Speed: it's the one denominator of a sports car that creates the most buzz and excitement, and car makers will spend millions – sometimes billions – of dollars to say, "Our car is the fastest in the world."
Top 5: Fastest production cars
The first post-Second World War model from the British marque, it was launched, in roadster form, at the 1948 London Motor Show, to gauge public opinion. The response was so overwhelming the car went into production. The 120 referred to its top speed, in miles per hour (193kph), and the XK120s were very active on the racing scene and broke a number of records at the Autodrome de Montlhéry, near Paris, including; 172.94kph for 24 hours, 212.16kph for one hour, and 161.43kph for seven days and seven nights.
Anything Porsche can do, Ferrari can do better; at least, according to the Italians. In the mid-Eighties, the Italians and Germans had a little skirmish in the top-speed department, which resulted in the 288 GTO from Ferrari setting the record, only to be beaten by the Porsche 959. Then Ferrari hit back with the F40. The F40 was the first production car to break the 200mph (320kph) barrier. The name was in honour of the Prancing Horse's 40th anniversary and was the last car produced before Enzo Ferrari's death.
The XJ220 was born out of an informal group at Jaguar headquarters called the Saturday Club, which met on weekends to work on unofficial projects. Jim Randle, a member, wanted to create a vehicle that could exceed 320kph. When executives saw his concept, he was commissioned to build a car for the 1988 British Motor Show. The model that went into production differed from the concept in a number of ways, notably the V12 engine became a V6. Only 281 cars were made. Early buyers included Elton John and the Sultan of Brunei.
With each model taking three-and-a-half months to make, it was never going to be a mass-produced car. Between 1992 and 1998, only 106 of McLaren's first road cars were produced. Designed by Gordon Murray, the McLaren Formula One race car designer, the F1 became the fastest road car with a top speed of 386kph, and amazingly kept that record for the next 16 years before being bested by the Koenigsegg CCR. A new F1 had a price tag of almost US$1 million, but now they can sell for double that.
SSC Ultimate Aero
Shelby SuperCars company is owned by Jerrod Shelby (no relation to Carroll Shelby), who built replica cars before embarking on a seven-year mission to build his own. The Aero held the record of the fastest production car, reaching 412.28kph, until the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport surpassed it last year. SSC is working on an Aero II, aiming to break the record. The Aero did not have traction control, as Shelby said: "I wanted a car that you not only throttled with your right foot but at times you could steer with your right foot."