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How Did Cars Become Supercars?

By raccars Published

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Like superman compared to ordinary man, cars become designated supercars for demonstrating extraordinary capabilities far beyond what the average family saloon or hatchback can manage on the school run. They are faster, more brutal, often more uncomfortable, usually exclusive and almost always more expensive. They're not always useful to use on an everyday basis, being too low to navigate speed bumps, too wide for multistorey parking spaces and too cramped to fit the shopping into. However, the point of the supercar is to exhibit automotive excellence, which will eventually filter down to the cars we mere mortals can expect to drive.

The Bentley Speed Six could arguably be called the world's first supercar. It was a multiple winner at the Le Mans 24 Hours endurance challenge but was also road legal, and is famous for beating a train from Cannes to London.

The Jaguar XK120 spearheaded the next generation of superlatively fast, beautiful and expensive cars, with a top speed of 120mph - remarkable for the 1940s. It's hard to find another car which could lay claim to the supercar title until the next decade, with the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing. The first model in the Sport Licht or SL range, it was both menacing and elegant looking, distinguishable also for its gullwing doors. The 300SL was not only fast, it was also luxurious and has become a highly valuable, collectible vehicle today.

Probably the next supercar was the Lamborghini Miura, famous for its stunning looks and tendency to catch fire at speed... The Miura took real skill to drive and promised excitement every time you took the wheel. Its stablemate, the Countach, was another spectacular Italian effort, with a distinctive wedge shape and exotic nomenclature.

The 1980s were all about the Ferrari F40, a perfect description of the decade's excesses. The track focused Italian stallion was designed for pure speed and devoid of creature comforts. It was also gloriously noisy.

By the 1990s, McLaren had distilled all those decades of supercar development into a hypercar, the sublime and unmatchable F1. Its staggering power output and lightweight construction made it the fastest road car in the world at the time. Since then, the roster of cars wearing the super or hyper car tag has exploded, to include the legendary Bugatti Veyron and the current crop of monster hybrids: the Ferrari LaFerrari, the McLaren P1 and the Porsche 918.

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