Most random car fans will assume that NASCAR and F1 have the fastest cars on the planet. It’s pretty obvious why that mentality would take hold given how important they are for racing. They’ve increased their speeds over the years, although it’s still an unofficial rule that they mostly retain the same speeds in order to avoid an unfair advantage.
This has led to the shift of how several racing cars are now available to the regular car owner. Most fall under the “sports car” label yet are known for amazing speeds that can often leave a NASCAR or F1 machine in the dust. They are powerful machines that can turn a country drive into feeling like you’re at the Indy 500 and make for an astounding experience.
Sadly, some sports cars aren’t exactly the same in terms of speed. Some are cars that were good for their eras but advances in technology have rendered them almost irrelevant as racing machines. However, even cars meant to be racing machines in their time failed due to bad design, weak engines, and not being able to generate enough horsepower. It’s amazing to see cars, some brand new, that can rock the drivers with their astounding ability to hit the road in record time.
For every such machine is a “race car” that goes slower than some regular cars on the road. Here are 10 of the fastest sports cars ever built and 10 of the slowest.
20 SLOWEST: 1980 California Corvette, 0-60 in 8.0 seconds
Often ranked as probably the single worst Corvette ever built, this model was created for just one state in one single year. That alone says it all. Corvettes of that time already had a poor 5.7-liter, 190-hp engine. This topped that with a 5.0-liter V8 with just 180 hp, which meant this car took roughly 8 seconds to hit 60 mph and its top speed was around 85 mph. The car has achieved notoriety due to its limited production and is showcased at some shows. A few folks have even tried to race them only to realize there’s no way this car can possibly match the speed of a Pinto. No wonder Chevrolet doesn’t like to remember the 1980s.
19 FASTEST: McLaren F1, 241 MPH
Given all their experience with F1 racing, it only made sense McLaren could develop an utterly brilliant supercar. When it debuted in 1994, Autocar magazine gushed “it will be remembered as one of the greatest events in the history of the car and it may be the fastest production road car the world will ever see.” While the latter part of that statement has since been proven untrue, the first part still holds up pretty well. It’s astounding that a 25-year old McLaren can still outpace scores of advanced modern race cars in terms of speed and performance. It also remains one of the most beautiful race cars ever designed and lives up to its legacy as an icon.
18 SLOWEST: Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, 0-60 in 8.8 seconds
In its time, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL was hailed as one of the best race and sports cars on the road. Sadly, that time was 1956. Sure, it was once voted “Sports Car of the Century” in a 1999 poll and collectors still go wild for it (Jay Leno spent years trying to get one for his collection). However, in terms of today’s performance, the 300 SL lags far behind more advanced cars. It gets attention for its wonderful design, with its groundbreaking gullwing doors, and it did earn victories at Le Mans and other races. Yet, compared to today’s machines, the 300 SL is among the slower race cars built and has an engine that hasn’t aged well.
17 FASTEST: Koenigsegg CCR, 242 MPH
Its time in the spotlight was rather brief, as Koenigsegg was soon developing the CCX and then the Agera. However, the CCR still remains a very impressive racing powerhouse. The 4.7-liter, twin-supercharged V8 could push out 806 horses, which was pretty impressive for 2005. What really helped the CCR out was its terrific bodywork, with a larger front splitter allowing for optimized downforce, aiding it in reaching zero to 60 in 3.2 seconds. It set a speed record at the Nardo Ring in Italy, although it was short-lived before the Veyron hit. In many ways, the CCR paved the way for Koenigsegg’s more famous machines but remains a great car in its own right.
16 SLOWEST: Ferrari Mondial, 0-60 in 9.4 seconds
Seeing a Ferrari on a list of the slowest racing cars may be jarring to some people. However, the Mondial isn’t known as one of the better models for the iconic brand. It boasted the same great V8 engine as other Ferraris but was saddled with a much heavier body and a stretched frame. The horsepower was just 214, very low for a Ferrari. The worst part was that it still cost a pretty penny and was seen as majorly overcharging because of its lack of reliability that included a bad gearbox. Only 147 of these were introduced in the US and they did not do well. It shows even Ferrari can produce a dud.
15 FASTEST: Saleen S7 Twin-Turbo, 248 MPH
Car lovers adore the Saleen. It’s legendary because, amid the pack of exotic foreign speedsters, the “built in the USA” Saleen can match any competitor. The S7 is still regarded as their masterpiece. Produced from 2000 to 2009, it carried its engines in its name, as the Ford Windsor V8 was capable of producing 750 hp. That meant it could hit zero to 60 in just 2.8 seconds. In 2000, that was an almost unthinkable acceleration rate and still tops many of today’s supercars. The six-speed transmission also aided along with the aerodynamic design to hit some seriously major speeds. It may be out of production but the S7 remains a beloved car still preferred over some of today’s top models.
