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The 50 Best Sports Cars of All Time

Posted in Sports Cars by Chris | July 4th, 2009 | 49 Responses |


It’s been said before, but for posterity’s sake, let’s say it one more time: We may very well be watching the shades of darkness closing in on the real Golden Age of automobiles.

In times past, a list such as this would feature almost exclusively cars that are long past classic car status, with a few proven new comers thrown in just to keep things interesting. Because an all time list is more than just a list of the podium finishers in the power, acceleration, and lap time segments. There’s the much more difficult challenge of choosing cars deserving for their significance within their historical context as well as our own. Of recognizing cars that broke the mold in their day and yet have retained their charisma through the ages. Of finding cars that have made a real impact on the layman drivers of the world, set a course for a new design language, introduced a new technology, or revised our concept of what is beautiful.

The fact is, though, is that we have lived among the future titans, and never before have so many relatively new cars been so deserving of a place among the all time greats. Obviously, the task of comparing nostalgia to newness is impossibly subjective. So, here are a few caveats to assuage the would-be naysayers out there about our damn good list:

1. This is a list of the best Sports Cars of all time. Not performance cars. Not the most beautiful cars. Not the best selling or most popular cars. Sports Cars.

2. A Mustang, an M5, and a Mini are not technically defined as Sports Cars. A Sports Car is a performance focused vehicle with two doors and usually two seats, although 2+2 configurations are acceptable beneath the subcategory of luxury-minded vehicles called GT (Gran Touring) cars. Believe me, we wanted desperately to have a Mustang whoop up classic Ferraris on our list, but it just wasn’t feasible, or fair. And if muscle cars can’t do it, neither can your hot hatches and performance saloons.

3. There are many highly deserving cars of such a distinguished pedigree that we could arguably include two or three (or four) specific iterations of the same make and model. But in the interest of including the widest range of cars, and not shamelessly plugging one specific fan-club, we’ve not ranked individual production years. Nor have we included highly successful successors to (all) of our picks, much for the same reason. If we did, let’s just say, every Ferrari between the 250 and the 599 would be on our list.

Finally, each car has two additional links, chocked full of all those numbers you all want, like engine size, horsepower, available performance figures, and enough high-res photos to wet your palates, and your dreams.

And so, without further adieu, we give you, the 50 best sports cars of all time!

50. NOBLE M15


The M12 was a great car in its own right, but it was still just another thinly disguised race car in street trim. And Lee Noble knew it. So when he created the M15, it was with the intention of creating a genuine competitor to Italian and German exotics twice its price by including luxury amenities such as Sat Nav and providing ample storage space for all those groceries every moderately wealthy gear head needs–and needs fast. But despite all the fluff, the M15 is still one of the purest driving cars ever built, powered by a 455bhp 3.0L twin turbo that’s tuned for acceleration–not top speed–to the “tune” of some 3.5 seconds to 60 mph.



    The Audi Quattro is historically significant for its achievements both on and off the race track. It was the first AWD Grand Tourer since the 1966 Jensen FF, and it was created specifically to take advantage of recent changes in rally car rules to allow four wheel drive systems in competition. The combination of a turbocharged engine mated to an AWD system revolutionized the car’s capability in terms of road holding and tractability, and in terms of pure acceleration the car put down impressive stats, boosting its way to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds and a top speed of 140 mph. The official model name was “Quattro,” referring both to the car and the revolutionary AWD system. However, since future Audi’s would pay homage to this all important predecessor by using “quattro” drivetrains, the 1980 version is also called the “Ur-Quattro,” with the “Ur” suffix meaning “first” or “original”. While critics doubted the viability of an AWD platform, due to its increased weight and complexity, the Ur-Quattro was an instant success, winning its racing debut on its way to a two-year domination of the rally car circuit.



