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20 Leading Factory Hot Rods

Vukasin HerbezMay 9, 2019

As you may already know, most car brands have at least one performance model in their lineup, they have designed and engineered for speed-oriented buyers. Some manufacturers have complete divisions dedicated to performance models like BMW’s M Performance, Mercedes AMG department or Cadillac’s V-Series offerings. But sometimes, engineers go a step further and introduce a proper factory hot rod.

So, what is a factory hot rod? The term, “hot rod,” is an unofficial term which describes over-the-top performance models with an unusual combination of engines, drivetrains or body styles. It is something nobody expects them to produce, but their engineers somehow managed to get it into production despite the questionable profitability of such specific machines. So, read on to learn much more about the 20 craziest factory hot rods.

  1. Lancia Thema 8.32

Ferrari never officially built a four-door sedan, but Lancia did and in 1986, they presented the Thema 8.32. This was a top of the range Lancia model at the time. It featured a transversally mounted Ferrari 3.0-liter V8 engine from the 308 GTB Quattrovalvole; hence, the name. They came with eight cylinders with 32 valves. It wasn’t the first time Ferrari borrowed its engine to Lancia.

Some 10 years before the Thema 8.32, Lancia Stratos received a 2.4-liter V6 from the Ferrari Dino. However, that was the first time a Ferrari engine powered a luxury sedan. The Thema 8.32 had 212 HP and seven seconds 0 to 60 mph time. And that was fast for the day as well as for a front-wheel-drive sedan.

To call the 8.32 a BMW M5 competitor would be a stretch, but the Thema Ferrari was a comfortable cruiser with lots of style. Of course, Lancia offered a high level of standard equipment and a long list of luxury options. Because they discontinued it in 1992, they only sold 3,000 copies of the Thema 8.32.

  1. Dodge Coronet 426 Hemi Sedan

The Chrysler Corporation reintroduced its legendary 426 Hemi engine for 1966 as an option on selected Plymouth and Dodge models. They offered the iconic power plant as an option on the Dodge Coronet as well. Technically, you could order the 426 Hemi with any body style. However, most buyers associated Hemi power with those two-door coupes and convertibles, not realizing they could have the Hemi in a sedan or even in wagon form.

And that is why only a few people bought the Coronet De Luxe Hemi four-door in 1966 to get the ultimate muscle car sedan. With an advertised 425 HP under your right foot, the Coronet Hemi four-door was arguably the fastest production sedan in America. Best of all, it was the ultimate four-door muscle car.

  1. Mercedes 500E

Back in the early ‘90s, Mercedes produced the successful but docile W124 E-Class. However, the elegant sedan was famous for its comfort and refinement, rather than performance and speed. The team of crazy German engineers was soon to change that, though. So, in 1991, they presented the mighty 500E model.

This was a high-performance version of their main sedan. It featured a different drivetrain, suspension, brakes and engine. In fact, the 500E was so challenging to produce, Mercedes asked Porsche to assemble the car. The main feature of the 500E was the 5.0-liter V8 engine that developed 326 HP.

Although not an impressive number by today’s standards, it was a crazy figure for the early ‘90s, especially in a formal sedan. The 500 E could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just six seconds, which was almost as fast as a Ferrari 348.

  1. Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

There were fast SUVs before Jeep introduced the Trackhawk, and there will be more fast SUVs long after they discontinue the Trackhawk. However, this glorious machine deserves a place on this list for two reasons. First, it has the 707 Hellcat Hemi engine under the hood.

Second, the 3.4-second 0 to 60 mph time makes it faster than some supercars. The Trackhawk is a brutal machine that is highly unusual and influential. It just shows how creative some engineers are and how insane this factory hot rod is.

  1. Oldsmobile Toronado GT

The GT was a special package for Oldsmobile’s personal luxury cruiser available for a few short years ending in 1970. From the outside, the Toronado GT looks like an ordinary Oldsmobile and got its power from the same 455 engine. But the devil is in the details.

The GT package upped the power to a magical 400 HP. Also, they added various suspension bits as well as bigger and stronger front disc brakes. And then they topped it off with updated interior equipment. The GT was a rare option, so people seldom decided to order their Oldsmobiles with this package. And that is exactly why it is so sought after today.

  1. Lancia Delta S4

The ‘80s were definitely the craziest times when it comes to homologation specials and factory hot rods. Among them was the Delta S4, one of the greatest rally cars that had an equally impressive road-going version. To make its new, highly advanced Group B rally weapon track-legal, the Lancia engineers produced 200 examples of the Stradale between 1985 and 1986.

The Stradale was equally ludicrous as its racing twin. It featured a special, custom built body that only resembled the regular Lancia Delta hatchback. They moved the engine back behind the passengers. Also, the car featured space frame construction and a Plexiglas body.

But best of all, it came with a full racing suspension and a highly capable all-wheel-drive system. The 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine was both turbocharged and supercharged, delivering 250 HP in street trim.

