Whether it’s because of their revolutionary technology or innovative approach, these 10 sports cars completely changed the segment.
The twentieth century was a very busy one as far as the automobile industry was concerned. It began with the development of the work started by Carl Benz towards the end of the previous century. Then more carmakers, notably from America, Europe, and some parts of Asia – emerged and began experimenting with different ideas for their automobiles. It was a period that witnessed countless innovations as cars gradually transformed from being messy, loud contraptions to more streamlined machines that incorporated increasingly sophisticated technology.
Thanks to the innovations and inventions made in motorsports, The sports car segment was not left out of these changes and featured an entire array of cars that pioneered automotive technology in one form or the other. Here are some notable sports cars that set high standards and pushed the boundaries of automotive technology to new lengths.
10 McLaren F1
Even today, the beautiful McLaren F1 is spoken about with reverence and awe. The all-conquering supercar has a kind of aura that modern hypercars still find hard to match. The car had a long list of revolutionary technologies woven into its skin that has kept it in haloed company ever since its launch in 1992.
Among other things, it was the first car to feature a carbon-fiber monocoque for improved rigidity. It also had a gold-lined engine bay to effectively manage the heat generated from the insanely powerful naturally aspirated engine. Then there was the unique central driving position that greatly improved all-round visibility.
9 Lamborghini Miura
The Miura is often regarded as the first true supercar and for good reason too. The mid-engine V12 car was the one that truly announced Lamborghini on a big scale. It was the first production supercar to feature a rear mid-engine two-seat layout where the powerplant sits just behind the driver.
This format was later adopted by several other carmakers. At the time of its debut, it was the fastest production car in the world with a top speed of 174mph and a 6.3-second gallop to 60mph.
8 Porsche 959
The German carmaker has an illustrious history filled with ground-breaking vehicles but the incredible 959 is fully deserving of a special mention. The car was at the very forefront of automotive technology in the ’80s. For one, it had seven on-board computers at a time when most cars had zero.
Then there were the twin-turbos. Other cars such as the F40 had them but in the 959, they were placed in a sequential manner to reduce lag. It was no surprise then that the 959 was the fastest production Porsche ever made. Its record stood for over 20 years – and then the 918 Spyder arrived.
7 1951 Jaguar C-Type
This British sports car took the meaning of aerodynamic design to a whole new level with its sleek frame intended to cut through the air with very little drag. The car was little more than a 205bhp straight-six engine wrapped in a tubular steel frame, which was then encased in a sleek aluminum shell.
It was a simple design but one that was brutally effective. The C-Type made its racing debut at the 1951 LeMans race and won by nine laps. That sleek design would eventually find its way to other road-going cars.
6 1964 Ford GT40
The legendary first-generation Ford GT was developed with one purpose in mind – beat Ferrari at LeMans. This was going to be no easy feat. Ferrari already had several years of valuable racing experience and successes to draw from. The car had to be something quite special indeed and the Ford GT40 was that car.
The Ford GT40 experimented with a super low design; it was only 40 inches above the ground and was built with an emphasis on aerodynamics and speed. After a couple of disappointments, the Ford GT40 eventually hit its stride, totally obliterating Ferrari at the 1966 and 1967 editions of the famous 24 Hours of LeMans endurance race.
5 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing
Today, the Benz 300SL Gullwing is one of the most desirable collectible cars, and back when it launched in 1954, it was pretty hot cake as well. ‘SL’ is an abbreviation of the German phrase ‘Sport Leicht,’ which means Sport Light, and is a direct reference to the car’s weight-saving construction components.
The car also had the world’s first production direct-injection engine, which could generate more than 200h – enough to make the 300SL Gullwing a one-time fastest production car. Then there are those iconic gullwing doors, which are unquestionably the car’s most distinguishing feature.
4 Ferrari F40
The Miura might have been the first true supercar but the F40 set new standards and took the supercar definition to a whole new level. The car’s tubular steel frame was reinforced with Kevlar panels that provided three times more rigidity than comparable cars at the time.
The F40 also successfully incorporated several technologies from race cars in its engine and overall mechanical design. Various lightweight materials such as magnesium, Kevlar, and carbon-fiber were used to keep the weight down. The result was the first production car to crack the 200mph speed barrier.
3 Mitsubishi 3000GT
This sports car truly does not get the attention it truly deserves, having lost the spotlight to much more popular Japanese products such as the Supra MKIV or the Miata. However, when the car debuted in 1990, it was miles ahead of the competition.
It was one of the first Asian cars to use active aero and also had other components such as all-wheel-drive, active exhaust, active suspension, and a pair of turbos, all put together in a highly sophisticated package that was hard to match at the time.
2 1963 Porsche 911
The Porsche 911 GT2RS currently sits at the top of the 911 hierarchy as the most potent 911 ever built. However, the journey began decades ago in 1963, when the first 911 was launched. At that time, it was known as the 901 before the name change a year later. The car was powered by a six-cylinder flat engine with eight crankshaft bearings that was a completely new development at the time.
It was a formula that obviously worked and has now endured till this day across eight generations and countless variations of one of the most iconic sports cars ever made.
1 Pagani Zonda C12
The legendary Zonda arrived at the tail-end of the century and announced Horacio Pagani to the car world in a big way. The car debuted at the 1999 Geneva Auto Show and it was immediately clear that this was something special.
The car featured a shape that had never been seen before and was the first supercar to feature a clear carbon-fiber coated body. The original Zonda would go on to spawn a long line of Zonda variants and would eventually set the stage for its successor, the Pagani Huayra.
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