    Any petrol head learns that the true beauty of an Alfa is in the intangibles–things besides dependability, build quality, handling, and performance. In terms of performance the 8C is an exception. Making use of a Maserati-sourced V8, the 8C rockets to 60 in 4.2 seconds, and even pulls 1.02G around the skid pad. But the driving dynamics are all off. The steering is numb, there is tremendous oversteer, and the paddle-shifter gear box is quite possible one of the worst ever constructed (to cite Autocar.co.uk). But, as Oscar Wilde said, “All art is quite useless,” and it is for this very reason that the 8C ascends to the status of moving art–more so than even Ferrari–as it is undoubtedly one of the beautiful cars ever constructed.



    This could easily have been called the Gumpert Phlair because its go-fast aesthetics are just that redundant, and in this the Apollo is the exact opposite of the 8C: It is form following function, and at times, following very very far behind indeed. Intended to be a street-legal but track-ready sports car, every inch of the Apollo’s bulbous surface is made for generating downforce or sheeting the air over and under the car as efficiently as possible, enabling the car to allegedly drive upside down when traveling over 190 mph. I say “allegedly” because, surprisingly, no one has been willing to lay their life on the line just to so Gumpert can list another selling feature in their Apollo brochure.



    The 599 is a Grand Touring car from Ferrari that combines svelte looks with superb handling AND outrageous performance in a way none of the previous cars on the list could do. It is also the most powerful street car Ferrari has ever produced, with 612 HP at the flywheel, and features an “F1 Superfast” sequential manual gearbox that changes gears faster than most of us can blink. And while the 599 will no doubt prove to be another classic from Maranello, the car’s technological innovations, at least at this point, make its spec sheet more praiseworthy than the car itself.



    No doubt any car lover who saw Casino Royale will have the image of this car bursting into worthless scrap tattooed to the inside of their eye lids. Yet, this isn’t the first time (nor will it be the last time on our list) that a Bond movie puts an Aston in the spot light. The DBS replaced the outgoing Vanquish as the top of the line model in Aston’s lineup, and also garnered the title of the fastest car ever produced by those Britishmen. Essentially a leaned down version of the DB9 with more power and no back seats, the DBS can run with all but the very best of them, while retaining an immaculate interior and a painfully pretty exterior–which are the hallmarks of every Aston Martin.



    Following the success of the Miura and the Mangusta, and following reports of Ferrari’s production of a similar format car, Maserati proposed the design of their own mid-engined car: the Bora. The Bora played second fiddle to the flamboyant Countach (with the sole exception perhaps being Top Gear’s James May) but presented the public with a more mature and refined alternative to Lamborghini and De Tomaso. Interesting note, the Bora was the first production car to feature adjustable clutch, brake, and accelerator pedals utilizing a hydraulic set up which moves forward or back around 3 inches.



    The Pantera was another MR car that followed on the heels of the Mangusta. Italian for “Panther,” the Pantera got its bite from a Ford 351 Cleveland engine, and in 1971 De Tomaso began exporting them to the Stats as the Ford Pantera. But the cars were notoriously unreliable, reportedly causing Elvis to shoot his own Pantera after it wouldn’t start, and exports ended after 1975. De Tomaso would continue to offer increasingly powerful and luxurious models for more than a decade afterward.

  • 42. BMW M1


    The M1 was the first and only mid-engined supercar BMW ever produced, and it rounds out our little MR triplets here early on in the list. The car utilized a twin-cam M88/1 3.5 L 6-cylinder engine capable of 800+ HP in racing trim. 456 examples were handbuilt between 1978 and 1981, making it one of the rarest and most desirable BMW’s of all time. Though it didn’t enjoy immense racing success, the M1 is remembered for its remarkable handling and stellar build quality, and in 2004 Sports Car International named it the number 10 best sports car of the 1970s.

  • 41. MAZDA RX-7


    The third and final iteration of the highly popular RX-7 hit the streets of Japan in 1992, and America a year later. Power was generated by the first-ever mass-produced sequential twin-turbocharger system to export from Japan, an extremely complex piece of machinery that gave the RX-7 a wide and usable torque curve throughout the entire RPM range. Car and Driver voted it to their 10 Best list ’93-95, and Playboy awarded the RX-7 victor in a head-to-head contest against the Dodge Viper. Handling was world class, and to this day remains one of the finest handling cars of all time thanks in part to its front-mid-engine layout, and its futuristic looks have kept the car looking sexy after all these years.

