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Driven by Heritage: Rare Cars Named After Iconic Racetracks

Vukasin Herbez December 18, 2023

In the automotive world, it’s no secret that carmakers are always looking to inject more excitement into their cars. However, simply having a powerful engine is often not enough. The car needs to have a mighty name that resonates with customers. To remind buyers of the performance credentials that the vehicle has, companies sometimes name cars after racetracks they were successful on.

This strategy creates an allure of success and promotes a simple checkered flag into everlasting recognition. Because of this, the cars named after famous racetracks often stand above the rest as unique, rare examples. We found the most unique cars named after racetracks. Check them out below and find out if you remember their unique heritage.

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Ferrari 356 GTB/4 Daytona

Some say that Daytona was the best of all the classic Ferrari Gran Touring cars. We certainly can support that claim. Pininfarina designed the body with a twin-cam V12 engine, which produced 350 hp and 318 lb.-ft of torque. The car had perfect weight distribution thanks to the gearbox being installed on the rear axle. This combo helped road handling and balance (via Ferrari).

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Ferrari never intended to make the Daytona a drag or street racer. This car had high top speed and was more suited to jumping continents than burning rubber on stoplights. However, with a 5.6-second o to 60 mph time, the Daytona certainly wasn’t slow and was quickly one of the fastest cars of the ’70s. Even though the Daytona was not an official name for this model, everybody called it that after a surprising win on the Daytona circuit in 1967.

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Dodge Charger Daytona

The NASCAR races were one of the most crucial battlegrounds of the muscle car wars. Back in the late ’60s, superspeedways were places of many fierce clashes between Detroit’s manufacturers. The most exciting period was the late ’60s when NASCAR rules allowed some modifications to car bodies to make cars more aerodynamic. Most manufacturers jumped to this opportunity and created Aero racers homologated for the races (via Supercars).

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One of the most famous and influential was the 1969 Charger Daytona, produced in just 504 examples, strictly as a homologation special. The Charger Daytona was one of the first cars to use a wind tunnel and materials in construction. It proved to be very successful on the race tracks and even did a record 217 mph run in almost stock configuration, which only shows how good the design and engineering behind this project were. The standard engine was a 440 V8 and only about 70 cars received the legendary 426 Hemi.

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Pontiac Bonneville

The Bonneville Salt Flats is the location of so many land speed records, which is why Pontiac decided to use it for the 1958 model. The Bonneville was available only as a two-door hard top or convertible, emphasizing its performance appeal. Under the hood was a 370 CID V8 engine, which had 255 hp in its base form. For those who wanted more power, there was the Tri-Power option with 300 hp and the top-of-the-line fuel-injected version with 310 hp. With this engine, the 1958 Bonneville was one of the most powerful and fastest GM cars of the day (via Auto Evolution).

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The 1958 Bonneville was to pace the Indianapolis 500 race due to its performance and beautiful design. It had moderate success on the market, and Pontiac managed to sell over 12,000 copies. The performance reputation of the early Bonneville was only the announcement of what was going to happen with the GTO and muscle models.

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Maserati Kyalami

The Maserati Kyalami got its name after the Kyalami Grand Prix circuit in South Africa, where Maserati had won the 1967 Grand Prix. The Kyalami was designed as a 2+2 coupe and was at the high end of the GT market (via Maserati).

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Under the hood, the Maserati Kyalami had a 4.2-liter V8 engine in its earlier versions, producing around 290 horsepower. Later versions of the Kyalami, known as the Kyalami II, were powered by a 4.9-liter V8 engine producing approximately 320 horsepower. These engines were coupled with either a manual or automatic transmission. Although the Kyalami is not as well-known as some other Maserati models, it is a relatively rare and collectible car appreciated by classic car enthusiasts.

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Bentley Mulsanne

On the legendary Le Mans circuit, the longest and fastest part of the track is the “Mulsanne Straight.” This is where the cars achieve top speed and the place that makes or breaks the winner. Bentley, a company that used to win at Le Mans, named its top model Mulsanne. The Mulsanne features a classic and elegant design with a prominent grille, sleek lines, and a sense of understated luxury. The interior is lavishly appointed with premium materials, including fine leather, wood veneers, and metal accents (via Bentley).

