A brief his­tory


Top Gear (UK) - - CONTENTS -

1920 An ad­vert for a high-per­for­mance au­to­mo­bile with a six-litre engine ap­pears in The Times, pro­claim­ing, “If you are in­ter­ested in a su­per­car, you can­not af­ford to ig­nore the claims of the Ensign 6.” This is be­lieved to be the first recorded men­tion of the term ‘su­per­car’, and the last recorded men­tion of the Ensign 6.

1948 Jaguar in­tro­duces the XK120. The ‘120’ in the XK’s name refers to its in­tended speed in miles per hour. This proves in­ac­cu­rate: in re­al­ity, the XK120 goes sig­nif­i­cantly faster.

1954 Merc’s 300SL lands, re­plete with roof-hing­ing ‘gull­wing’ doors. They prove ut­terly im­prac­ti­cal, on ac­count of a) clang­ing against low garage ceil­ings when opened and b) mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble to es­cape the car in the event of a rollover. No one cares be­cause they look awe­some. Hash­tag su­per­car! Says no one for an­other 60 years.

1962 Amer­i­can car magazines reg­u­larly em­ploy the phrase ‘su­per­car’ to re­fer to hopped-up, drag-strip ready sedans with pig-iron V8 en­gines. This proves Amer­ica has never, and will never, truly un­der­stand su­per­cars.

1966 A new era of su­per­car ar­rives in the shape the beau­ti­ful Lam­borgh­ini Miura. Its revo­lu­tion­ary con­fig­u­ra­tion sees the en­gi­neers site the V12 be­hind the driver, al­most def­i­nitely on pur­pose.

1987 The Fer­rari F40 and Porsche 959 go head-to-head in his­tory’s ul­ti­mate su­per­car show­down. The 959 is more tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced, eas­ier to drive fast and has more seats. The F40 has a mas­sive daft wing, is way more ex­pen­sive and frankly ter­ri­fy­ing to drive, so there­fore wins at su­per­cars.

1992 Jaguar in­tro­duces the XJ220. The ‘220’ refers to its in­tended speed in miles an hour. Like the XK120, this proves in­ac­cu­rate. Un­like the XK120, this isn’t be­cause the XJ220 is faster than billed.

1993 The McLaren F1 re­de­fines su­per­car-ness, not so much for its un­prece­dented speed and tech­nol­ogy, but for be­ing so in­sanely ex­pen­sive to de­velop that it could never turn a profit.

2005 The Bu­gatti Vey­ron re­de­fines su­per­car-ness again, not so much for its un­prece­dented speed and tech­nol­ogy, but for be­ing so in­sanely ex­pen­sive to… yeah, you’ve got the pic­ture.

2014 The McLaren P1 ush­ers in the era of the hy­brid su­per­car, hi­jack­ing green tech­nol­ogy in the name of speed. In re­tal­i­a­tion, ev­ery Prius driver in Bri­tain vows to drive in the out­side lane of ev­ery mo­tor­way at 55mph, a vow they keep to this day.

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