School: James Gillespie’s High School, Edinburgh
Imagine climbing into your dream car. It can do over 250mph and the seats are vaguely comfortable. The acceleration sends a jolt of adrenaline up your spine and when it brakes it tries to tear your face off. I don’t know what your favourite car is, but it’s probably a supercar.
In this piece I’ll be talking about well-known brands like Ferrari and Mercedes as well as brands that are practically unheard of. Zenvo?? Gumpert??
Ever since the car was invented in 1885, people have been obsessed with making it go fast. That being said, the first proper supercar, a fast car that is in the top percentage of not just one statistic, but everything, only came about in 1952. It was called the Mercedes 300SL. It ran at a top speed of 127mph, which was the fastest road speed ever in its day, and had an impressive 215bhp. An average family car today usually has a top speed of 100mph and 70bhp. The best thing about the 300SL was that it set the tone for pretty much every sporting Merc ever after. It had gullwing doors, with hinges at the top like ET’s spaceship, and large ducts on the wheel arches that were a very dominant feature. Compared to the supercars of today it was slow, unwieldy and had handling like a brick, but back then it was considered brilliant. Sales of the 300SL were plentiful well into the ‘60s, until a NEW king supercar was ready.
Ferrucio Lamborghini was a tractor builder, but he began working for Ferrari in the ‘50s. Enzo Ferrari treated his employees in a hard-nosed way and it wasn’t long before Ferrucio and Enzo had a fall-out. Ferrucio started his own company, Lamborghini. They made small, fast, GT saloons like the Islero and the Urraco, until somebody came up with a gem of an idea. Miura. This brand new, brightly coloured supercar was the very definition of fast, stylish and easy to drive. It went up to 171mph, which was WAY faster than the 300SL, and it had brilliant acceleration as well. But the best thing about it was the styling. Done by the young Marcello Gandini of Bertone, I think it was, and still is, the best looking car on the face of this earth.
The sales of the Miura rocketed, and new sub-models like the S, SV and Jota took off well
also. But eventually my favourite car was thrown off the throne because it was too retro and just didn’t cut it. There was an interregnum of no-supercar-dom until Lamborghini came back in 1974.
Lamborghini’s Miura glory was fading, so they decided to make a new crazy, stupid-fast supercar. Enter the Countach. The word has been pronounced in many different ways by many different people, but it is actually said like coon-tash, not count-ach like most people say it. The car means fast, pioneering and doorstop-like styling. It was big, red and dominating, 181mph and really fashionable. I don’t like it much: the wedge-like styling was a big hit with the public, but now it looks kind of dull. Other people did like it, however, and it sold for a straight 15 years before people got bored of it in 1990.
Meanwhile, Ferrari was fed up with being squashed by the Miura’s big dynasty, so they retaliated. Big time. Their new car, the F40, was a revolutionary supercar that shook the world in 1987, with 471bhp on tap. It was the late 80s and the world was experimenting with technology, so the F40 was the first supercar with actual electric gadgets in it! The best thing? 201mph, and the styling was a little more toned-down than the Countach. Because this was the first car over 200mph, and it had the legendary Ferrari name on it, the car really took off. But production stopped, for no apparent reason, in 1992.
In ’88, some official people from the famous McLaren Formula 1 team were chatting about how they were going to make a new supercar. A fast one. In 1992, this came about with the McLaren F1. It went at a jaw dropping 246mph and had so much bhp that nobody could get near enough to measure it. It was a hissing, spitting howler of a car, with modern, never-before-seen styling and three seats, one in front in the middle. Cool. Followed by the F1LM, F1GT-R and F1LMGT-R, the car was a keeper well into the 2000s. Other supercars were on the scene, like the Ferrari F50 and the Acura NSX, but the F1 and only one other could fit into the history books. The one other was the Pagani Zonda, a car that had to have a new category all to itself, the hypercar. A hypercar is not necessarily as fast as a supercar, but its handling and looks are crazy. It’s the sort of car that throws The Stig from Top Gear head over heels on the track, and makes people either gasp or run away when they see it. The Zonda was one such car.
These two cars reigned supreme until 2005, when a game-changer came along. The Bugatti Veyron. If you ever see a book about fast cars for small boys, 9 out of 10 times it has a Veyron
on the front. But I have personal problems with the Veyron: it’s ugly, heavy, fat and slow. 253 mph? C’mon! Even a light particle could go 2650658.61264 times faster than that (approximately!) The worst thing about it is that it’s comfortable! No true supercar should have leather seats. It’s not allowed.
The Veyron still lives on, and many supercar makers have tried and failed to make their car the Next Big Thing. Some cars have come close, but only a few stand out from the crowd. The Pagani Huayra (said hwie-ra), the Lamborghini Aventador or perhaps the McLaren P1, but nothing is as “special”. We turn then to hypercars. Remember when I said the Zonda was the first hypercar? Well, during the Veyron’s big rule, many more have sprung up. The Danish ZENVO, the Ascari, many more types of Pagani that are all the same, the plug-ugly Gumpert Apollo. Right now, the fastest car is the Texan Hennessey Venom GT, a practically unknown hypercar with 277mph. My favourite hypercar is the Koeniggsegg Agera RS, a Swedish car with an unpronounceable name and a 273mph top speed. But the Veyron still rules.
So, during this piece, I’ve taken you chronologically through most of the supercars, from the Merc 300SL to the Countach to the Koeniggsegg Agera RS. I’ve gone on at length about some, and not said enough about others. But all I’ve really done is consolidated my greatest fear. The best supercar is indeed the Bugatti Veyron.