SEAT Toledo Marathon and MANIWASPEED

Car of the Day #11: 1993 SEAT Toledo Marathon

SEAT Toledo Marathon and MANIWASPEED
SEAT Toledo Marathon rally raid team, ~1993 • SEAT Históricos

Too late for Group B, too early for Dakar.

Oh, you don’t recall the SEAT Toledo Marathon? Neither had I until deep diving into Spanish racing liveries, which led to discovering this ‘Raid’ style long-distance European rally car — by SEAT, the Volkswagen Group-owned Spanish automaker.

This is not a rebodied version of the much more successful Peugeot 405 T16 Gran Raid, the Citroën ZX Rallye Raid, or anything else. It’s every cm a SEAT.

Because the actual Dakar is on right now, I thought it was about time to highlight a forgotten factory effort that almost took the world by storm.

Update 01/16/2024: Member Luis Ortego (bluesky) was there in period and shared some film scans of the SEAT Marathon in action! See gallery and story insert below -M

As a refresher, the street legal SEAT Toledo (above) was a 5-door liftback sedan, based on the Volkswagen Golf / Jetta Mk2. 

In contrast, the Marathon is an entirely unique, tube frame racing car with a composite body on top. That it says ‘Toledo’ all over the livery is more marketing than truth — surely, a chunky desert raid car flying through the dunes is a step above the usual magazine ad spend touting practicality, affordability, and…?

Sorry, lost my train of thought while thinking about this desert raid car howling across a dry lake bed.

Howl? Yeah, this puppy is motivated by an Audi quattro-sourced turbocharged 5-cylinder engine.

Like I said: kind of Group B, but not.

SEAT (Toledo) Marathon • SEAT Historicos

Don’t believe some sources that claim it took SEAT as long as six years to develop the car — from what I have been able to gather, I think it’s closer to three at most, with 1992 making up the bulk of the work done on the Marathon, including 5,000 km of testing with driver Josep Maria Servià.

At an off-road track SEAT built for the purpose, next to its Martorell test facility. 

Two cars were built, and the Marathon competed in a limited number of events in 1993-1994 before SEAT shelved the project completely…in favour of creating a WRC challenger. 

• SEAT Historicos

Despite spending way too much time this trying to track down final classifications for the races it did compete in, to better understand which vehicles the Marathon was sharing podiums with, I haven’t yet discovered the surely old and decrepit HTML frame and table that contains rally raid results from 1993-1994.

I do know it ran against the Citroën ZX Rally Raid for at least one event. Drop a comment below if you have any leads, please…

In typical weird car fashion, one of the two cars was later modified with a PRV V6 engine for an attempted comeback, and is lost or destroyed. The other car  was retained by SEAT Históricos, and was recently refurbished back into competition-ready status in order to take part in historic rally raid events — in fact, it’s already the poster car for RallyClassic Africa 2024.

When the rest of the world rediscovers the special off-road SEAT Marathon this year and read others talking about it, remember who emailed it to you first. ;)

Technical characteristics of the SEAT Toledo Marathon

Motor 5 cylinders in line gasoline, longitudinal central position, turbocharged.
Displacement 2.122 cm3
Diameter x stroke 79,5 x 85 mm
Power 330 hp at 5.500 rpm
Maximum torque 480 Nm at 4.000 rpm
Distribution 1 overhead camshaft, 2 valves per cylinder
Food Multipoint electronic injection
Chassis High resistance steel tubular. Carbon fiber-Kevlar body with resins epoxy .
Transfer All-wheel drive with three differentials, all self-locking. The center is lockable
Change 6-speed sequential manual
Suspensions Independent. Double trapezoid per wheel, with double shock absorber and spring. Progressive geometry.
Steering Servo-assisted
Brakes 330mm ventilated discs, four-piston calipers
Tires 17 inch Michelin
Long wide high 4.320 / 1.770 / 1.620 mm
Battle 2.800 mm
Empty weight 1.350 kg (1.750 kg in running order)
Deposit 400 liters
Maximum speed Up to 220 km / h
year of presentation 1993
Units produced 2 (only one survives)

Chart translated via La Escuderia / SEAT Históricos

Additional sources

Motorpasion has an excellent article on the car full of original detail photos (Motorpasion); La EscuderiaCar and Driver (Spain)

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