Lost somewhere between NASCAR and F1

Somewhere in the annals of time, someone somewhere came up with what I think could have been the greatest idea for a racing series ever.

No, I’m not talking about touring car racing.  That’s awesome in its own right, but it’s not what I’m writing about today.

This is what I’m talking about.

Look, it's dumped!

This is an Alfa Romeo 164.

I wonder if I could fit that airdam onto my car... hmmm..

You might be saying right now:  So?  You’ve just shown me an Alfa 164 with different wheels and a spoiler.

I would beg to differ.  Let’s start peeling layers back, and we’ll see what makes this thing an entirely different beast.

I'd be smiling like that too if I got to park near a Camry like he did.

Ok.  So.  No fenders, and no rear half.  So where’s the engine?  Who trucked this mofo?  The more astute (IE, ALL OF YOU) should see that this is clearly a race chassis.  But where’s the engine, really?

Right here.

Man, it must get loud as hell in there.

That’s right.  This is a midship v10.  Wearing the skin of an Alfa 164.  This would be echoed later by Renault putting an F1 engine and setup in to an Espace.  However, unlike the Espace, this one was actually built for a racing series.

Back in 1988, the FIA were to start a new racing series called ProCar (short for Production Car) to go along with F1.  This isn’t to be confused with the ADAC Procar.  This ProCar was meant for much loftier goals.  The FIA wanted to draw more manufacturers into racing, a side effect of which would be a better availablity of engines for stuff like F1.  The idea was to have a racing series where all the cars would basically have bodywork that were the same as the production models.  Yeah, kinda like NASCAR was supposed to be.  But unlike it’s redneck doppelganger, the rulebook was thin – Very thin. The focus wasn’t so much on being ‘fair’ or ‘competitive’ or whatever, the idea was to make and race incredibly well engineered cars.  According to VeloceToday, two of the big rules were that the engines could be a maximum of 3.5 litres and 12 cylinders,  and that the car had to weigh at least 750kg.  Otherwise it seems that the engineers largely had carte blanche in terms of everything else as long as it fit into the bodywork.

The point of the bodywork thing was the same reason why you have “Chevrolet Impalas” or “Ford Fusions” in NASCAR.  You can build the brand that way.  But let’s look at some of the implications of the way ProCar would have done it.  The point was to have a car that looked like a standard road going version, not a car that vaguely resembled it.  You could assume that they’d just end up with a bunch of normal looking cars with spoilers on them.

Next year, they're going to change the decals and call it a Taurus.

But think about what manufacturers did when faced with similar situations.  There are lots of examples of homologation specials.  The Ford RS200, the Lancia Stratos, the Toyota Celica GT4 – these were all sold so that they could go racing.  Given the bodywork thing in ProCar, there would be some pretty good incentive to have available a lot more factory aero and bodywork.  Imagine the influence on the cars that would be available on the market had it become popular.  There would be aggressive lip kits available on perhaps almost every model of car that participated in the racing series.  Imagine having a widebody touring sedan from the bigger manufacturers, and not just the likes of BMW’s M division.

Sadly, ProCar never went anywhere, and being the only car ever made for the series, the Alfa 164 ProCar amounts to nothing more than a footnote in racing history.  But it’s rather fun to try to imagine what could have been.  Hell, maybe one of you out there would like to revive the idea.  If you’d like to go see it, it’s in Alfa Romeo’s museum in Arese.  Let’s end with some videos and pictures of the car, shall we?

3 thoughts on “Lost somewhere between NASCAR and F1

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