  1. Rambler Rebel V8

This one is an interesting early muscle car that was born by chance. Squeezing a 327 V8 engine from the Nash Ambassador into a small, compact and light Rambler body. And that created one seriously fast yet unassuming muscle machine. The 327 V8 delivered 255 HP, which wasn’t that much. However, in the compact Rambler body, it was enough for 0 to 60 mph time of just seven seconds.

But to make things even more interesting, only the expensive fuel injected Chevrolet Corvette could beat the small Rambler in 1957. Unfortunately, the powerful engine option raised the price of an affordable Rambler. So sadly, there were just a few buyers ready to pay extra for the privilege of outrunning anything else on the road, so they only built 1,500.

  1. BMW M3 GTR

Every M3 since the mid-80s until today is already a high-strung piece of German engineering ready for racing. However, in the extremely competitive world of motorsports, BMW needed a more efficient weapon. They wanted to go against those Porsches and Ferraris in the IMSA championship of the early 2000s.

For that series, BMW prepared the E46 M3. But instead of the high revving 3.2-liter, six-cylinder engine, the M Performance division installed a special 4.4-liter V8. And that is what made the M3 unstoppable at the tracks. Other teams in race series cried foul since the V8 wasn’t a production item in the M3 range. So, BMW decided to create one of the craziest homologations specials they ever made.

It was the M3 GTR with 493 HP and full racing equipment and aero package. Interestingly, BMW built 10 cars, but never offered them for sale to the public. Apparently, all 10 are still in BMW ownership, even though there were interested buyers at $220,000 apiece.

  1. Renault 5 Turbo

The early ‘80s brought the widespread popularity of turbocharged engines and its use in various forms of motorsports. To participate in racing, the manufacturer needed to produce turbo cars. And one of the companies that went almost too far was the Renault with its crazy R5 Turbo.

The essence of the R5 Turbo was a mid-mounted 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivered 160 HP. They redesigned and re-engineered the whole car to move the engine from the front hood to the space behind the driver.

The rear track was much wider and they added side scoops for better cooling of the engine. The result was an extremely fast, dangerous and fun hot hatch. And it is one of the wildest factory hot rods ever made.

  1. Ford 7-Litre

Ford introduced a new full-size model for 1966 they called the 7-Litre. The “7” stood for displacement and the “Litre” spelling gave more charm to the otherwise ordinary Galaxie. Under the hood was the 428 V8 with respectable 345 HP which delivered a convincing performance.

However, the 7-Litre’s equipment was also interesting since Ford put everything they had into this car. The buyers could get A/C, and bucket seats were standard. There was also a heavy-duty suspension and power everything.

Better still, buyers had the choice of special colors and of course, 7-Litre badges on the sides, which helped identify this model. This was a one year only model. However, in 1967, the 428 was back, but only as an option on the Galaxie and not as a standalone model.

  1. BMW 2002 Turbo

The 2002 Turbo is the epitome of a German factory hot rod, despite being 45 years old. This is not a sports car, although it could outrun a Porsche 911 when they released it. Also, it is not a GT model, although it has four seats and a decent trunk. It is a pure muscle car they designed and built around the “biggest engine in lightest body” mantra.

In 1973, BMW introduced the 2002 Turbo, a crazy and naughty cousin to the rest of BMW lineup. The car featured a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 170 HP. Also, they revised the suspension and brakes along with unique design details.

And although there was only one color choice, it had an interesting graphics package. On the front bumper, they wrote the word “Turbo” backward so other drivers would recognize the car in their rearview mirrors when they saw flashing headlights behind them.

  1. Chrysler C-300

The fastest and most powerful American production model for 1955 and the car that shook the car scene was the mighty Chrysler C-300. This was the start of a 10-year production run of Chrysler’s famous “Letter cars.” They were a series of exclusive, fast and expensive coupes and convertibles with maximum power, comfort and luxury.

But the first car in that glorious lineup was the ‘55 C-300, which was the early definition of a factory hot rod. The car got its name for the 331 V8 Hemi engine, which they equipped with 8.5:1 compression, race camshaft and twin four-barrel carburetors. And it produced 300 HP, which was a magical figure for the mid-50s.

  1. Kia Stinger GT

One of the biggest surprises for 2018 is the new Kia Stinger. Most car enthusiasts are already crazy about it. You probably wonder how it is even possible for a boring brand like Kia to generate such hype. Well, it looks like the Korean brand has introduced a genuinely good looking, fast, powerful and affordable sports sedan.

Basically, Kia has made the perfect BMW, since BMW has moved on to more luxurious, heavier and much more expensive models. The Stinger has either rear-wheel drive or the optional all-wheel drive, which is new for Kia’s non-SUV models. Under the hood, there is a choice of two engines. You get the turbocharged four-cylinder that will deliver 255 HP or the twin turbo V6 to pump out 365 HP.