Photo Credit: Bentley

The Mulsanne has a 6.75-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine, producing significant horsepower and torque, which allows for a smooth and powerful ride. The Mulsanne represented Bentley’s commitment to traditional craftsmanship and luxury. It was often seen as a prestige symbol and a favorite among celebrities. This is strange since it has a race car name but is actually a luxurious, comfortable model.

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Porsche Panamera

Most people are familiar with the Porsche Panamera sedan. Since its introduction in 2009, it has been one of the best-selling models in its class, combining luxury with 911 performance and looks. Panamera got its name from Carrera Panamericana, a wild Mexican road race in the 50s that helped Porsche reach global recognition. For 2017, Porsche presented the second generation with even sleeker styling and more power. However, Porsche is offering a diesel option for buyers outside the States (via Porsche).

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Under the hood is the 4.0-liter twin-turbo diesel engine, which delivers 422 hp. While it doesn’t sound like an especially big power output, it has impressive torque ratings. The 4.0-liter oil burner has 627 lb.-ft of torque available at 1,000 rpm. This much torque will provide lightning-fast acceleration times and will easily pull this heavy sedan to a 177 mph top speed.

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Ford Mustang Boss 320 Laguna Seca

Ever since the first retro Mustangs appeared in showrooms across America, Ford fans asked for the return of the Boss 302. For those who don’t know, the Boss 302 from 1969 is a racing car homologation special for Trans-Am races. 43 years later, Ford revived the Boss 302 with a new 5.0-liter Coyote V8, which delivered 444 hp and 380 lb.-ft of torque. Again, this was almost a pure racing car with no back seats, a factory-installed roll cage, and a host of other external and internal modifications. The Laguna Seca was the top package on the Boss 302 model (via Car and Driver).

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As you’d expect, the performance was better than the regular Mustang GT, and the 2012 Boss 302 could accelerate to 60 mph in 3.97 seconds and top 155 mph. Until we see the future version of the Boss 302, the 2012 model is one of the most fabulous Mustangs of all time.

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Pontiac Le Mans

In the early ’60s, all major US car makers introduced compact models. Chevrolet had the Corvair, Ford had the Falcon, Plymouth had the Valiant, and Pontiac presented the Tempest. The Pontiac Le Mans started as a sub-series of the Tempest and was very interesting. In most cases, those compact models were only smaller versions of bigger cars, sharing design cues and mechanicals. Still, Pontiac went a different route and presented one of the most advanced and most interesting American cars of the era (via Classic).

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The new Tempest had independent suspension all around, in a time when all cars used live rear axles. Then, it featured an economical four-cylinder engine, which was a cut-down V8 when all competitors had six cylinders. The third most interesting thing is that Tempest used a rear-mounted gearbox, the transaxle design, which was unheard of at the time.

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Ferrari 250 LM

Despite the name and the 3.3-liter engine, the 250 LM could not be considered a genuine part of the 250 Series. First, it was introduced at the end of the production, and second, it was a mid-engined model with racing aspirations. However, it won the Le Mans and only 35 cars left the Maranello factory (via Ferrari).

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The 250 LM was based on the Ferrari 250 P prototype and the 250 GTO, a successful GT car. It was a mid-engined sports car, which was somewhat unconventional for Ferrari at the time. Depending on the version, it had a V12 engine, a 3.3-liter unit producing around 320 to 320 hp. It featured a dry-sump oil system standard in racing cars to ensure proper lubrication during high-speed cornering.

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Ford Torino Talladega

Ford was always a successful brand in the NASCAR championship. When Dodge started moving with specially prepared Chargers, Ford had to react with its Aero-warrior model, Torino Talladega (via Hemmings).

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The idea behind the Talladega (named after the well-known NASCAR track) was to take standard Torino, give it a unique front end and few slippery details, and homologate it for superspeedways. A total of 754 Talladegas left the factory in such a short time. Many of them were just racing cars. In contrast to the extreme Charger Daytona, Ford decided to modify the front and the back of the regular Torino but without any wings or pointy front ends. This approach proved to be very successful, and Torino Talladega won many races.

