The Fastest Street Cars — Ever
The world’s first automobile, the Benz Patent Motorwagen, was unveiled in Mannheim, Germany, in 1886. Made of steel tubing and wooden panels, this Karl Benz creation had three wheels, a rear-mounted engine and a whopping top speed of 10 mph. Oh, have things changed in the last hundred or so years. Steel and wood have been replaced by lightweight carbon fiber and Kevlar, and aerodynamics and automotive engineering have become serious fields of research, all in the effort to go faster and faster. Two dozen autos have claimed the mantle of world’s fastest street car since the Motorwagen made its debut, with the current record holder capable of a mind-blowing 257 mph. To satisfy your need for speed, here are the 10 fastest street cars of all time.
Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport
SSC Ultimate Aero TT
Made from carbon fiber, steel and titanium and decked out with so-called butterfly doors, the SSC Ultimate Aero TT holds the Guinness World Record for fastest production car, having blasted down a two-lane highway in Washington state in 2007 at 257 mph. It pulls zero to 60 mph in 2.78 seconds thanks to its 1,094 lb-ft of torque and 1,183 horsepower — more grunt than any other street car. Company founder David Shelby (SSC stands for Shelby Super Cars) is an engineer and former go-kart champion who combined his two passions to create the car. He incorporated racing elements (a manual transmission, no power steering and a roaring engine) with normal creature comforts (a navigation system, an LCD DVD/video screen and a color palette that includes orchid and copper).
SSC Ultimate Aero
Bugatti Veyron 16.4
The Veyron accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 2.46 seconds, from zero to 100 in 5.2 seconds, and from zero to 250 in 50 seconds — all this despite weighing nearly 4,500 pounds. Even more surprising than its speed may be its braking ability: It can brake from 60 mph back down to zero in 2.3 seconds. The 2-tone retro design harks to the 1920s and 1930s, as does the level of luxury (Hermes is a Bugatti collaborator). It’s a car you’d expect Bugsy Siegel to have driven back in the day. In 2005 the Veyron was clocked at 253 mph, which at the time made it the fastest road car in the world. It’s also the most expensive, fetching $1.7 million a pop.
Bugatti Veyron 16.4
This Swedish 2-seater with a removable hardtop had a short-lived reign as the world’s fastest street car in 2005, when it was recorded at 241 mph on an Italian racetrack. Its zero to 60 time is 3.2 seconds, and it develops 806 horsepower (measured with the first-ever horsepower gauge in a production car). Founded by Christian von Koenigsegg in 1994, the company builds its cars in a former Swedish Air Force facility where fighter jets were stored. Painted on the CCR’s carbon-fiber and Kevlar body is a ghost, which was the symbol of the squadron that used the hangar. Earlier this year, Koenigsegg led a consortium of investors to purchase fellow Swedish automaker Saab from General Motors.
This car dominated as fastest in the world (240 mph) for a whopping seven years, from 1998 to 2005, and pulls from zero to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds. In 1995 the F1 became the first street-legal car to beat prototype race cars in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. A 3-seater with the driver’s seat set in the middle of the car and two passenger seats slightly behind on either side, the F1 was designed by Formula One race car designer and engineer Gordon Murray. He used materials such as titanium, gold, carbon fiber, magnesium and Kevlar to create a lightweight, powerful vehicle. When it was released, British car magazine Autocar gushed: “The F1 . . . may possibly be the fastest production road car the world will ever see.”
A catalytic converter got in the way of British Formula One driver Martin Brundle’s initial attempt at breaking the world record for fastest road car in 1992. Ditching the converter allowed him to increase the engine’s speed from 7200 to 7900 rpm, which made all the difference in clinching the record — 212 mph. Brundle later pushed it to 217 mph, setting a world record in the early ’90s. Jaguar executives had set out to create the first road-legal car to break the 200 mph barrier, and the car — a 2-door coupe — was eventually named for its targeted top speed (220 mph). It didn’t quite achieve that goal, but it did go from zero to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, reportedly luring owners such as Elton John and the sultan of Brunei.
Bugatti EB110 SS
Just 31 of these cars were built by Bugatti, the luxury-car manufacturing company founded by Italian Ettore Bugatti in the early 1900s. With a carbon-fiber chassis made by an aircraft company, the EB110 SS maxed out at 214 mph and could hit 60 mph in just 3.2 seconds. Bells and whistles included lifting scissor doors (all the rage in the early 1990s) and a glass cover for the V12 engine (for viewing purposes). Bugatti built 139 EB110s, but only a fraction of those were SS versions (stands for Super Sport). The EB110 SS was lighter and more powerful (592 horsepower) than its progenitor — and in 1992 it was the fastest road car on the planet.
In 1985 Lamborghini decided to create a car capable of hitting 195 mph. It succeeded with the Diablo, which was still the fastest machine of its era when this slick Raging Bull finally hit the streets in 1990, maxing out at 202 mph and hitting 60 mph in 4.1 seconds. It was customizable in unprecedented ways, including the option of having the driver’s seat molded especially for the buyer. But in other ways, it was bare bones: a basic radio, manual windows and no anti-lock brakes helped keep its weight down. Ferruccio Lamborghini used the bull as his emblem from the get-go when he founded the company in 1963, and he named each model for a famous fighting bull, including the Diablo — a legendary 1860s Spanish bull.
Debuting as Ferrari’s fastest (zero to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds) and most expensive (the sticker price was $400,000, but buyers reportedly paid up to $1.6 million) car in 1987, the F40 had a 2-year reign as the world’s fastest production car, clocking in at a top speed of 195 mph. Designed to coincide with Ferrari’s 40th anniversary, the F40 was the last car released before company founder Enzo Ferrari’s death. It was on the cutting edge of aerodynamics technology at the time, relying more on shape than power to create speed. Because it was so low to the ground, Ferrari engineers enabled it to automatically raise its ground clearance when necessary. The first models were race-car light: a plastic windshield and no carpet, door handles or sound system.
The 959 started life as a rally car in 1986 and was later built as a production car. It wasn’t street-legal in the United States until 1999, but several models were reportedly imported in the 1980s as showpieces. One important innovation that accounted for the 959’s speed (zero to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 199 mph) was its all-wheel drive, considered the most advanced drive system at the time. The car could change the torque distribution between rear and front wheels in various road conditions and could funnel extra power to the rear wheels for extra traction. A weight-saving nylon floor replaced the steel that most manufacturers were using in that era, and the body was made from aluminum and a composite similar to Kevlar.
Ferrari 288 GTO
Built between 1984 and 1986 to compete in a racing series that never got off the ground, the 272 cars constructed by Ferrari under the 288 GTO model name became street cars by default. The initials GTO stand for Gran Turismo Omologato — an Italian phrase that signals the car was compliant with racing specifications and guidelines but also road-legal. The 288 GTO, widely considered the inspiration for and predecessor to Ferrari’s F40, topped out at 189 mph (which was the record at the time) and shot up to 60 mph in less than five seconds. The 288 GTO’s V8 engine generated 400 horsepower.
Ferrari 288 GTO