A look at some of the best rally cars of all time

We often talk about the meanest street machines on the market on this blog, as many Cool Rides members own their own hot rods and appreciate a solid weekend at the drag strip. However, not every car was made to be driven only on the pavement, as many of the sickest sets of wheels ever made are beasts on the rally circuit, performing at their best when they are taken off road.

Rally cars can make for some of the most exciting sporting vehicles to watch race, as these events are not only fast paced and dangerous, but allow drivers to get aggressive and dirty. There's nothing quite like getting splashed in the face with mud when a Subaru WRX takes a tight turn at high speeds and remains its composure on the course. The satisfaction that comes with seeing these cars complete even one lap on a muddy track can be exhilarating.

Also, rally car drivers tend to exert a lot more force on their vehicles when they get behind the wheel, as handling is hardly ever exact and the course itself offers unforeseen challenges depending on the weather.

As far as classics go, the Saab 96 is one cool ride that used to be a boss on the rally circuit. While the now defunct Saab line wasn't known for its rally roots in its final few decades (after all, the 9-3, the company's flagship model, was essentially a badge job for the brand's last two decades), Saab dominated some of the fastest lanes in the world during the early 60s. Between 1960 and 1962, this car took home the top prize at the RAC (British) Rally, while it stole gold at the Monte Carlo Rally in 1961 and 1962.

Fast forward to recent times, and one of the top rally cars in the world is from an American mark. The Ford Focus RS WRC was actually, however, based upon the European variant of the compact hatchback sold stateside, but its performance was still reminiscent of the best American racers in history. Between 1999 and 2010, this car won 44 world rallies and two manufacturers' world titles before being replaced with the Euro-only Fiesta RS WRC.

Now we're going to jump back to the 60s for another Ford that arguably cemented the brand's legacy as a rallying powerhouse. The Escort RS1600 was the companies basic, economy subcompact when it was first introduced in the late 60s. However, it went on to dominate more in some of the fiercest rally competitions in history, giving it arguably the title of greatest rally car ever. It was in 1970 that this car took home the top spot in the mind-bogglingly rough London to Mexico World Cup Rally, a race that took drivers across continents and overseas. This roughly 17,000 mile trek devoured many of the cars, as only 23 of the original 100 ultimately crossed the finish line. Of those that did, nearly a quarter of them were Escort RS1600.

Whether or not you prefer rally, stock or Indy-car racing, you have to appreciate the audacity it takes to get behind the wheel and hit top speeds – especially when exposed to some of the most extreme elements on Earth.

Of the racing legends named above, which one is your favorite? Or do you perhaps prefer a model that wasn't on the list? Leave your thoughts below and be sure to share some of your favorite rallying memories with the Cool Rides Community: