Welcome to MOTOR’s 60 Greatest Performance Cars of all time.
The list first appeared in our June 2014 issue as part of our 60th Anniversary celebrations. What better way to celebrate 60 years of testing performance cars than to name the best we’ve ever driven?
Now, given the last was compiled almost 12 months ago there are some obvious cars missing. At the time, we hadn’t driven the incredible LaFerrari or the sublime 458 Speciale, and we hadn’t yet sampled the excellent 991 GT3.
Bar a few recent models, however, it’s a list that’s unlikely to significantly change, now or into the future, as these 60 cars represent the pinnacle of performance motoring. That said, if we’ve missed your favourite, please let us know in the comments below. Enjoy.
60. Saab 99 Turbo
OK, so driving a Saab is about as cool as playing croquet, but everything from the Renault Clio to the McLaren P1 owes a debt of gratitude to this Swedish trendsetter. There had been turbo’d cars before, but they’d been peaky, tricky beasts to drive. The 99 fed boost to the masses, and became the first turbo car to win a WRC round in the hands of Stig Blomqvist.
59. Alfa 8C 2900
Built to conquer the world’s toughest sports car races, notably the Mille Miglia, (victorious in 1936 and ’37), coachbuilders then rejoiced in covering this race-winning package in some of the most beautiful shapes the automotive world has ever seen.
58. Datsun 240Z
Japan’s answer to the E-Type was an enormous hit in the US, where sadly, like a lot of other Americans, it got enormously fat – a shadow of its former self. But the original was light and powerful, with performance similar to its European counterparts at a fraction of the price.
57. Ford Mustang Cobra R
There are plenty of desirable Mustangs, and plenty of reasons to want to own one. But if you want one to drive hard, the 2000 Cobra R stands above the rest. Independent rear end, supercharged V8, close-ratio six-speed ’box, stripped interior – Ford’s Special Vehicles Team went to town on the Cobra R, and it showed.
56. FPV F6 Typhoon
Ford’s XR6 Turbo proved you didn’t need a V8 to be the Aussie performance car king and FPV turned the wick up even further. The arrival of ZF’s slick six-speed auto with the BF facelift only widened the gap and it wasn’t until the supercharged Miami V8 broke cover that the bent-eight regained the upper hand – and even then, only just.
55. Chevrolet Corvette L88
When it comes to American muscle, the 427-powered L88 has the Mr Universe title all sown up. Chevrolet quoted 320kW; adding another 100 got you closer to the truth. The race-spec engine, brutal ‘Rock Crusher’ gearbox and no heater made it wildly impractical for the road, but there’s no tougher Yank Tank.
54. Jaguar E-Type
To become fixated on the way it looks is to lose sight of the other reason the E-Type dropped jaws in the early ’60s – its performance. A 241km/h top speed and 0-100km/h time of around seven seconds was supercar stuff, independently verified by the media. Of course, actual customer cars weren’t anywhere near as fast as the ‘press specials’ but let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good story.
53. Toyota 2000GT
To us, it’s sexier than an E-Type – but with performance to rival a 911. Toyota’s stunning 2000GT was Japan’s first supercar. Didn’t move the game on in any significant way but was pivotal in helping shift peoples’ perceptions of Japanese cars (a one-off convertible starred in the Bond film You Only Live Twice) and provided the inspiration for two other cars further up this list.
52. Ariel Atom V8
The Ariel Atom has an exoskeleton, just like a lobster. This makes it interesting. But install a 373kW 3.0-litre V8 into this exoskeleton and the end result turns completely feral, buzzing with rage and fury like a lobster that’s just been dunked in a vat of boiling water. A car that needs its own straitjacket.
51. Mazda RX-7
Felix Wankel’s wacky engine concept found no finer home than the last iteration of Mazda’s iconic sports car. The compact dimensions of the 13B rotary did wonders for weight distribution and two turbos (acting sequentially) produced a beautifully progressive power curve. Rare, Aussie-built SP is the pick of the litter.