14 SLOWEST: Mazda Miata, 0-60 in 9.0 seconds
Ah, the Miata. Few cars can divide automobile aficionados like this one. Some enjoy its nice design, light weight, and rather technologically advanced features for its time. Others slam its poor performance, rough upkeep, and, of course, its lack of serious speed. A Ford Focus or even a Chevy Beretta can easily out drag the Miata in reaching 60 mph. It is known as one of the biggest sellers of sports cars ever and can back it up with some decent performance in the curves. Yet in terms of straight-line speed, the Miata has long been outpaced by scores of better cars since. Some newer models can improve on the original yet the Miata still remains a car most liked for the handling more than its engine performance.
13 FASTEST: Tesla Roadster, 250 mph
No one can accuse Elon Musk of being the humble sort. Yet, it looks like he has a great reason to brag over the upcoming Roadster. While it’s not totally confirmed yet, the Roadster has been shown off at various shows and test tracks and is dropping jaws over its acceleration. It can go from zero to 60 in 1.9 seconds and hit 100 mph in just four seconds. That’s stunning considering that it’s an electric car. In fact, Musk is also claiming the car can last 620 miles on just one charge, even if it’s hitting the huge speeds. Leave it to Tesla to produce an electric car with speeds that put anything at F1 or NASCAR to shame.
12 SLOWEST: Pontiac Fiero, 0-60 in 10.6 seconds
Pontiac is well-known for doing some fancy PR work with some of their failed cars. A fine example was when the Fiero hit in 1984. It looked like a good vehicle with its nice design but complaints came in over its poor performance. Pontiac put out the story that the “Iron Duke” 2.5-liter engine was a deliberate move to create a fuel-efficient, everyday speedster. After more complaints flew in, the company finally had to own up to the fact it was just a slow car. Indy 500 fans still can’t believe it was the pace car for the 1984 race. It wasn’t as terrible as some other cars on this list yet the Fiero still pales in comparison to other sports cars of that decade.
11 FASTEST: SCC Ultimate Aero, 256 MPH
For a brief time, the Ultimate Aero could lay claim to being the fastest production car in the world. Even though it’s ceded that title to other cars, the Ultimate Aero is still a machine that can leave the best F1 cars in the dust. The only thing more impressive than the 6.3-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 putting out 1,287 horsepower is the fact that there are no electronic driving aids, which means it’s in the hands of the driver just how fast this car can go. It’s loved fans because of that “hands-on” approach and the fact it’s more affordable than other cars on this list (some can go for $225,000). It may not hold the record anymore but the Ultimate Aero remains a top speedster.
10 SLOWEST: DeLorean DMC-12, 0-60 in 10.5 seconds
The DeLorean has gotten major fame thanks to the Back to the Future movies. To many car buffs, though, the idea of a DeLorean becoming a time machine is more believable than it being a super-fast race car. There’s a good reason Doc Brown needed a huge empty parking lot to get the car to 88 mph. The fact it has the same engine as a Volvo should tell you why it’s such a slow starter. Frankly, it got more attention for the gullwing doors and some sleek angles than any actual performance. If not for the movies, it’s possible few would remember this car at all other than as one of the biggest lemons to ever come out of the 1980s.
9 FASTEST: Bugatti Chiron, 261 MPH
Top Gear is known for being pretty tough to impress with major cars. So it says a lot when the hosts gushed over the Chiron when they first drove it. James May openly called it “the car equivalent of the Concorde.” Recently, a new version was tested on the show by Chris Harris, who went even wilder for it. It’s easy to see why as it may not get to the major speeds of the Super Sport yet the Chiron is still an incredible racing machine. Bugatti’s standard quad-turbocharged W16 engine generates 1,500 horsepower. Combined with the unique design, it can cut loose majorly on an open road. The price tag is hefty but the Chiron is worth it.
8 SLOWEST: Porsche 914, 0-60 in 12 seconds
When auto magazines from 1973 deem a car seriously underpowered, you know it’s slow. Even Porsche can have some misfires and this is one of them. A key reason is that it was partly built by Volkswagen and the clash of identities ruined the car. There were huge fights on the body design, the weight, the type of engine, and more—and the final result shows how the car suffered. It looked okay but lacked the same polish as a classic Porsche. Also, the engine just couldn’t keep up with the demand and ruined the good reputation Porsche had. Some models can be liked today but its slow speed is a black mark on the Porsche name.
