek form. While the diesel Cummins didn’t ever turn out to be much of a success, the car itself was revolutionary. The low slung design and shape was far more aerodynamic than other cars of the time and with the development and popularization of the Offy as the engine of choice for Indy competitors, all of the pieces came together for a racing dynasty. While Frank Kurtis and/or AJ Watson didn’t build ALL of these cars, they built lots of them and their shelf life was lots longer than a year (assuming they were not wrecked). With solid axles front and back with torsion bars, they were crafted like anvils and ruled the Indy roost from 1953/54 to 1964 when AJ Foyt became the last dude to win the 500 sitting in one.
The roadsters were replaced with rear engine cars like we have today. Like most changes in racing, the evolution is slow to come but when it arrives, the switch over is almost immediate. Dinosaurs by today’s standards but dominators in their day.
7.) Kenny Bernstein’s 1987 Batmobile Buick LeSabre – Infamous cars are the stuff that hot rodding legends are made of and the 1987 Buick LeSabre “batmobile” that Dale Armstrong and Kenny Bernstein campaigned ranks among the most infamous drag race cars of all time. The back story of how it was first approved for competition by the NHRA and then limited to a single year (1987) after being seen in Pomona is one of the best stories in the history of straight line competition. It is important to note that nothing on the car was illegal or against the rules at the time and the development of the body was totally in line with what the rule book allowed. Now, those rules were certainly not what one would consider “tight” and they didn’t account for a genius in the form of Dale Armstrong seeing right through all of their massive loop holes.
Perhaps one of the reasons that there was such an uproar about this car was fact that Armstrong and Bernstein had whipped everyone’s ass in 1985 and 1986, so when this spaceship looking car rolled around the corner at Pomona, the race was nearly won as quickly as it started. They won 7 of the 14 races that season and were in the finals for 10 of them as best we can tell. They were the number one qualifier at 8 races, five on them in a row. They won the title by a margin of THREE THOUSAND points. Complete domination.
6.) The McLaren M8 Can-Am Cars – Before the mighty Porsches showed up to the Can-Am series, the winningest cars on the circuit were the every evolving McLaren M8 series of Chevrolet powered racers. Developed by Bruce McLaren and raced by the likes of Dennu Hulme, and the aforementioned McLaren the machines were far advanced above anything of their era. Most commonly powered by big block Chevy engines, there were Olds powered examples, and even a couple of small block cars, but the “Bruce and Denny” show came to gel in 1969 when McLaren and Hulme combined to win every race on the Can Am circuit. Bruce had six wins and Denny had five.
The cars constant development and evolution lead to its dominance until the Porsches showed up. The simple fact is that more technology and vastly more horsepower rendered the McLaren obsolete before it turned a wheel in 1972 and early 1973. There are multiple variations of the M8 but the fact is that they’re all bad ass in their own way, so we’re honoring the bunch.
5.) Bob Glidden’s 1978 Fairmont – It may be one of the most plain and staid looking pro stockers of all time but it was also one of the baddest. Bob Glidden’s 1978 Fairmont debuted that year at the NHRA event in Englishtown, New Jersey and never lost a round from there on out until the end of the year. It won every national event it raced in. It won every divisional it raced in. It won every match race that it competed in. If Glidden could have gotten it into a church basement it would have won the weekly Bingo game and pissed off the old ladies. Lord knows it pissed off the pro stock elite of the day. There was nothing that could stop this car. Powered by a small block engine, it had a decent weight break and combining that with Glidden’s obvious talents as a driver, the rest of the world was running for a distant second.
Glidden followed up the Fairmont with a Plymouth Arrow that he also decimated everyone with. Long story short, the late 1970s was Bob Glidden’s world. The rest of us were just living in it.
4.) The Peugeot 205 T16 Group B Rally Car – What?! A French car?! A Rally car?! Huh?! Stop yelling in a confused and surprised manner. Sure, everyone wants to heap all the praise on the Audi Quattro for its success in the short lived Group B rally class of the 1980s but the fact is that the Audis owned the first year or two but the Peugeot 205 T16 was the car to beat (and no one could) in 1985 and 1986 before the class was killed off at the close of the 1986 season. Additionally, the Peugeot went on to win the Dakar Rally, Pikes Peak, and LeMans in the five years after Group B was shut down, winning all three of those events.
For those of you who don’t know what Group B rally cars were, think 1,000hp four wheel drive pocket rockets that liked to kill their drivers and spectators at the side of the road. Legitimately some of the most bat crap race cars of all time.
3.) The Penske-Donohue Sunoco Camaro – Mark Donohue is one of the greatest American drivers in history and Roger Penske is one of the greatest racing team owners in American racing history. The two combined for an amazing array of successes over the years but their first complete season of domination was the 1968 Trans-Am campaign where they won 10 of 13 races. Their famous “Sunoco” Camaro became an instant icon that guys still bow in reverence to today. The success of the team lead Donohue to write the book “The Unfair Advantage” and detail just how hard the team worked for the success that they had. With this Camaro Penske and Donohue essentially invented skid pad testing. They also used many inventive techniques in the pits which were outlawed either immediately or at the close of the 1968 season.
At the 1968 Sebring 12-hours Penske and Donohue sent the same car though tech twice with different numbers to disguise the fact that the actual second car was 250lbs light and acid dipped to the point of nearly being transparent. The rouse worked and the team won the event with the light car in their class and finished third overall. Right or wrong that’s pretty awesome.
2.) Darrell Alderman’s 1991 Dodge Daytona – If we’re talking about controversy and potentially blurring the lines of legality we need to recognize the dominant season that Darrell Alderman experienced during the 1991 NHRA tour. He won 11 events in his Dodge Daytona pro stocker and led the NHRA championship points from wire to wire and never trailed anyone between the months of February and October. Warren Johnson was the second place finisher that year and he managed five event wins. Alderman’s point total advantage at the end of the season was (like Bernstein’s above) more than 3,0000.
Things went from great to horrendous in a short span after the 1991 series for Alderman. He plead guilty to federal cocaine charges and was banned from competition with the NHRA for the 1992 and 1993 seasons. He returned with a vengeance for 1994 and won the title over his teammate Scott Geoffrion. There was all the talk of nitrous usage and rampant cheating among the cars in the “Wayne County Speed Shop” camp that were never officially proven on the record but to this day the whispers still linger
1.) Alberto Ascari’s 1952 Ferrari Tipo 500 – When a guy does something in Formula One more than 60 years ago and the accomplishment is still unmatched today it means that he had one bad SOB of a car to drive. Not taking anything away from the legendary Alberto Ascari, but he was driving the modern equivalent to an Enzo and everyone else was chasing on farm tractors. The guy won nine straight F1 races in 1952 and it would have been 10 had he not decided to race in the Indy 500 for Ferrari that year. He not only won the races, he out qualified the fields as well and he eared the maximum number of allowable points at every race he turned a tire at in ’52. The fact that other people showed up at least gave him back markers to pass.
He ended up winning the championship in 1953 as well but it wasn’t in the same domination fashion as 1952 where every race seemed to be a bygone conclusion. The Tipo 500 was the only car specifically designed to meet the 1952 F1 rule book so it was full of advantages over everyone else’s horse buggies. The car was simple but it was also light years ahead of the competition.
No one has touched Aacari’s performance since 1952 and they probably never will.