Is there anything that incites more anger than a list that tries to rank the unquantifiable? For proof, visit the comment boards on any best-of list. Whether it’s a list of the 500 Greatest Songs, compiled with meticulous input from hundreds of writers and artists or a list of the All-TIME 100 Greatest Novels hand-selected by a few ranking experts in their field, no matter how hard anyone tries or how they justify their opinion, best-of lists can never satisfy everyone.
When it comes to sports cars, the endeavor might be just as futile. Everyone has a favorite sports car, and everyone has an opinion, no matter how ill conceived you may think it is. Every car fan also has different tastes. Classic car aficionados may swear by the ’60s muscle cars like the Mustang and Camaro, while today’s gearheads may be more apt to give a (deserved) nod to a Mercedes-Benz McLaren or the Lamborghini Diablo.
But, as a writer, there may be nothing more tempting than trying to compile a best-of list. (That’s probably why magazines and newspapers make it a point to compile these frequently). There is just something satisfying about etching your opinion in stone (so to speak), and having it judged for all to see.
So, without further ado, here is my list, in no particular order, of my favorite sports cars of all-time. Rather than focusing on performance, this list is meant to list cars that have carried long-lasting prestige and influence. The following cars exemplify the skills of engineers and designers and have all come to serve as the figureheads, the recognizable ambassadors, for their respective automakers, and many in doing so, they changed something fundamental about not only sports cars, but the automotive world:
Ferrari 250 GTO – Ferrari is one of the Italian labels that has dominated the world of performance for much of the past century. All told, Ferrari only produced 39 GTOs, making them one of the most sought-after and valuable sports cars ever produced. The 250 GTO not only featured a mighty 302 horsepower V-12, but had some of the slickest styling Ferrari has ever pulled off.
The 250 GTO’s performance was also unmatched for its time, as it propelled the automaker to capture the Constructors International Grand Touring Championship three years running in 1962, 1963, and 1964. Today, it’s only the most expensive car in the world, with some versions selling for more than $35 million, or money than even more than most athletes make in a year.
Bugatti Veyron – Though it was designed by the same people that helmed Volkswagen, the Bugatti Veyron has as little in common with a Beetle as a car possibly could. It is the fastest street-legal car ever produced, and one of the most expensive. And, while not as well known as the McLarens, Lamborghinis and high-end luxury sports cars of our era, one only has to see the reaction these cars get at major events to know why they are included. Among car fans, even the teenagers I saw at this year’s New York Auto Show, the Bugatti is something to be revered.
Even with the sentiment aside, the car has some serious credentials: It has the fastest top speed, fastest acceleration and the most horsepower, all for a bargain at $1.2 million.
Shelby Cobra – The car that helped define an era and push the limits of muscle car performance can’t really be excluded from any list. The brainchild of the late racing great Carroll Shelby, the Cobra is a car that’s about as storied (and important) as any classic band or book. No wonder it’s been owned by some of the coolest people around, from Jim Morrison and Alice Cooper to Sean Penn and Bill Cosby (Well, the comedian returned it after one ride).
Still, cool can only get you so far. At some point, you need to back it up with great performance. Of the Shelby’s’, the Super Snake may be the standout. It had a 427ci V-8 and hit top speeds of roughly 200 mph without the help of lightweight carbon fiber, electronic stability control and a host of other modern bells and whistles.
Porsche 911 – Porsches are known for their smart designs, but the company’s flagship sports car just about trumps them all. The 911 moniker has endured for six decades due to its revolutionary style, and in total, more than 50 different models have been produced under the name. The car has also been able to adapt to the times. The first 911 offered 130 HP, today’s models top 350 HP.
In 2012, purchasing a Porsche 911 is a bit like purchasing Converse high-tops. There are so many million colors, makes, models, performance upgrades and body styles to choose from that simply having one isn’t enough. Case and point, of the 16 Porches Jay Leno owns, two are 911s. (Okay, one’s a 911 GT2 and the other’s a 911 GT3). But, the 911 is the only Porsche Leno owns two of, and there’s a reason for that.
Chevrolet Corvette – No offense to the Mustang or the Camaro, but when Chevy introduced the Corvette in 1953, the American sports car era arguably began. Before that time, General Motors, then the largest company in the world, didn’t have a signature sports car.
That changed, however, at the 1953 New York Auto Show, when a prototype of the car made the company’s chief engineer jump out of his seat. Why? He was convinced he had seen the future, and he was right. The Corvette name has lived on longer than any other car in production, and for a good reason: It is still one of the best values for performance, and arguably one of the finest American titles ever made. The line has been so cutting-edge and so elastic over the years, one could debate for hours about which single Corvette should be included in this list. (Hey, there’s an idea…)
What do you think of Pete’s list? Did your favorite sports car make the cut? If not, state your case below:
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