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    49 Responses

    1. Greg says:

      The camero is the best!!!

    2. Bender says:

      i lost interest when you had a mazda rx 7 as a better sports car than the aston martin dbs v12. Where is the logic in that

    3. Citizen says:

      Alpha romeo 8c looks awesome but it’s not a very good racer…

    4. we need car with 4 seats to sit on here we arabian we love this kind of cars but you know ots too sepenseve when you buy it soo we want w cool car with nice prise really i wish to have care from you company alfa romeo its charmd cars but high price and we dont know much about you cars and dont see them on our streets we have all kinds many people dpnt know about you campany or cars

    5. Montague Gammon III says:

      Please explain why a Miata is not a sports car. Perhaps there is some confusion between what is a sports car and what is a GT.

    6. sam says:

      the tx5 turbo is the best

    7. Tyler says:

      I do not agree with the RX-7 spot in your article. Reason being the Mitsubishi 3000gt VR-4 was twin turbo’d and was on the market in America in 1990. Thanks for your time.

    8. ASTON MARTIN DBS V12 – super car. I rode this car in Seattle. I was the best driver on the best car from all Seattle towncar.

    9. Burritolikethesun says:

      “i lost interest when you had a mazda rx 7 as a better sports car than the aston martin dbs v12. Where is the logic in that”

      Perhaps if you actually read anything about the cars you’re refering to, or maybe drove them, you’d refrain from such idiotic comments. The RX7 is one of the best sports cars, overall, of all time. The DBS is a heavy GT that doesn’t even stack up well against competitors in its own segment.

    10. Dom Santi says:

      What happened to the Nissan 300zx Turbo?

    11. Chad Rinko says:

      Wow, Amazing list of fine automobiles. I was surprised to find the Quatro on it though.


    12. rotorhead says:

      In my opinion, the RX-7 should be ranked higher. It is the only rotary-powered car on this list. Funny how it is not mentioned above. It is the lightest car by far in its class with perfect balance, and superb handling. It is the pure sports car.

    13. lew azzinaro says:

      i was actually surprised by the top spot,…i own a 2008 911 carrera s,…and even i wouldn’t have given it the top spot,…top 10 yes,…but even i would rather have any ferrari if i could afford one,…they,…not a porsche,…should end up in top spot…just on list appeal alone!

    14. David says:

      These were all crap!

    15. David says:

      They could have picked so many better cars! Very disappointed!

    16. Mr Wiki says:

      Whoever wrote this article is a buffoon.

    17. Mr Wiki says:

      “The term sports car has been defined as “an open, low-built, fast motor car.” The term describes a class of automobile with two seats, two doors, precise handling, brisk acceleration, and sharp braking — trading practical considerations such as passenger space, comfort, and cargo capacity — for driving enjoyment.”

    18. Jay Ess says:

      Mustang GT500?


    19. Christian says:

      I think Muscles and whatever it was you called hatchbacks should be included.

      If not here they should be included in one of your lists because MUSCLES are the best.

    20. Y2k says:

      Nice collection! But rating sports car is shit! Any above mentioned sports car can be tuned to be the best only if it is in right hands.

    21. Y2k says:

      And if every kid on street have a ferrari then what f will be the race for?

    22. the foreman says:

      maybe the author of this is not familiar with much better high performance cars as of today!!!

