Toyota 222D

I'm obviously quite guilty of fetishizing vehicles that were created and, in many cases, did little to change history. That won't stop me, of course, for plucking a hot one from the selection of rally cars that never quite made it.

From GT and sports car racing to NASCAR and various off-road series, Toyota is highly invested in motorsport around the world, and for a number of years was very successful in the World Rally Championship. Its strong results began largely in the tougher, more long-distance rallies, where durability was the best attribute to have. 

This was a problem, however, when the rally was held on twistier and tighter paved and gravel roads commonly seen during European rounds of the championship: Toyota's brawny and bulletproof cars were often too clumsy. With a huge range of vehicles to potentially homologate for racing, Toyota took the approach I do when playing a racing game like Forza or Gran Turismo: buy a new car for every race. 

For longer rallies, Toyota had the Celica and Supra. For twistier ones, this is what the company created: an MR2-based mid-engined coupe. Yes, it's basically Toyota's version of the Ford RS200.

While Ford had to create an all-new mid-engined car, Toyota used its MR2 as the platform for its new rally contender. Interestingly enough, a later MR2 platform spawned another racing car unicorn, the longer and wider SARD MCR-8 that raced at Le Mans.

Intended for Group B competition and, later, the cancelled Group S formula, details of the car have always been surrounded under a cloak of mystery. The 222D is said to make roughly 600 horsepower from a 4-cylinder engine that some believe is related to the one fitted to the company's Le Mans contenders. Weight is just 750 kilograms (1,650 lb)—making for a faster and more nimble competition car than what was run in Group B.

Usually, these sorts of scuttled competition cars are retained by the factory in non-working condition or, rarely, sold to an outside party. Most often, though, they're stripped for parts or destroyed.

So it's interesting that this car had a launch party of sorts at the hands of Toyota Motorsport in 2006, even providing a set of beautiful photos of a former secret project—and we have Englishman John Day to thank. A member of the Toyota Motorsport organization in Köln, Germany, he meticulously restored the long-forgotten car to working condition, which prompted Toyota to finally display and drive the machine in public.

And what a machine it is. Ten were made, and two survive today.