Cars have been an integral part of modern industrialized world since their invention over a century ago. From the early days of hand-cranked starters to today’s sophisticated torque vectoring and 4-wheel steering systems, cars have advanced a long way in their development and adoption of technology. While evolution of the car largely focuses on making them better, safer and more reliable for the daily driver, there is a niche breed amongst them who are built purely for speed. The Classic Supercar. Every schoolboy’s dream, their perfect bedroom poster and the reason why most of them would grow up fantasizing unusually early morning wake up calls to head out to the nearest mountain road.
But when did this all begin, who do we have to thank and pay homage to? Which was the world’s first supercars?
While sports cars started to appear in the late 40s as a bi-product of fast cars that were made for motorsport competitions and tried to balance themselves between the realms of the real world and the racing one, it wasn’t until later that sports car makers submitted to the desires of those who wanted a machine purely for speed, a race-bred product purely for the roads. Here’s a list of the first ten supercars the world ever saw.
The name less known gets the credit for being the first supercar. The term ‘supercar’ was first used for Ensign 6 in an advertisement published in ‘The Times’ newspaper for 11th November 1920. Ensign 6 as per reports had a 6.7-Litre engine and had supreme performance. Oxford Dictionary also cites the use of the word ‘Supercar’ for an unnamed car in ‘The Motor’ on 3rd November 1920. Back then the car was defined by the phrase- ‘a car superior to all others’
Bentley Speed Six
Introduced in the year 1928, the Speed Six was one of the most successful racing Bentley. Based on Bentley’s Rolling Chassis architecture the Speed Six was powered by a 6.5-Litre engine producing 180hp. In March 1930, Woolf Barnato (owner of Speed Six) raced against the Blue Train in a Speed Six with H. J. Mulliner saloon coachwork, and soon the two Speed Sixes came to be known as Blue Train Bentleys due to their involvement in the Blue Train Races.
The Mercedes 300 SL ‘GullWing’
Photo from Bonhams Grand Palais 2017
Though fast sports cars by companies like Ferrari, Porsche and other brands were there, the introduction of Mercedes 300 SL ‘GullWing’ in the year 1954 has an important place in the automotive world. Back then it came with a 3.0-litre fuel injection engine that was capable of producing 240bhp. It had a claimed top speed of 165mph (265.5 kmph). It was the first ever production fuel injected car with world’s fastest top speed. Its classic supercar design with 2 seats and distinctive gull wing doors is still considered as of the most iconic designs of the automotive world. A total of 3,258 300SLs were built and the ones that survive are now one of the most sought after supercars.
Above photo: RM Sotheby’s 2016 Monterey Auction
The year 1965 saw Ford bringing in the GT40, which many people believed to be the world’s very first supercar. The GT40 won the 24 Hours of LeMans for four consecutive years (1966-1969). It was powered by a powerful Ford’s V8 engine worked upon by none other than the legendary Carol Shelby. The last GT car was produced in the year 1969 with only 107 units being built.
Above photo: 1971 Lamborghini Miura SV Restored
Most considered the Miura to be the first true supercar when it was introduced in 1966 at the Geneva Motor Show. The Lamborghini Miura was the first production car to come with a mid-mounted engine and a radical body design that was created by Marcello Gandini of Bertone. The Miura came with a powerful 3.9-litre V12 engine that was transversely mounted and produced around 345 hp. Only 764 cars were ever built between 1966-1973
Maserati Ghibli was first unveiled in the year 1966 at the Turin Motor Show. Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro at Ghia the car was a 2 door coupe with pop up headlamps, leather seats and alloy wheels. It was luxurious and came with features which were rare back then like Air Conditioners etc. The car was powered by a 4.7-litre V8 engine which churned out 306bhp. The Ghibli did a 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds and could attain a top speed of 155 mph (250kmph). Ghibli Spyder and Ghibli SS were launched in the year 1969. The SS came with a 4.9-litre V8 engine which produced 330bhp of power and could reach a top speed of 174mph (280kmph), making it the fastest Maserati car ever produced at that time. The last Ghibli was produced in the year 1973 and is known as an iconic supercar.
Ferrari 365 GTB Daytona
In the year 1968 Ferrari entered the supercars league with the 365 GTB Daytona. The car still used the conventional front engine layout but the 4.4-litre V12 engine made the car capable of doing a 175mph (281 kmph) top speed and touched the 60 mph mark in 5.5 seconds. Designed by designer Leonardo Fioravanti at Pininfarina the GTB Daytona was produced till the year 1973.
De Tomaso Pantera
Pantera was a mid-engined supercar built by Italian car maker De Tomaso. It was their most popular model with over 7,000 units being built during its production run of 20 years. The Pantera was designed by American car designer Tom Tjaarda at the Italian design firm Ghia. The car was powered by big 5.8-litre V8 Engine producing 330hp. The car could attain a top speed of 159mph (256kmph).
The year 1971 saw the birth of another supercar from Maserati. It was a mid engined two seat coupe powered by a 4.7-Litre V8 engine. Bora had a top speed of 171 mph (275kmph). Later it was also offered with a 4.9-litre V8 engine. Considered by some to be the ‘Pinnacle of Maserati performance’ the production of Bora was stopped in the year 1978. A total of 564 cars were built.
Considered to be one of the most iconic and one of the most powerful supercars, the 365BB (Berlinetta Boxer) was launched in the year 1974. This was Ferrari’s first mid-engine supercar. Also it was the first Ferrari to sport the Cavallino Rampante (prancing horse) logo. The car shared the same V12 engine with the Daytona which attained a top speed of 175mph and did 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds. However the 365 BB had better handling than the Daytona.
The same year of 1974 saw birth of another iconic supercar the Lamborghini Countach. This stunningly shaped supercar had the Lamborghini’s 4.0-Litre V12 Engine. The claimed speed for the first Countach LP400 was 186mph (approx 300kmph) and was capable of doing 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds. Designed by Marcello Gandini the car with its design and performance is considered to be an icon even today. A total of 2049 Countachs were produced in between the year 1974-1990.