They're what dreams are made of. A supercar not only has to be fast but striking, too. Here are 10 legendary examples from the past, in no particular order...
1. Lamborghini Miura
A successful tractor manufacturer, Ferruccio Lamborghini was able to treat himself to a collection of nice cars. Aside from a 300SL Gullwing and an E-Type Jaguar, the Italian tycoon also owned a few of Maranello's finest. Although a fan of Ferraris, he didn't hold back on his critique of the Prancing Horse. Enzo Ferrari didn't take this well and after an argument about the integrity of Ferrari clutches, Lamborghini stormed off to make his own supercar. Just 120 examples of the 350GT were built between 1964 and 1966 but it was enough to get people interested in the Raging Bull. Designed against the wishes of Signor Lamborghini, the Miura was the result of engineers working in their spare time. Unveiled in 1966, the Miura was an instant success, eclipsing the previous 350GT. At the time, its gorgeous, streamlined styling resembled no other car. A rear mid-engined 3,9-litre V12 rocketed the Miura to 100 km/h in just 5,5 seconds and on to a top speed of 280 km/h. Today, the Miura is worth around U$1 000 000 (that's about R18 000 000).
2. Ferrari F40
The poster of choice on the bedroom wall of many an '80s baby, the Ferrari F40 was created to celebrate 40 years of Ferrari. What better way to do it than by desigining a twin-turbo 2,9-litre V8 and shoving it into a body weighing 1 100 kg? The F40 borrowed its V8 from the already potent 288 GTO, with a few minor adaptations. Some 320 kW of power pushed the F40 to a top speed of 321 km/h, making it one of the very fastest cars in the world at the time. Originally intended to be a racing car, the F40 did without the usual Ferrari luxuries and as a result the cabin lacked carpeting, door trim, a radio and even door handles. Air-conditioning was left in only as a result of the immense engine heat generated by the V8. Just 1315 F40s were produced between 1987 and 1992, cementing its status as one of the most iconic Ferraris ever produced. Interestingly, the F40 was the last Ferrari il Commendatore personally approved, before his death in 1988, aged 90.
3. Porsche 959
The chalk to the F40's cheese, Porsche's 959 was at the cutting edge of automotive technology when introduced in 1986. At a time when very few cars had computer controlled anything, the 959 relied on electronics to control the all-wheel-drive system, suspension adjustments and even the twin-turbo system. The 2,8-litre flat-six produced 331 kW of power and a pleasingly round 500 N.m of torque, which sent the 959 hurtling towards the horizon, hitting 100 km/h from standstill in just 3,6 seconds. Fast now; simply absurd in the 1980s. Originally built as a homologation vehicle, Porsche took its new supercar and sent it rallying. Unbelievably, the 959 newboy won the 1986 Paris-Dakar rally, something no other supercar can claim. Being as advanced as it was, Porsche lost money on every single 959 it produced. Microsoft founder Bill Gates famously purchased one new, claiming it as one of his very few extravagant purchases.
4. McLaren F1
Dreamt up by the South African-born Gordon Murray, the McLaren F1 enjoyed the privilege of being the world's fastest production car, until the Bugatti Veyron came along, that is. Powered by a BMW-sourced 6,1-litre V12, the F1 produced 461 kW and 650 N.m of torque. Sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox, the McLaren was capable of hitting 100 km/h in just 3,7 seconds. Going against the grain, McLaren opted for a three-seater setup, instead of the conventional two-seater arrangement regularly found in supercars. The driver sat in the middle of the car, perfectly positioned for optimal weight distribution. Two additional seats were sited just behind the driver, one on each side. Capable of 386 km/h, the F1 can still breathe down the necks of even the most modern hypercars. When new, the McLaren would set its lucky owner back some £500 000. In 2019, an example sold for around £18 500 000, making the F1 an excellent investment.
5. Pagani Zonda C12
Introduced at the 1999 Geneva Motor Show, the avantgarde Zonda was met with a positive response, the exquisite interior and intricate engineering wrapped up in glamourous and exotic bodywork. The 6,0-litre V12, borrowed from the W140 S600 and R129 SL600 Mercedes-Benz models, propelled the Zonda to 100 km/h in just 4,2 seconds. Despite the rather modest power output of 294 kW, a mass of just 1 210 kg meant the Zonda was every bit as responsive as its more powerful rivals. Very few were built before the boutique car-maker upgraded the powertrain. A Mercedes-Benz 7,0-litre V12 replaced the previous engine, making considerably more power (405 kW) with a new six-speed gearbox. While the firm has been producing cars for a mere 21 years, it is often mentioned in the same breath as Ferrari and Lamborghini. What the company lacks in racing heritage and legacy, it makes up for in astounding attention to detail and sheer desirability.