  1. Cadillac CTS-V Wagon

For years, Cadillac was without a proper performance series to compete with BMW or Mercedes but finally, the V-Series was born. It was all that Cadillac lovers dreamed of with its powerful engines, world-class handling and suspension setups and exclusive production. Arguably the most successful was the second-generation CTS-V model they produced between 2008 and 2014.

Under the hood was a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 with 556 HP, making the CTS-V the most powerful performance sedan on the market. Cadillac produced three body styles. So, you could get the CTS-V as a sedan, a coupe, and interestingly, as a wagon, too.

The rarest of the three, the CTS-V Wagon shared all mechanic components with the rest of the V-Series models. However, the wagon body style was something Cadillac buyers didn’t expect. The car was still a blast to drive and extremely fast, it was just that most customers turned to sedans or coupes. Some buyers weren’t even aware the wagon existed.

  1. Lamborghini LM002

To be honest, the LM002 is somewhere between a truck and an SUV since it has four doors and a truck bed behind it. This crazy creation debuted in the mid-80s as Lamborghini’s attempt to enter the world of luxury SUVs to widen its appeal. The LM002 used a special chassis and suspension and Lamborghini’s famous V12 engine.

The 5.2-liter unit producing 400 HP was the same as in the legendary Countach. For those buyers who thought that 400 HP was not enough, the factory could supply the LM002 with the 7.3-liter monster V12 engine from a racing boat.

  1. GMC Syclone

No one knows who came up with the idea to take a plebian Chevrolet S10 compact truck and turn it into a Ferrari-killer. GM took an ordinary S10 body shell and installed a 4.3-liter V6 with a turbocharger good for 280 HP. They added a special four-speed automatic they sourced from a Corvette and a performance biased all-wheel drive.

Although the power figures don’t sound like much these days, the Syclone was able to sprint to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds, making it faster than most contemporary Ferraris. The key was the lower weight, small dimensions and lots of torque from that turbocharged engine.

  1. Dodge Ram SRT-10

Between 2004 and 2006, the Dodge Ram SRT-10 was one of the craziest, most powerful and fastest pickups they ever produced. That itself is a hard thing to say since Dodge always had wild special versions of their trucks. But, just look at the specs. The 8.2-liter V10 engine came with over 500 HP, a 0 to 60 time of fewer than five seconds and a fuel economy in single digits.

They topped it all off with a crazy bright red or yellow paint job and two white racing stripes. And with its big, shiny chrome wheels, you’ll get the idea what the SRT-10 was all about. It was something you couldn’t miss if you saw it on the street. Of course, with a price tag of over $45,000, the SRT-10 wasn’t exactly a sales hit. However, they produced a decent number of them in the three-year production run.

  1. Mercury Marauder

Despite the fact they never intended Grand Marquis to be a performance car, Mercury decided to turn it into one. And they did that by installing a highly tuned 4.6-liter V8 with 302 HP, and a revised suspension, gearbox, and brakes. All those changes turned this sleepy and comfy sedan into a sharp muscle car.

The black paint, one of three colors available, gave the Marauder menacing looks and aggressive stance, clearly differentiating it from more sedate cousins. The performance was good for a big, heavy sedan with 0 to 60 mph time in around seven seconds.

  1. Volkswagen Passat W8

With the restyling of the then-current B5 generation of the mid-size sedan, Volkswagen introduced a special edition with top of the line technology. It had an advanced 4.0-liter W8 gasoline engine and a four-motion all-wheel-drive system. Also, customers got a selection of manual and automatic transmissions.

The result was a perfect sleeper performance car in an unassuming Passat body. The compact, yet powerful W8 engine delivered 270 HP and 270 lb-ft of torque. This was enough to propel the somewhat heavy Passat to just over six seconds 0 to 60 mph times.

  1. Aston Martin V12 Vantage

Back in the early 2000s, Aston Martin introduced the Vantage, an entry-level model with a V8 engine to compete with Porsche 911. Wearing the signature Aston design, a great looking interior and more than enough power from its 4.3-liter V8, the Vantage proved to be popular. It was high in demand, especially considering that Aston Martin was, and still is, a limited-production manufacturer.

The success of the Vantage inspired the engineers to think further. They wondered if they could take the regular V8 Vantage and install the mighty V12 engine from the top of the line DBS model. There was only one way to find out and soon, many prototypes roamed around Aston’s headquarters. The engineers were surprised how good the new car turned out to be.

The V12 engine with 510 HP transformed the nature of this compact sports car and turned it into a British muscle car with fantastic road manners. The acceleration was brutal, as well as the top speed. Also, the big V12 didn’t affect the weight distribution or balance. In an era of robotized automatic transmissions, V12 Vantage was offered with a six and later a seven-speed manual, which proved to be the enthusiast’s choice.

These are the 20 best factory hot rods out there. Did you find your favorite? If not, don’t worry – they are busy making more.

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