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15 of the most beautiful race cars in history

Although many of these cars also happened to be devastatingly-effective weapons on the racetracks of the world during the eras in which they competed, they are arguably more well-remembered from how easy on the eye they are. From bare-bones Formula 1 cars of the 1960s, to the big wings and wheelarches of the 1980s and on to the open-topped prototypes of the late 1990s and early 2000s, here is a collection of 15 of the most beautiful racing cars in history: 
 
 
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1. Ford Capri Zakspeed

Country of Origin: United Kingdom/Germany

Type: Touring car

This car is the embodiment of 1980s sports motoring, with its big wings and massive flared wheelarches. It achieved plenty of success in the various racing series held across Europe, however it's most well-known for winning the 1981 German Racing Championship in the hands of Klaus Ludwig.

2. Maserati MC12 Versione Corse

Country of Origin: Italy

Type: Endurance racer

Built on the chassis of a Ferrari Enzo, this car marked Maserati’s return to racing following a 37-year absence. Lots of success in a range of different championships ensued, most notably in the FIA GT Championship. In the hands of various different racing teams and drivers, it took no less than 40 victories from the 94 races it entered throughout its competition history.

3.  Lotus 79

Country of Origin: United Kingdom

Type: Formula 1 car

The stunning Lotus 79, resplendent in its black and gold John Player Special livery, was the car that Mario Andretti drove to the Formula 1 World Championship in 1978. This made him only the second American Formula 1 champion in history, and there have been no more since. It remains an icon in Formula 1 design, as it was the first Formula 1 car to properly harness ground-effect aerodynamics.

4. Alfa Romeo Tipo 33

Country of Origin: Italy

Type: Sports racer

Alfa Romeo began developing the Tipo 33 in the mid-1960s, however it wasn’t until a decade later that it achieved any sort of racing success. During that time, numerous variants of the car were produced. Pictured is a 1968 Tipo 33/2 Daytona, which was raced during that year’s 1968 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race.  

5. Eagle T1G

Country of Origin: USA

Type: Formula 1 car

This incredibly elegant Formula 1 car only took a single victory during its competition history, but remains firmly in the memories of racing enthusiasts for just how beautiful it is. In this picture, Dan Gurney is behind the wheel at the 1968 Monaco Grand Prix. Gurney is one of three drivers in history to win a Grand Prix in a car of his own construction.

 
6. Porsche 904

Country of Origin: Germany

Type: Grand tourer

Porsche chose to withdraw from Formula 1 during the early 1960s, and instead decided to turn its racing efforts towards sports car racing. The 904 was developed in order to be eligible for a variety of racing series around Europe. One of the more notable races the car was entered in during the mid-1960s was the 1964 1,000 kms of the Nurburgring in Germany.

 7. Ferrari 330 P4

Country of Origin: Italy

Type: Sports racing prototype

The car pictured is the only one left in its original state in the entire world, and only one of four ever made. It is owned by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll. The P4 raced in the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans, and finished first, second and third, ending a period of dominance at the race by Ford and its legendary GT40.

8.  Jordan-Ford 191

Country of Origin: United Kingdom

Type: Formula 1 car

This is the car that marked the debut of Jordan Grand Prix in Formula 1, and also gave the legendary Michael Schumacher, the most successful driver in the sport’s history, his debut in the top tier of world motorsport. It is notable for its stunning green 7Up livery, as well as its simplicity and elegant lines. Considering how difficult Formula 1 is for new entrants, the team did incredibly well, placing fifth in the Formula 1 Constructor’s Championship that year.

9.  Lotus 49

Country of Origin: United Kingdom

Type: Formula 1 car

One of the most successful cars designed Colin Chapman, the man who founded Lotus, was also one of the most beautiful ever to turn a wheel in anger. It remained competitive in Formula 1 for four entire seasons, and took a total of four World Championships in that time – two Constructors’ World Championships for Lotus, and two Drivers’ World Championships for Jim Clark in 1968, and posthumously for Jochen Rindt in 1970.

10. BMW V12 LMR

Country of Origin: Germany

Type: Le Mans prototype

With the might of Toyota and the other works teams taking part in the 1999 edition of the Le Mans 24 Hour race, the BMW V12 LMR looked to be completely outgunned. It was only when the other runners dropped out that it took victory, with Yannick Dalmas, Joachim Winkelhock and Pierluigi Martini piloting the winning car. Its low-slung, elegant lines make the V12 LMR stand out almost two decades after it was raced competitively.

11. Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ

Country of Origin: Italy

Type: Sports racer

The TZ1 was a fastback built by Alfa Romeo in the mid-1960s. Its beautiful shape eventually evolved into the TZ2, and it raced successfully in many different categories. To this day, it’s still a favorite among drivers competing in various classic car events, not to mention that it’s an absolutely gorgeous site to behold.

12. Shelby Cobra 427

Country of Origin: USA

Type: Sports racer

The 427 Cobra is the big brute of all the AC and Shelby Cobras built in the 1960s. While it was supposed to go racing as a Shelby works car in 1965, it missed homologation (the process of verifying that a car is legal to race under the rules of a given racing series) and thus did not race under the official Shelby banner. Instead, many privateer teams bought up the cars and went racing with them in the following seasons.

13. Jaguar XJ13

Country of Origin: United Kingdom

Type: Le Mans prototype

The car pictured here is the only of its kind ever built. It never actually raced, and this was because it had become obsolete by the time its development was completed. The original car suffered severe damage in a crash in 1971, however the car you can see here is the rebuilt version, which is as close to the original in terms of specification and construction as was possible.

14. Mercedes-Benz 300SLR

Country of Origin: Germany

Type: Mille Miglia racer

Sir Stirling Moss was the man who drove the 300SLR, wearing number 722, to victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia, a 1,000-kilometer long road race through the streets of Italy (Brescia-Rome-Brescia). He drove to victory in just over 10 hours, but what made the feat incredibly special was that he averaged almost 100mph over the entire course, and finished 30 minutes ahead of his nearest rival. The car he used to achieve that was this beauty, one of the most breath-taking sports roadsters ever built.

15. Porsche 550 Spyder

Country of Origin: Germany

Type: Sports racer  

Synonymous with James Dean’s death (the actor drove one on the streets and sadly perished in it), this little, bug-eyed Porsche is much loved by enthusiasts to this day. Similar to the 300SLR in this list, this car was also raced at the Millie Miglia street race in the 1950s. In 1956, an evolution of the 550, the 550A, won the notoriously dangerous Targa Florio street race in Sicily, marking the first victory for Porsche in a major sports car racing event.

 

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 

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