Supercars are that, in whatever way, are exaggerated and surpass by far the requirements necessary for a car to be useful in its respective category. – Iceman from Brazil
This is probably one of the most elegant definitions of the word supercar that I have come across. In the tired world of automotive journalism, the discussion of supercars is one of those topics that always starts a conversation, and is sure to raise the traffic count. Almost every day I see a discussion about the first supercar, or the best supercar, but there is never an agreement because there is never a singular accepted answer.
The word supercar is mostly attributed to J.L.K. Setright, an automotive journalist writing for British CAR magazine. It was in a “mid sixties” article about the Lamborghini Miura where the word was first coined. Except, this is not true. The word dates back to 1966 Car Life, in an article about the Chevy II 327/350 V8, as well as a 1966 article in CARS magazine written by Martyn Schorr. In 1965 Car Life used the term, as did AMC in describing the 390 Rogue.
Porsche Carrera GT
In 1957 it was used to describe the Rambler Rebel (My grandmother had one, and there was nothing super about the Rebel), and in 1944 the Research Institute of America even used the term. In fact, the term supercar was used in advertising for a British car called the Ensign Six as early as 1920. Words like super and car have been around for a long time, and trying to claim ownership of the combination is just plain stupid. However, since it became more common after the Miura reference, Mr. Setright should get some credit.
The definition of the word supercar is equally difficult to pin down. Most sentient beings with a brain larger than the average tapeworm will agree that there are some basics needed for a vehicle to qualify as a supercar. Of course, once you are two or three levels above a tapeworm, you are at the gear head level, and they can never agree on anything. So, here is my list of some basic “must have” qualities for a vehicle to be considered a true supercar.
Number One – Speed. A true supercar needs to be the fasted car ever…or at least be as fast as others already in the supercar range. Actual horsepower is not really a requirement, but usually to get to the supercar echelon, we are talking over 500 horses. Any true supercar must exceed the capabilities of a “normal” car. Normalwould include even a BMW M series, and AMG Mercedes. This means usually over 180mph, but I will classify it as “exceptionally fast.” Speed is REQUIRED, since I can name about five luxury motor home coaches that could qualify as supercars based on the rest of the list.
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing
Number Two – Style. A true supercar must have a design that is beautiful, aerodynamic, groundbreaking, and has the presence of a true movie star. In other words, it has to be “bedroom wall poster” worthy. It’s true that radical and groundbreaking are hard to define, but suffice to say that a supercar’s design needs to have an X-factor. Like the Lamborghini Countach of the 1980’s, it has to be a pinup. Kids and men alike must dream about owning one. Just seeing the car should take your breath away.
When I saw my first Countach in person, all I can remember was the alien green fog lamps, a sound that was like God having unusual sex with a rabid water buffalo, and that low wedge shape coming at me fast. It didn’t even register as a car at first, and when it did, it almost knocked the wind out of me. It was that awesome.
Number Three – Price. A single monthly car payment for a true supercar should be about the same as the total price of a regular car. The price should be unholy. It should cost about the same as a vacation house inAspen. Without a doubt, price is important because it ties in with our next requirement.
Number Four – Exclusivity. Though a supercar MUST be a production car, it cannot be your average Toyota Camry. It has to be produced in exclusive numbers, usually less than 1000 per year, and more likely an amount that can be counted on the hand of Rahm Emanuel (or Gary Burghof, Boris Yeltsin, Daryl Hannah, and Matthew Perry…they all have missing fingers). When you pop into the local Whole Foods, you shouldn’t see another one like it in the lot, unless you live in Bel Air. On the other end, it cannot be a special built car like some F1 racer, or one of Franco Sbarro’s Saudi Prince pimp-mobiles. It must be rare, but attainable.
Number Five – This is a two for one deal here. The true supercar must have a really small trunk or boot (thank you James May). This is absolutely true, but I am not sure if it is a requirement or just a coincidence. A true supercar must be hugely expensive to maintain. Divorcing your wife should be less pricey than a simple oil change. The average maintenance trip should cost the same as gassing up the QE2, and should be performed about as often. It should leak more oil than a Saudi desert, and even putting on new wipers should require the removal of the engine.
So, which is the first of the breed? For me it would have to be the 1949 Jaguar XK120, followed by the 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL. There are arguments for and against both of them. BUT, and it’s a huge Jennifer Lopez sized butt…I have not considered the cars from the early 20th century.
Aston Martin DBS
Marques like Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Auto Union, Voisin, Duesenberg, and Turcat-Mery are just a few of the brands that could be considered. Since I am not an expert in this era, I defer that consideration to someone smarter and a bit older. Now, anyone want to define a Hypercar?
Article courtesy of Chris Raymond
Photos courtesy of Carstyling.ru, supercars.org, netcarshow.com, wallpapernuke.com, and autowallpapers.net