    23. William Stokes says:

      Ever heard of Due Diligence? You got the 300zx, but missed the 240Z? You actually mention the 240Z in the 300ZX blurb, but did you not research the 240Z to find it ACTUALLY changed the Sports car world? A little vintage research and you would have found that the 240Z put Japanese sports cars on the Map, actually started the “tuner” craze, Dominated SCCA C production to the point that Porsche had to go get the rules changed to put them in a different class to actually win, Put a serious hurting on the sales of all sports cars up to three times the Datsuns price, effectively killing off most of the other imported sports cars, and put the world on notice that a sports car could be comfortable, easy to drive, economical, and reliable… If your list was to be the 50 most important cars, you missed the history that should have had the 240Z near the top! No other car in the list changed the way the entire world thought about the japanese auto industry-taking the perception of a Japanese car from an under powered econobox to an exotic performer with world beating value and performance on a much higher level than the cars price…a little more research in any of the early 70s magazines and you would have seen the paradigm shift the 240z caused . Not to forget the Z is the best selling line of sports cars in the world!

    24. George York says:

      Excellent comparison between newer models and older models in terms of superior performance and handling as the best sports car. My favorite is the Ferrari 599 GTB. Although I own a Ferrari F355, I find the 599 to be a real monster car in terms of handling and power and speed. To add I actually owned a Mazda RX-7 84 Rotary Engine and in terms of sports car…yes it is a real sports car. One evening back in 1985 a Corvette wanted to race me down the mountain on Highway 50 from Tahoe Nevada going to Sacramento. He had the muscle to beat me but it wasn’t the engine performance that got him. I beat him purely on the handling characteristics of the all wheel turning capability along the serpentine turns of the mountain roads doing 60-80 Miles an hour. I left him in the dust as he could not cope with the turns. That night I knew what a true sports car is all about.

    25. K Surakomol says:

      @Montague, having once owned a ’92 Miata, it’s my opinion that it was not geared for performance nor luxury, but topless fun around town. It made an awesome commuter for me, but with 115hp it seemed more oriented for economy than sporting.

    26. 94xj says:

      Not bad…the guy that was talking about the VR4 twin turbo being around before clearly forgot that the Z32 was available in the 80s with twin turbos too…and wasn’t paying attention to the fact that it was the first SEQUENTIAL twin turbo. (Which I don’t get why they call it twin turbo since the ‘chargers weren’t twins at all…well…fraternal twins I suppose with one being bigger…but I ramble)

    27. Pat says:

      Ford Sierra RS 500 Cosworth…European icon

    28. poblo says:

      i think obama should have this car……..

    29. davi says:

      demais muito legal

    30. richturkey says:

      Ok list but missing a few that should definitely make the top 50
      the 240z (as previously mentioned )
      the e30 bmw’s
      and possibly the sunbeam tiger

      but other then that not a bad list….

    31. titanic entry you hold

    32. Ian Rathbone says:

      The deifinition of a sports car is a soft top high performance vehicle

      1 anything with a hard top can not comply as the intrinsic stiffness of the 3 dimensional bodyshell changes the dynamics from a true 2 dimensional sports car

      2 a sports car should be front engined [mid engined is allowed] 2 seat soft top

      3 the real strerngth of a sports car is its inane weakness- the chassis oh dear I think I have just selected A MORGAN


    33. hailey bryan says:

      I love looki’n at these cars it’s my best thing to do my brother loves the dodge challenger!!!!!

    34. is an idoit says:

      I thought these were supposed 2 B cool

      P.S. this is what I have 2 say about Dodge challenger BUTTHOLE!!!!!!!

    35. Tv Serials says:

      Fantastic piece of writing bro. This important is just a incredibly nicely structured posting, just the critical info I was seeking for. Many thanks

    36. really fantastic cars

    37. Very Good Post Thankx For Sharing

    38. Desi Tv Tube says:

      Great Post Thankx For Sharing and very nice cars

    39. Isaiah Carr says:

      The Camaro is good, but the best car MY ASS!
      It’s a rip-off of the Ford Mustang! Buy it’s still cool, dude.

    40. Owen says:

      1979 ,,Panther 6,,,,
      Six wheels,powered by a 500 Cadillac engine with twin turbo chargers,,top speed over 200
      If looks could kill,,this is the one,nothing compares…..

    41. P51 says:

      In what way is the mazda rx-7 better than the 599 gtb and the gumpert apallo

    42. IGTARD says:

      Drive a ’93 RX7

    43. carlos says:

      i like it. its wonderful