We look at a (contentious) list of machinery that, for their time, were the fastest production cars you could buy
1. 1894 BENZ VELO
This makes the list by virtue of being the first commercially available car. Outpacing anything a horse was capable of, it got to a monocle-popping, genuflection-inducing 20 km/h. This is one of the few cars on this list that actually achieved its top throttle on public roads, no doubt.
2. 1949 JAGUAR XK 120
Like waiting for a new Star Wars film that didn’t suck, what seemed like an eternity (55 years) passed before Jaguar broke cover with their XK 120. The first one was delivered to none other than that era’s Clooney, Clark Gable who obviously needed something for people to look at other than his face. A production model flirted openly with the mythical 125 mph mark reaching 201.6 km/h.
3. 1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300 SL
6 years later Mercedes-Benz incredibly brought out something faster and better looking than ‘the leaper.’ Initially the idea for a road going version of Merc’s Silver Arrows F1 car was proposed by Max Hoffmann, who held the rights to distribute Mercedes-Benz in North America. His idea doesn’t seem that daft now given the launch of the Project 1 last year. The 300 SL was an immediate success and it was not only the fastest (242.5 km/h) and best looking (with those gullwing doors) but also the first production car with fuel injection and remains one of the most beautiful, most sought after cars ever produced.
4. 1959 ASTON MARTIN DB4 GT
It’s an old trick, but one that has often been implemented from Boksburg stock car racing ovals to the DB4 GT: Want to go faster? Take out the seats you don’t need. That’s what Aston Martin did when they shortened the wheelbase on the DB4’s GT version and as a result lost the rear seats. The GT was already lighter given the use of aluminium, which back then would have been considered space age if anyone had invented a space ship yet. The result shook and stirred (couldn’t resist a lame 007 gag) the motoring world with the Aston trotting to a cravat-rustling 245 km/h shading the 300SL’s top end… just.
5. 1963 ISO RIVOLTA GRIFO A3/L 327
With a name that sounds like a cure-all tincture comprising of mainly cod liver oil and benzine, and that rolled off the tongue like a mouthful of cinnamon powder the ISO Grifo Rivolta was anything but revolting to look at. Using the heady cocktail of Corvette/Chev or Ford big-block engines and designed by Bertone this grand tourer’s sole purpose was to compete with Ferrari and Maserati. 412 examples were produced between 1963 and 1974 before production ceased but not before they briefly stood on top of the speed charts with the A3/L reaching 259 km/h.
6.1965 AC COBRA MARK III 427
In 1965 the Americans arrived in Vietnam and on top of the stats list with the cultish AC Cobra. Using the there’s-no-replacement-for-displacement model, the 427 cubic inch (7.0-litre) engine shunted the Cobra to an impressive 266 km/h.
7. 1967 LAMBORGHINI MIURA/1968 FERRARI 365 GTB/4 DAYTONA
Various versions of these two beauts that only the 60s could have produced kept outdoing each other during that decade, cementing a rivalry that continues today. It’s hard to see how the sculpted Miura and drop dead gorgeous Daytona have anything in common with the modern brutes that Ferrari and Lamborghini produce nowadays, but for a while they were the fastest on earth with top speeds of 275 and 280 km/h respectively.
8/9. 1974 LAMBORGHINI COUNTACH LP400/LP500 S
Then this happened. With a name that is a more pastoral Piemontese expression of ‘wtf’, the Countach blew everything we’d seen away. Every kid in the 70s and 80s had one on their wall (usually next to Bryan Robson, Ian Rush or Cindy Crawford). It changed the game with the LP 500 S reaching close to 300 km/h.
10. 1984 FERRARI 288 GTO
Ferrari were having none of it though and a decade after the LP 400 broke the mythical 300 km/h barrier with the beautiful GTO (it reached 303 km/h).
11. 1986 PORSCHE 959
Just when no-one thought things could get weirder (or faster) Porsche kicked a goal with the still-impressive 959, the motoring equivalent of German techno combined with 911-ish brutalism made it the fastest on the road for a brief stint when it reached 317 km/h at Nardo. And all with Porsche’s traditional flat-six engine configuration.
12. 1987 FERRARI F40
Obviously Maranello decided to crank up the madness and send the Germans back to the lab. Strangely, the F40 is often remembered more for its perspex windows and drawstring opening mechanism sometimes than the fact that it was as close as you could get to an F1 car in the turbo-crazed 80s. It reached 323 km/h.
13. 1993 MCLAREN F1
It took a South African, Gordon Murray, to create what is still the fastest naturally-aspirated road car ever. He listened to F1 engineers (he was one himself) to deliver the monstrous performance (371 km/h) and F1 drivers who clearly needed an option and a prime girlfriend in the seats either side of the driver. We won’t see the likes of this again.
14. 2005 BUGATTI VEYRON/2010 BUGATTI VEYRON SUPERSPORT
Usually people retire with a boring speech about the old days, when they leave a company. Not Dr Ferdinand Piech. He inspired VW’s engineering department to stop sending each other memes and lollygagging and get to making the fastest production car ever known. The eccentricities of this rather ordinary looking specimen are well documented but the bottom line will always be its top speed of 431 km/h for 2010’s Supersport version which eclipsed the original 2005 Veyron.
15. 2017 KOENNIGSEGG AGERA RS
There’s something called the IMW option available when you order your Agera RS. What does it do? Simply put, it catapults you into the stratosphere of production car limits. Racelogic verified the top end at 447 km/h on independent runs, meaning the Swedes are currently top of the pops, which is where they always seem to be. Cue ABBA’s Dancing Queen…