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Frankfurt Motor Show

Here are five more F1-engined road cars

AMG's Project One uses Lewis Hamilton’s V6. Meet five more that borrowed F1 power. Kinda

  • It's here. AMG has finally revealed its F1 car for the road: the Project One, complete with its Lewis Hamilton-approved V6 turbo hybrid F1 engine. This is AMG’s attempt to blow the hypercar competition to pieces. News that no doubt flickered the eyebrows of Adrian Newey, hard at work with the Aston Martin-Red Bull dream-team creating their own road-going F1 car.

    The AM-RB 001 is set to run a bespoke V12. That leaves the mystery Mercedes-AMG as the only car for years that uses an engine directly derived from motorsport in a machine you can pop for a cat food top-up in. 

    They’re such rare beasts, in fact, that we’ve delved into the archives to explore the murky world of cars that were never built for racing, but ran powerplants from motorsport’s grandest series.

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  • 1994 Ferrari F50

    Probably the quintessential example of an F1 engine in a street car. Revealed to gasps in 1995, the F50 was powered by a 4.7-litre V12 that developed a heady 512bhp and 347lb ft, and redlined at 8500rpm. Mega numbers, but somewhat lower strung than the 3.5-litre, 700bhp V12 from which it was derived. The V12’s genesis was actually Maranello’s 1990 Formula One racer, the 641, which scored six wins that season.

    The F50’s motorsport credentials were boosted by the engine block’s role as a stressed member of the chassis. Essentially, the car’s rear suspension was bolted directly to the V12 block, which in turn was stuck straight to the carbon chassis, creating an incredibly stiff (not to mention vibration-prone) platform for Ferrari to base its F40-suceeding supercar upon.

  • 1988 Alfa Romeo 164 ProCar

    In 1988, Formula One races were supported by the BMW M1 Procar series, where F1 drivers duked it out in track-ready BMW supercars ahead of getting into their single-seaters for the main event. But by the end of the Eighties, the M1 was old and the series needed reinventing, and Bernie Ecclestone hit upon the idea of each engine manufacturer slotting their F1-powering wares into a humdrum saloon. He called it Formula S. ‘Touring Cars on Acid’ would’ve been more appropriate. 

    Alfa was straight out of the blocks, jamming a 600bhp V10 into a 750kg Brabham chassis, cloaked in carbon-kevlar one-piece panels closely resembling the contemporary 164 saloon. The resulting banshee-in-a-business suit could go from 0-62mph in under 2.5 seconds and top out at 217mph.

    Tragically, Alfa’s enthusiasm for Formula S wasn’t matched by the likes of Ferrari, BMW and McLaren-Honda, so the series was canned before the 164 ProCar ever actually got chance to race, hence it qualifying for our list here. It’s easily the only repmobile ever made that’s capable of a noise (and lap times) comparable to an F1 racer, despite what those cocky A4 TDI owners who inhabit online forums will tell you.

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  • 1995 Renault Espace F1

    It’s not just Italians who can get merry with the spanners and house an F1 engine somewhere it ought never to have lived. The French, and more specifically Renault, used the excuse of the Espace’s 10th birthday coinciding with a decade in F1 to bring the two entities together, in the absurd, brilliant form of the Renault-Matra Espace F1. 

    What we love about the Espace F1 is that it wasn’t just a regular family van hastily converted for warp-factor propulsion. The body was an exquisite, one-off carbonfibre creation. The brakes were carbon-ceramic. And the V10 engine, half-inched from the Renault-Williams FW15C, was actually tuned up, from a competition-spec 691bhp to some 790bhp, driving the rear wheels via a six-speed automated transmission. 

    Despite having the aerodynamics of an aircraft hangar, the Espace F1 was capable of reaching 62mph in 2.8 seconds, mashing to 124mph in under seven seconds, and topping out at 194mph. Renault even fitted it with four seats – spare a thought for any rearward passengers who effectively had to straddle the 3.5-litre, 40-valve monster pushing the world’s fastest MPV along. 

    Mind you, it’s not the most unlikely vehicle an F1 engine has been used to pep up...

  • 1994 Ford Supervan 3

    Ford made a habit out of cramming race engines into widebody Transits for decades. The first used a GT40 V8, the second a Cosworth DFV 3.9-litre V8 good for 500bhp. But Supervan really reached its zenith when it was rebuilt into the third iteration in 1994, complete with a Cosworth HB 3.5-litre F1 V8. The numbers were savage. Power was rated at 730bhp at 13,500rpm, while the van itself weighed in at an Elise-like 890kg. 

    Supervan 3 spent seven years on promotional duties (presumably ones supporting hearing aids) before it was retired in 2001. Its spirit is kept alive today in the white vans of gentlemen invariably following your rear bumper at a distance of four inches in the outside lane of any given British motorway.

  • 2003 Porsche Carrera GT

    If you were lucky enough to buy a Porsche Carrera GT when brand new in 2004, its engine already had a few metaphorical miles on the clock. See, the 5.7-litre, 612bhp V10 mounted in a carbon lattice behind the driver could actually trace its lineage back to a Porsche-designed F1 engine intended for the Footwork F1 team as early as 1992. 

    When that project was canned, a bored-out version of the V10 was earmarked for use in Porsche's burgeoning Le Mans prototype, due to compete in 1999. However, regulation changes and a desire to concentrate manpower on the Cayenne SUV killed off the project, so the V10 was again left homeless. 

    By the turn of the Millennium, Porsche's fortunes were back in rude health thanks in no small part to the cash-generation of the Cayenne SUV. Buoyed by this success and a positively received concept car, Porsche accelerated the Carrera GT into production in 2003, completing part of 2000’s original holy trinity of supercars, against the Ferrari Enzo and Mercedes SLR McLaren. 

    Complete with its beechwood-topped manual transmission, spartan cabin and ultra-clean silhouette, the Carrera GT was unarguably the purest of its contemporaries, and thanks to the naturally aspirated V10 at its heart, it also boasted the least diluted motorsport pedigree.

    It's a rare thing, an F1 engine that enjoys a retirement repreive in something mere mortals can drive. Over to you, AMG.

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