European countries have made a name for themselves as manufacturers of most of the world’s supercars. With brands like Mercedes Benz, BMW, Mclaren, Ferrari, Bugatti Aston Martin, and others bringing in the best technology to make more powerful cars, it is not surprising that the race for the fastest car top spot is usually tight in Europe.
However, for each decade, there has always been that one supercar with the perfect blend of cutting-edge technology and exceptional artistry that allows it to outshine the competition. We’ve compiled a list of the most nimble European sports cars in the past ten decades – cars whose specifications have been verified subject to the fulfillment of specific requirements. Let’s travel together through time and revisit some of the swiftest cars ever built in Europe.
Mercedes Benz 680s Saoutchik Torpedo (1920-1929)
The Mercedes Benz 680s is a 1928 coupe nicknamed “Saoutchik Torpedo” after the Frenchman who designed it. Superior German technology was employed to build a car that virtually outclassed every other European sports car.
In an era where most cars had a maximum speed of 60 mph, the Saoutchik Torpedo had a maximum speed of 110 mph made possible by a 180-hp 6.8-liter inline 6-cylinder engine with a 4-speed manual transmission.
Delahaye 135 MS (1930-1939)
Produced in France in 1938, the 135 MS was a sportier edition of the 1935 Delahaye model 135. The sports car was built on an award-winning chassis with a stylishly crafted body and subtly decorated with chrome.
Power was provided by a 135-hp water-cooled inline-six engine which was powerful enough to give the 135 MS a maximum speed of 100 mph, a pace that was enough to guarantee it the top spot among the fastest cars of the decade.
Jaguar XK 120 (1940-1949)
In 1948 Jaguar built a two-door two-seater roadster known as Jaguar XK 120 and launched it at the Earl’s Court Motor Show. In post-war Europe, it easily outclassed rivals like the Aston Martin DB1 and the Triumph Roadster in terms of design and performance.
A straight six-cylinder engine with a displacement of 3.4 liters produced 160 hp and helped it make the 0-60 mph in 10 seconds. With the windshield down, a top speed of 125 mph was possible.
Aston Martin DB4 GT (1950-1959)
The two-seat coupe built by Aston Martin in 1959 turned out to be a grand tourer that had it all – it was luxurious, stylish, and fast. Unveiled at the London Motor Show, it had a higher power-to-weight ratio than its predecessor, the DB4 model, due to a shortened chassis.
With a 240-hp 3.7 liter straight six-cylinder engine under the hood and a top speed of 153 mph, continental dominance was easily attained in the 1950s.
Ferrari 365 GTB 4 “Daytona” (1960-1969)
Manufactured in 1968 as a replacement for the 275 GTB 4 and unveiled at the Paris Auto Salon, the Ferrari 365 GTB 4 was one of the finest pieces of machinery produced by the Italian car manufacturer. Due to exceptional performance at a race in Daytona, the 2-seat grand tourer was nicknamed “Daytona.”
With a 352-hp 4.4 liter V12 engine and a top speed of 174 mph, the Ferrari Daytona beat rivals to become the fastest car for the decade.
Ferrari 365 GT4 BB (1970-1979)
At the Turin Motor Show in 1971, Ferrari once again displayed their innovative prowess and technical competence when they revealed the 1973 Ferrari 365 GT4 BB as a successor to the “Daytona.” A new boxier type 4.4-liter flat 12-cylinder engine, introduced for the first time, was placed just behind the driver.
With the new engine, the supercar did the 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds and attained a top speed of 175 mph to place Ferrari once again at the top spot.
Ferrari F40 (1980-1989)
In 1987, a masterpiece was unveiled to the public in Maranello. The F40, built to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Ferrari, became the first production car to attain a maximum speed of 201 mph.
Don’t expect much luxury from the F40: the 2-seat sports car wasn’t built for that. With a 471-hp 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged engine, it was designed to break speed records and keep Ferrari at the top for another decade.
McLaren F1 (1990-1999)
When the 1994 McLaren F1 was revealed in Monaco in 1992, it gave a new definition to the word “speed.” The 1994 F1 was an exceptional supercar by all standards, well ahead of its time. Propelled by a 618-hp 6.1-liter V12 engine and weighing only 2425 lbs, the Mclaren F1 got to 60 mph from rest in 3.2 seconds and had a maximum speed of over 230 mph.
The positioning of the driver’s seat in the middle improved driver visibility and ensured a safe driving experience.
Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport (2000-2009)
German auto builder, Bugatti, has always been a force to reckon with when we talk of speed. For the first decade of the 21st century, the 2009 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport was able to outperform every other car to emerge as the fastest European sports car.
A 1001-hp 8-liter quad-turbocharged W16 engine blasts the Bugatti Grand Sport from 0-60 mph in 2.5 seconds. With a top speed of 253 mph, this 2-seater is not for the faint-hearted.
Koenigsegg Agera RS (2010-2019)
In 2017 Swedish car builder Koenigsegg produced a car that broke all manners of land speed records. On a highway in Nevada, the Agera RS attained a 2-way average speed of 278 mph, thereby breaking the previous record of 268 mph held by Bugatti Veyron Super Sport.
The same Agera RS in an earlier attempt did the 0-248 mph in a record 36.44 seconds. Nothing less could be expected from a car equipped with a potent 1160-hp 5-liter twin-turbo V8 engine.
Let’s take a trip through automotive history and watch how the ability of cars to go fast evolved over the years.
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