Top Gear’s Top 9: outrageous wheel arches on normal cars
Warning: NSFW wheelarches. Blistered bodywork. Slammed stance
Audi RS6 Avant
How could we not be inspired to take a trip down the Wheel Arch Hall of Fame after clapping eyes on the new RS6? What stance. It’s 40mm wider than an A6 at EACH SIDE, and has such broad shoulders that even 22-inch rims don’t look overdone. This thing is so hunkered down, we almost forgive Audi for the Q8. And the Q3 Sportback. And the Q2.
But then, we should have known Audi would come up with the goods when it came to adding big wheelarches to a humble car…Advertisement - Page continues below
Audi Sport Quattro
After all, Audi are the masters of the genre. The RS4, the RS6 – multiple generations of Audi’s fast wagons have set the standard for butch-looking family cars. And what are they riffing off?
Why, it’s Audi’s original rallying legend, of course, never cooler looking than as the chopped-wheelbase Sport Quattro, complete with arches that doubled as picnic tables. Fun fact: the ‘B’ in Group B stood for ‘Bloody hell, that’s a rude-looking car’*.
Mercedes SL65 AMG Black Series
What a conversion this was. Mercedes decided what the folding-hard-top, comfy-GT-style SL needed was a fixed roof, the stiffest suspension in all of history and a 650bhp bi-turbo V12 arguing with traction control that could barely have dealt with a diesel A-Class. The result was a terrible performance car, but as a sculpture, a homage to all that’s great about widebody cars, the SL65 Black is as spectacular to look at as it was hopeless to drive.Advertisement - Page continues below
Lancia Delta Integrale
Another rally refugee, showcasing the delectable results of applying dramatic wheelarch extensions to a not-particularly-pretty Italian family hatchback. What’s great about how the ‘Grale looks is it’s all function – there’s no unnecessary fake grilles or frivolous styling lines. That’s why it’ll be an icon long after the hoards of aggressive-wannabe German schport-SUVs are on the scrapheap.
Jaguar Project 8
Yes, £150,000 for a go-faster XE that’d be matched by a boggo AMG E63 on most roads is a LOT. Yes, the Project 8 possibly should’ve been rear-wheel drive, because we associate fast Jags with big skids, not AWD traction. But whatever its rational caveats, there’s no denying the Project 8 sports one of the finest sets of blistered wheelarches money can buy. Tick the wing-delete box for maximum kudos.
BMW 1 Series M Coupe
You needn’t shell out six figures for a modern junior repmobile with Incredible Hulk shoulders, though. BMW’s most recent M3 will do the job. When the narrower saloon body was forced to accommodate the M4’s wider rear axle, it sprouted monstrous arches. The M4 never quite mastered the same wheels-on-outriggers look, so the M3 is better.
However, we have good news for fans of broad-looking BMW coupes: even before the M2 swaggered into our lives, BMW had taken a dumpy little coupe and grafted on DTM-esque arches. The 1M drove like it looked: muscular, punchy, and rude. A true modern classic, this.
Mercedes 190E Cosworth Evo II
No strangers to adding massive arches to humdrum cars, Merc. Oh no. The 190E saloon was hardly dripping with attitude, but once Professor Richard Eppler from the University of Stuttgart shoved one in a wind-tunnel and worked out how to turn it into a downforce monster, Mercedes gave it the wide-set track it deserved. How has this never been a Fast and Furious hero car?Advertisement - Page continues below
Ford Super Duty Limited
Take big truck. Add two extra rear tyres. Bolt sheetmetal over the enormous rear axle. And sell for relative peanuts. America’s dually pick-up trucks truly are a different breed.
Renault 5 Turbo
If you’re going to squeeze a 1.4-litre turbocharged 160bhp engine into a Renault 5, but don’t plan on putting it under the bonnet, then your mid-engined rally-special is going to require some pretty serious bodywork mods. The R5 turbo sums up all that’s superb about homologation specials, French hot hatches, and a few engineers turning a ‘what if?’ moment into a reality.Advertisement - Page continues below