The development of the combustion engine heralded a new era in the world of transportation, giving birth to motor-powered machines and better mobility. It trickled down to the invention of sports cars, purposely built with minimum weight, compact frame, sleek design to achieve dynamic performance, streamlined aerodynamics, and lithe handling. Adding these automobiles’ massive power and incredible speed, they entertain drivers and give chills down their spine, as they sprint on the road and racetracks.
A handful of manufacturers around the globe produced some of the greatest sports cars throughout the decades, with each model aimed to push the limits on how these vehicles could perform. Some of them have stood the test of time, others have come and gone, but there are also ones that topped the echelon and evolved to become true classics. Here, let’s take a look at the 15 greatest sports cars of all time that made the sports car industry as amusing as it is today.
1. Ferrari 250 GTO
A brainchild of Giotto Bizzarrini and his team, the Ferrari 250 GTO was only produced from 1962 to 1964 for the Group 3 Grand Touring Car category of the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile). It featured a sleek Berlinetta design, which was then powered by a 3.0 to 4.0 V12 engine, enabling the sports coupé to reach 60mph in just a couple of seconds. Though only 39 units were created, the Ferrari 250 GTO emerged to be one of the most impressive and powerful sports cars of its era.
2. Mercedes-Benz SL
In 1954, the Mercedes-Benz SL was released with the four-stroke direct petrol injection engine – a first for production cars. With such technology, the vehicle reached a maximum of 160 miles per hour, a major feat during its time, which then signaled the start of more massive technological advancements moving forward. Having an eight-generation run after nearly seven decades after its launch, the Mercedes-Benz SL is still regarded as one of the leaders in performance, luxury, and design in the sports cars realm.
3. Dodge Viper
First released in 1992, the Dodge Viper was pretty raw when it debuted. Rather than windows, it sported vinyl flaps, which needed to be attached to keep the rain out. Plus, it used a plastic-clad interior that was pretty odd amongst the sports cars of its time. Nevertheless, such strange features were overshadowed by its immense speeds and external look. The Dodge Viper was more renowned for its swooping frame, huge V10 engine, and immense speed, enticing many sports enthusiasts and allowed it to keep in production two decades after its introduction.
4. Honda Acura NSX
Japanese car manufacturer Honda released the Acura NSX in 1990 and rocked what used to be an industry dominated by European automakers. In its release, the mid-engined Acura NSX featured a rear-wheel-drive layout, cutting-edge aerodynamics, and VTEC system, and also became the first mass-produced car to have an all-aluminum frame. It’s crazy fast and was capable of putting real-world performance numbers that caught the attention of many sports car lovers, journalists, and even of its household rivals.
5. Shelby Cobra
In September 1961, Carroll Shelby, a racing driver, automotive designer, and entrepreneur, yearned to create a British sports car with a small body powered by a rather massive V8 engine. Shelby wrote to British automaker AC Cars and accepted the offer, given that an engine can be found. He first reached out to Chevrolet but the company declined, as they don’t want to bring any competition with the Corvette. On the other hand, Ford was looking for a car that could match the latter and provided Shelby with two engines. The result was the Shelby Cobra, which became one of the most iconic sports cars during the ‘60s. A true legend, it even made a record of toppling a Ferrari on the world racing stage.
6. Lamborghini Countach
The Lamborghini Countach is perhaps one of the most epochal sports cars ever made. Released in 1974, it quickly became the dream car for many enthusiasts, and grazed many notebook covers and bedroom walls. Its main draw is its exotic, wedge-shaped design that is truly a sight to behold and stir excitement on-and-off the tracks. Yet, it’s not all aesthetics, though, as it donned a decent 370-horsepower V-12 engine on its first model, which was then improved and refined until its last production in 1990.
7. Mazda MX-5 Miata
When thinking about powerful sports cars, the Mazda MX-5 Miata may not be among the first ones that will come to people’s minds. Yet, it banked on a different appeal. It reinvented the roadster recipe of the 50s and came out to be a small, lithe highly maneuverable sports vehicle that also featured sleek exteriors, a solid mid-engine, and high reliability. In 2000, it was recognized by the “Guinness Book of World Records” as the best-selling two-seat convertible sports car with over 530,000 cars sold. In 2016, MX5 broke its own record, selling its one-millionth unit.
8. Jaguar E-Type
When a sports car is acknowledged to be one of the best by its own rival brand, there’s no doubt that the automobile is a genuine treasure. Manufactured between 1961 to 1975, the Jaguar E-Type perfectly blended stunning, clean design and dynamic performance and speed while offering it at a competitive price, making it one of the most iconic sports cars in the sports motoring world.
9. Chevrolet Corvette
One of the most famous sports cars in America and around the globe, the Chevrolet Corvette is a two-door, two-seater sports vehicle, which has been in constant production since its release in 1953. Though it’s not renowned as an exotic car, it topples them instead with its high-degree performance at an affordable price. Already transcending eight design generations, the Corvette featured a unique look and appeal on its release but has stayed true to being very reliable and consistent.
10. Porsche 911
Capping this list is the Porsche 911, the speed machine from the German automobile manufacturer which has been one of the first models people think of when talking about sports cars. Released in 1963, only slight changes have been made with most of the time it went into production, proving that the Porsche has nailed it the first time around. Though the latest version is bigger, heavier, and more elegant, it still has a great resemblance to its original counterpart. Today, its impressiveness lingers and remains as the barometer for all the other sports cars being produced.