Daihatsu Charade De Tomaso 926R

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Rally is an incredible pursuit. For decades, some of the world's fastest machines and most skilled drivers have faced off on some of the toughest roads…in the toughest conditions.

Although modern rally cars are incredibly quick, most enthusiasts consider the Group B era from 1982-85 to be the sport's finest hour. A combination of fan support, television coverage, manufacturer support, and new technology created an arms race between the world's biggest manufacturers.

Rover, Audi, Ford, Citroën, Lancia, Peugeot, Toyota, Renault, Porsche, and Ferrari all developed vehicles to compete under Group B regulations. 

Daihatsu, a small Japanese company, had a plan to compete in Group B, but it wasn't meant to be…

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This story starts with an Italian carmaker called Innocenti, bought in 1985 by Alejandro de Tomaso, an Argentinian businessman best known for luxury sports cars: the De Tomaso Mangusta, Pantera, Dauville, and others. 

Innocenti was in the business of building re-bodied Mini Coopers (well, Leyland Minis), until De Tomaso had engineering upgrades developed, creating the Innocenti De Tomaso—a Mini underneath, with a hood scoop, flared wheel arches, and performance upgrades. It was a pocket rocket.

With substantial engineering upgrades to the car's mechanicals, the weak point became the car's original Austin engine. De Tomaso decided to replace it with Daihatsu's jewel-like three-cylinder engine from the Charade hatchback—including a performance-focused turbocharged version.

But while Innocenti De Tomaso models were sexy little cars, Daihatsu's Charade had all the sex appeal of wallpaper paste. So De Tomaso lent his name, vision, and attention to the Charade, creating a beefed-up turbocharged version with a more aggressive appearance: the Charade De Tomaso.

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For the 1985 Tokyo Motor Show, however, Daihatsu showed this, the Charade De Tomaso 926R, a mid-engined, rear-drive Group B homologation-ready road car to take on the world's finest machinery.

Mounted behind the seats was a turbocharged 3-cylinder, 926cc engine—with 120 horsepower. Ok, that's well below the more than 600 horsepower Audi gave their drivers to play with, but the 926R was a svelte ~800kg (1760 lbs.) Sadly, little information on this car exists—it was designed, engineered, shown, and shelved.

Sadly, while the car was in development, Group B was cancelled after a spate of spectator and driver deaths. De Tomaso and Daihatsu collaborated on performance-focused Charade models until the mid-1990s, but the 926R wasn't one of them.

That said, the 926R wasn't the first—or last—stillborn rally special. 

But that's a story for another day…

Sources / Recommended Reading