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Shelby Daytona Coupe

Even though the Cobra roadster dominated the international GT racing scene in the early ’60s, Carroll Shelby noticed the roadster body was unsuitable for all tracks and races. Even with the hardtop, the Cobra lacked top speeds due to poor aerodynamics. And on long straights like Le Mans, it was slower than the competition. So his answer was to redesign the car and make a racing missile capable of insane top speeds (via Shelby American).

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To do that, Shelby needed to fully modify the Cobra. With the help of his talented team of engineers and hot rodders, he constructed a more extended chassis. Also, he relocated the suspension and design for a longer, sleeker, and more aerodynamically efficient body. They called it the Daytona Coupe. It was a pure racing car barely suitable for street driving with the intent to destroy. They finished the car just in time for the legendary 1965 racing season. They shipped it to Europe, where it continued the dominance of American engineering. The Daytona Coupe won the 1965 GT Championship. That was an extraordinary success for Ford, Shelby, and his team of talented drivers and mechanics.

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Chevrolet Corvair Monza

The American car industry was intrigued when Chevrolet presented the Corvair in 1959. It was a compact car in a time when compact cars were rare on US soil and produced mainly by foreign brands. It had the engine in the back rather than in the front as all other domestic vehicles had. Third, it was a six-cylinder boxer, not a straight six or V8 as everybody expected. Overall, it was a bold and unusual move by the usually conservative Chevrolet (via Curb Side Classics).

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However, the most interesting model was the Corvair Monza, a two-door coupe or convertible. It was a performance car in the Corvair lineup and featured one of the most unusual power plants Detroit has ever produced – a turbocharged boxer engine. Think of it as Chevrolet’s four-seat Porsche 911 Turbo some 15 years before Porsche even thought of the idea. The heart of the car was the 2.4-liter, flat-six engine with the turbocharger mounted on top. The result was 150 hp. Despite the fact it wasn’t a significant number, the small weight of the Corvair Monza helped produce some lively performance for the standards of the compact car class.

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Bentley Brooklands

The Bentley Brooklands is a luxury automobile produced by Bentley Motors, a British manufacturer of high-end vehicles. The Brooklands model was first introduced in 1992 and was in production until 1998. It got its name after the Brooklands motor racing circuit in Surrey, England. Which was known for hosting various motor racing events, especially in the early days of racing history (via Bentley).

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The Brooklands was a four-door sedan that offered a combination of luxury, performance, and classic styling. It has a turbocharged 6.75-liter V8 engine with ample power and torque for a smooth and effortless driving experience. The interior was handcrafted with the finest materials, and the car featured advanced technology and amenities, making it a symbol of British automotive craftsmanship.

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DeTomaso Vallelunga

Even before the De Tomaso Company became known as the producer of Pantera and Mangusta supercars, this Italian outfit presented a very interesting compact model called Vallelunga. After the small Italian racing track. The Vallelunga was born in 1964. And, by the standards of the times, it was very advanced with a mid-engine layout, independent suspension all around, and four-wheel disc brakes (via Hagerty).

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However, Vallelunga used a 1.5-liter Ford Kent engine tuned to 104 hp, a Volkswagen transaxle gearbox, and Triumph suspension components. They also used lots of other components from regular production cars. The result was a very dynamic, fast, and lightweight car which won many races in Italy. The success of Vallelunga inspired Alejandro De Tomaso to invest more in car production. That is how the history of this company started.

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Maserati Indy

Introduced in 1969, the Indy was aimed at customers who wanted ultimate comfort and space. It was imperative to have more room and better equipment than the Ghibli. Under the hood was a V8 engine ranging from 4.2 to 4.9-liter in size. It got its name after Maserati’s two victories at the 500 Miles of Indianapolis in 1939 and 1940, which added a sense of prestige and history to the car’s name (via Maserati).

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The Maserati’s desire for a luxury car with space for four occupants resulted in hefty weight compared to other models. However, Indy could still cruise at high speed, providing its passengers with remarkable comfort and stability. The prices for excellent examples are high but not astronomical.

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