6. Lamborghini Murcielago
Before the Murcielago came along, mid-engined V12 Lamborghinis were rather difficult to live with. Take the Countach, for example. Poor outward visibility and the omission of power steering made it near impossible to park safely. The Lambo that followed wasn't without its histrionics, either. A twitchy rear end made the Diablo a handful on a damp road, the wide rear tyres fighting for grip while the potent V12 cheered them on to spin. Equally as dramatic as its elders was the Murcielago. Donning the trademark scissor doors and measuring over two metres wide, it was a worthy successor in terms of style. But what about performance? Early Murcielagos made spirited progress thanks to a 6,2-litre V12 producing 427 kW. Over the years, the engine was enlarged, bringing power increases. Originally, the Murcielago was available exclusively with a six-speed manual, with the dreaded e-gear option was added as an option some time after. The most welcome change was the interior. Functional and ergonomic, here was a true Lamborghini that boasted superior build quality and usability. Small wonder, seeing as it was the first car developed by the Raging Bull since being acquired by Audi in 1998.
7. Ferrari Enzo
Introduced in 2002, the Enzo was developed, with plenty of F1-inspired technology being introduced in the halo supercar. Indeed, a Formula 1-style automated-shift gearbox, carbon-fibre body and ceramic brakes all came together to make the Enzo a road-going racer. An all-new engine, the Tipo F140 V12 produced a substantial peak output of 485 kW. The mid-mounted 6,0-litre sent its power to the rear wheels, themselves wrapped with wide 345/35 ZR19 tyres to help keep the Enzo in a straight line. Weighing just 1 485 kg, the Enzo could blast to 100 km/h in just 3,6 seconds and on to a top speed of 355 km/h. While the performance is something the Enzo's namesake would have been proud of, many have criticised the exterior styling of the legendary Italian. Designed by Pininfarina, the Enzo was knocked for being such a departure from the beautiful and graceful Ferrari designs of the past. Still, no matter how you look at it, the Enzo is certainly eye-catching. Using the same engine, gearbox and chassis as the Enzo was the Maserati MC12. Just 50 of these homologation specials were produced, making it even rarer than the Enzo (of which 400 were made). Even so, the Trident-donning MC12 failed to capture the hearts of the Tifosi like the Ferrari did.
8. Porsche Carrera GT
Weighing just 1 380 kg, the Carrera GT was Porsche in its purest form. A minimalist design inspired by classic Porsches (like 550 Spyder and 917 racecar) was well received, and to this day still manages to look cutting edge and modern. The similarly minimalist interior featured meticulous detailing, an example being the beech wood gear lever (another nod to the 917). Behind the driver sits a 5,7-litre V10 producing 450 kW of power and 590 N.m of torque. Capable of hitting a top speed of 330 km/h, you need to have your wits about you when piloting the GT. To further enhance the driving experience, the only gearbox available was a six-speed manual. Driver aids like stability control simply weren't available, a decision praised by many motoring journalists at the time. Sadly, the German roadster endured a moment of bad publicity when Hollywood actor Paul Walker and his friend, Roger Rodas, were tragically killed when the Carrera GT they were travelling in collided with a lamp post. Just 1 270 examples were sold, making the V10 GT a rarity. Porsche's next halo supercar, the 918 Spyder, borrowed many design cues from its sensual predecessor.
9. Audi R8
Tested in the December 2007 issue of CAR, the original R8 managed to obtain a road test score of 20/20. While our scoring and voting methods have changed since then, the R8 must have been seriously impressive to garner the illusive "full marks" from the test team. Inspired by the design of the Le Mans Quattro concept car, the first-generation Audi R8 was presented to a stunned audience at the 2006 Paris Motor Show. As seen in the B7 RS4, a rear mid-mounted 4,2-litre FSI V8 sent 309 kW and 430 N.m of torque to all four wheels, with a 70 percent rear wheel bias. Despite the revolutionary styling, the newcomer to the supercar world brought a level of usability never before seen in the segment. With a top speed of 301 km/h and a 0-100 km/h time of 4,67 seconds, you would expect to pay for this kind of performance; when new in 2007, the R8 4,2 V8 was priced at R1 255 000. Not cheap, but when you consider a Gallardo Coupé e-gear would have set you back R2 804 000, the R8 was the bargain of the supercar world. It seemed the CAR team agreed, stating "Right now, we can't think of anything more sensational at the price."
10. Lexus LFA
Like the Audi above, the LFA would be the Japanese luxury brands first foray into supercar territory. In development since 2000, Lexus teased the public with various concept cars, each giving a clue as to what the most powerful Lexus yet would look like. After 10 years in development, the LFA was finally presented to the motoring press at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show. An incredible 4,8-litre V10 powered the LFA, the mid-mounted powertrain sending 412 kW of power to the rear wheels via a six-speed Aisin-sourced automated manual. A mere 3,7 seconds was all the LFA needed to rocket you to 100 km/h, the V10 howling to an incredible 9 000 r/min limiter. Interestingly, the LFA takes just 0,6 seconds to reach its redline from idle. This is so quick Lexus needed to use a digital tachometer, as an analogue example simply couldn't keep up. Despite the LFA being Lexus' first supercar (and only one so far) the V10 LFA was a showcase of Japanese precision and engineering. Between 2010 and 2012, just 500 examples were produced. Due to their rarity and desirability, examples still exchange ownership for around U$500 000 (around R9 000 000).
Which supercar do you think has attained legendary status? Let us know below in the comments...