GRR

The 7 best GTRs of all time

27th July 2022
James King

There are many motoring acronyms that get the car enthusiast’s juices flowing. Although GTI and RS are more commonplace, the one that really grabs the attention is the fabled GTR. You’ve probably just had a little shiver down your spine just seeing those three letters lined up, haven’t you? Well, the Gran Turismo Racer label has not appeared on as many cars as you’d think considering the reputation it has. There are a few major examples that dominate your mind when thinking about GTRs and although that Japanese model is sacred in the motoring world, it may not be the best to ever wear the badge.

I’ve compiled a list of the nine greatest GTRs to hit the road with a few little caveats. I find it a little boring when any list has too many of one model, so I’ve bravely decided to keep it to one car per brand… which is going to cause a fair number of arguments in the office, but my list is final and I’ll fight my decisions to the very death.

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McLaren F1 GTR

This list is mainly focused on road cars, but whenever I have a chance to use an image of the Harrod’s liveried McLaren F1 GTR I have to take it. As a six-year-old sitting in the Silverstone grandstand, one of the very first memories I have of motoring was seeing that gorgeous Harrod’s livery at the front of the grid. A bittersweet marketing campaign, as I now love Harrod’s but can only afford their ham sandwiches.

There were a few street-legal conversions, but they remain a rarity. If you haven’t been lucky enough to see one, you may well have heard one as the 6.1-litre naturally-aspirated V12 makes a noise that can only be described as biblical.

A few of you may have realised that the inclusion of the F1 GTR means I have to omit the McLaren P1 GTR due to my one-car-per-brand rule. Before you shout at me, did you really think I’d include the tribute act over the real deal?

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Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R

I’m going to immediately contradict myself and now include the follow up act in the Skyline GT-R family. A Nissan GT-R was always going to be in this list, but choosing just one to represent the brand has caused quite a stir in the Goodwood office, and I’ve made a few enemies. There are strong arguments for letting the original GT-R Hakosuka or the famous R32 Godzilla represent Nissan’s entry, or even my secret favourite R33 Nismo 400R, but I find it difficult to look past the R34. It may have been the R33 that I first fell in love with on Gran Turismo back in 1997, but the R34 was the one that really grabbed the headlines as it started embarrassing a few supercars. It also had a rather big boost in cult status when it became the poster child of the Fast and Furious films, where it was seemingly installed with a 27-speed gearbox if the car chases are to be believed.

I’ll let you tell me which Nissan GT-R you’d have chosen in the comments, but the R34 takes it here. If you really want to challenge it, I’ll upgrade it to the Nissan Skyline GTR R34 V-Spec II Nür. Checkmate.

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Lamborghini Diablo GTR

Moving on from the most famous GTRs we now turn to what I consider to be the best looking. I mean… just take a second to really take in the Diablo GTR. It is stunning from every single angle. That raised rear with the exhausts on show just makes it look ready for action. It’s giving off the same vibes as the new trend of removing the rear bumper on the Huracan to expose the pipes.

The Diablo GT was already a pretty brutal machine, but the GTR took things to another level. It still had the 6.0-litre naturally-aspirated V12, but added a massive wing bolted straight to the chassis along with a few other performance enhancers and then stripped some weight. When you pair all of this to a five-speed manual gearbox, we can only imagine how difficult a bull it is to tame.

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Mercedes-Benz AMG CLK GTR Strassenversion

Go on, say it out loud. ‘Strassenversion.’ It’s a very satisfying word to say unless you’re German where it is actually pretty mundane. The ‘street version’ of the iconic CLK GTR is quite frankly utterly mad from any way you look at it. Despite the FIA GT1 class being cancelled in 1999, Mercedes was still forced to produce 25 road cars as it had pinky promised the FIA it would. The CLK GTR, and no it didn’t flip, was incredibly successful, winning 17 of the 22 races it entered.

At the time, the CLK GTR was in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most expensive production car ever built. If you were wealthy enough to buy one of the 20 coupes or six roadsters when new they were almost unbeatable in a game of top trumps.

The exterior wasn’t the only impressive aspect of the CLK GTR as it had a 6.9-litre engine, after Ilmor Engineering enhanced it, that produced 612PS (450kW).

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BMW E46 M3 GTR

We’re in proper unicorn territory now. The Strassenversion of the M3 GTR used the same P60B40 V8 as the racing version, but slightly watered down. Even after being watered down, it still put out 350PS (258kW) which was still extremely potent.

To add to the already strong appeal, unlike the race version, the M3 GTR Strassenversion had a six-speed manual gearbox with a two-disc motorsport clutch and a variable limited slip differential.

Similar to the R34, the M3 GTR gained a large cult status due to its appearance in a video game. This one lies particularly close to my heart as I put a lot of hours into it. That game was Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Right from the very start you are thrust into the game behind the wheel of a silver and blue BMW E46 M3 GTR and it doesn’t take long to fall in love. As quickly as the game provides with the one hand, it takes away as the M3 GTR is sabotaged and taken away until you’ve defeated the no.1 racer Razor toward the end of the game. Pure evil.

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Panoz GTR-1

Not a subtle car, the Panoz GTR-1 is basically a race car on the road. Powering this eye-catching chassis is a 6.0-litre V8 delivering over 600PS. The accompanying slogan of ‘sounds like thunder, goes like lightning’ is a pretty fair assessment of the car.

There is only one road going version and it is owned by the company founder Don Panoz. So it’s certainly the rarest on this list, but Panoz is willing to build you one, fully customised, if you do happen to have $890,000 lying around for the starting price.

Once again there are video game origins to my love of the Panoz, but this one is a slightly less accomplished route than Gran Turismo. I fell in love with it because of the magical Midtown Madness with a very slow frame rate on my substandard PC. If you know you know.

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Renault 5 GTR

‘Where’s the Ultima and Porsche 924 GTRs?’ I hear you cry. I’ve decided to round off my list with something a little different. Proving that not all GTRs have to be road going racing cars, the charming and wonderfully ‘80s Renault 5 also had a GTR model. Now, despite doing a good 10 mins of research I can’t find out what the GTR stands for with this model so I’ll just have to assume it has as much right to be called a Gran Turismo Racer as the rest of the list.

What’s your favourite GTR from this list? Is there a GTR that I haven’t included? Let me know in the comments.

  • List

  • GTR

  • Lamborghini

  • Diablo

  • McLaren

  • F1

  • Mercedes

  • CLK GTR

  • Renault

  • 5

  • BMW

  • E46

  • M3

  • Nissan

  • Skyline

  • R34

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