Failed Attraction - 2000 Zakspeed Volvo C70 DTM Prototype
Since 1986 the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft had been Germany’s premier touring car series. Up until 1992 the championship was contested with FIA Group A machinery. As Group A ground to a halt, DTM switched to the more liberal Fia Class 1 category, which freed up development space but also massively increased costs.
The original series was run completely into the ground in 1995, with the transition to the FIA sanctioned International Touring Car series (ITC). The FIA took most of the revenue from the events which angered the heavily investing teams. Additionally the FIA increased television broadcast fees and held rounds in Brazil and France, countries that had little to do with the DTM. With costs spiraling out of control, the 1996 season was to be the last for the original series.
After a few years had passed without the DTM, the sport’s former governing bodyInternationale Tourenwagen Rennen (ITR) announced it would resurrect the championship with a brand new set of technical regulations. To ensure parity all cars had to be based around a steel tubular frame, be powered by a 4.0L V8 engine with rear wheel drive only, and weigh a minimum of 1080 kg (2,381 lbs). DTM regulars Mercedes and Opel expressed interest in the new formula, as well as the partially works supported privateer Abt Sportsline Audi team.
Peter Zakowski’s Zakspeed operation shared a similar view. The company was famous for producing mad turbocharged Ford’s and even had a brief stint in Formula 1 during the late ‘80s. They had seen the downfall of the original DTM firsthand while running Opel cars in the Class 1 era. The renamed Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters seemed like a great opportunity to pick up where they had left off in 1996. Zakspeed had no links to any major manufacturer, so the way in would not be an easy one. To try and attract attention from a potential backer, they conceived a daring plan.
They decided to start building the car anyway. A steel tube frame chassis was constructed complying with DTM regulations, and fitted with a 450 horsepower 4.0L Judd V8. A six speed sequential gearbox was also present, and it fed its power to the correct wheels. Weight was down to 1000 kg (2204 lbs), which allowed the engineers to balance the car with 80kg of ballast.
The prototype’s party piece however, was its body. Zakspeed had opted to fit the car with the body of Volvo’s elegant C70 model. They hoped to entice the Swedish manufacturer to return to the German racing scene, after being absent since the end of the Group A era.
Without waiting for a definite answer from the conservative Swedes, Zakspeed went to test the C70 DTM in front of DTM officials. Little is known about what exactly transpired during this session, but plenty of rumors do their rounds.
Some say the C70 was so fast that caught the officials off guard and made them consider banning it. Others claim the Judd V8 engine was not up to the DTM code, which lead to the car being denied entry to the 2000 DTM season.
In any case the hoped and much needed support from Volvo never materialized. The company had no interest in pursuing a DTM title, and refused to give Zakspeed the rights to use the C70 bodyshell. The decision was a huge slap in the face for Zakspeed, and destroyed their hopes of entering the DTM. Without manufacturer backing and adequate funding, Zakspeed withdrew their entry.
Not content on letting the car become an instant museum piece, Zakspeed entered it into the local Adenauer ADAC-Rundstreckentrophy endurance race held at the famous Nürburgring Nordschleife. The 3.5 hour race was treated as a shakedown exercise for the famous 24 Hour event. To comply with VLN rules the car took on 250 kg of ballast to bring the weight up to the minimum 1250 kg (2755 lbs). Unfortunately a broken clutch denied the car the chance to start.
Despite the setback the car showed up again for the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring. Driven by former DTM-ace Jörg van Ommen (GER), and Porsche Carrera Cup contestants Sandy Grau (GER) and Frank Schmickler (GER), the car again failed to make an impression.
The Zakspeed Volvo C70 DTM prototype was a daring attempt from a private company to lure the massive Volvo organization into the revised DTM. Although the car ticked all the boxes and certainly looked promising, it never got the blessing from Volvo Zakspeed so desired. With nowhere to turn it attempted a couple of low level endurance races, but never showed its potential.
The car now spends its days as a morbid museum piece at Zakspeed’s facility. In a curious twist, the manufacturer that denied Zakspeed the right to use the C70 seems to look back at the whole fiasco with misty eyes. The Volvo Motorsport-liveried scale model displayed at Volvo’s Gothenburg museum lives on as a subtle sign of quiet regret.