7 FASTEST: Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, 268 MPH
As good as the Chiron is on many levels, the Veyron has shown itself to be a bit faster in several tests. The original version was already excellent, with its amazing engine and design. When the SSC Ultimate Aero came by, Bugatti decided they needed to work hard to top it. Thus, the Super Sport was unveiled to mass acclaim. The quad-turbocharged W16 engine was enhanced to hit 1,200 HP and, combined with a new aerodynamic design, got a few more miles per hour of speed. Its top speed of 268 MPH remains locked in record books as one of the fastest sports cars ever developed.
6 SLOWEST: Crosley Hot Shot, 0-60 in 26.3 seconds
During World War II, the Crosley was an attractive car thanks to its fuel efficiency. However, the company’s attempts to build it into a racing car after the war were less successful. The Hot Shot wasn’t too terrible for its time, as one even won the Sam Collier Memorial Endurance Grand Prix in 1950...at an average speed of 52 miles an hour. Despite how Crosley engines dominated racing cars in the 1950s, the Hot Shot itself sagged under a large weight. It took the better part of half a minute for it to go to 60 miles an hour, which is outrageous. If ever a car failed to live up to its name, the Hot Shot was it.
5 FASTEST: Hennessey Venom GT, 270 MPH
Hennessey loves to boast over their car breaking records, although a few of them are up for debate. In 2013, the Venom GT did manage to show its ability to go from zero to 186 mph in 13 seconds. In 2014, it had a well-publicized run at the Kennedy Space Center, where it hit 270 on an open course. But because it was just in one direction, it wasn’t noted as an official record. Yet, it still showcases the power of this machine with its twin-turbocharged, 427 cu in (7.0 L) GM LSX V8 engine. Its amazing design also helps the car push up to speeds that even astronauts had to admire.
4 SLOWEST: Berkeley T60, 0-60 in 28-30 seconds
There was nothing wrong with a car company in England wanting to provide a sleek and affordable sports race car in the 1950s. The problem was the decision that a smaller size would increase speeds. That meant having just enough space for a 0.32 liter two-stroke engine, which meant it took up to 30 seconds to get to 60 mph. A bicycle could easily outpace this car on a downhill. And that’s without mentioning the tendency to billow out blue smoke, a poor chassis, and how it could break down if someone dared push it over 70. Berkeley went out of business in 1980 and given what they were putting out, it’s amazing they lasted that long.
3 FASTEST: Koenigsegg Agera RS, 278 MPH
Until the Hennessey Venom F5 officially hits the streets, the Agera RS can claim the prize for the fastest car on the planet. That’s been confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records and the original 25-model run sold out in record time (in spite of the whopping $3-million price tag per car). It’s an amazing machine on regular fuel but even better when mixing various grades. The max torque from the twin-turbo, aluminum, 5.0-liter V8 engine hits at 4,100 RPM, meaning that if this thing were on an open road, it would leave anyone in the dust. It may be ceding its title soon but for now, the Agera is the world's ultimate sports car.
2 SLOWEST: 1947 Triumph Roadster, 0-60 in 35 seconds
It may seem harsh to put a car from 1947 on this list. Yet it cannot be denied that in terms of racing machines, the Triumph was a failure even for its period. To be sure, it looks utterly beautiful with its classic structure, lush interior, and wonderful colors. When standing still, this lives up to its name as a Triumph of design and style for its time. It’s when it’s on the road that the problems come up. It takes nearly a minute for it to hit 60 mph, as that “old-school” design also robs it of speed thanks to a bulky body. In terms of speed, the Triumph is a loss.
1 FASTEST: Hennessey Venom F5, 301 MP
Technically, it hasn’t hit the market yet, however, the Hennessey Venom F5 is getting huge buzz thanks to how the company is backing how huge its speeds will be. The company built an entirely new 2,950-pound, carbon-fiber chassis and then attached a 1,600-hp, 7.4-liter, twin-turbo V8 to it. Right now, the official speed being reported by the company is over 300 mph. However, new reports are coming in that the speed may end up topping a whopping 311 mph or even more. The company showed the engine off at Monterey in late 2018 and has been streamlining it more since then. It’s set to be priced at $1.6 million yet that can be worth having the fastest car ever put on the market.
Sources: Speed Vegas, Jalopnik, and Wikipedia.