Automotive History: The Fastest Production Cars of Each Decade

March 23, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1880-1889 | Benz Motorwagen | 10mph

Technically, a horse-drawn carriage could go faster, but that's not really the point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1890-1899 | Stanley Runabout | 35mph

The Stanley Runabout was steam-powered. The vehicle pictured may or may not be a Stanley Steamer, but it's definitely a steamer, and visual proof that people have been road raging for over 120 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1900-1909 | Mercedes-Simplex 60hp | 73mph

Originally built as a race car -- of which it was decidedly not the fastest of the decade -- the 60hp was one of the earliest Mercedes-branded production cars, and squeaks through as champion of the aughts at a surprisingly brisk 73mph.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1910-1919 | Austro-Daimler Prince Henry | 85mph

Like the Mercedes before it, this was originally a race car. None other than Ferdinand Porsche developed the engine, and the Prince Henry went into road-car production with no major changes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1920-1929 | Duesenberg Model J | 119mph

There is a reason "It is a Deusy" is generally used to connote something of an astounding nature. When Duesenberg rolled out the Model J in 1928 it was a source of American pride. The best and fastest cars in the world were officially made in Indiana, the Great Gatsby had his dream ride, and Rolls-Royce had to take a (still very, very cushy) backseat to the Yanks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1930-1939 | Duesenberg Model SJ | 140mph

The supercharged Model SJ that debuted in 1932 could do 140mph, and a special -prepped one-off called the Mormon Meteor wound up topping 170mph, and held the record for highest average speed over a 24-hour period until 1990.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1940-1949 | Jaguar XK120 | 126mph

After World War II, Jaguar's rise to prominence took the form of a then-state-of-the-art straight six engine that would serve the company well for decades. When dropped into the timeless XK body, it could top 120mph, hence the name.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1950-1959 | Aston Martin DB4 GT | 153mph

The Italian-bodied DB4 GT and its DB4 GT Zagato sibling were the epitome of grand touring. With a combination of supreme class and a top speed that meant no one could possibly pass or even catch you on a long, straight highway there is little wonder this car's successor was Bond's first Aston.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1960-1969 | Ferrari 365 GTB/4 "Daytona" | 174mph

With a V12 nestled in front, under the hood, the Daytona is a classic Ferrari in every possible sense... right down to taking the "world's fastest car" title away from rival Lamborghini's 171mph Miura.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1970-1979 | Ferrari GT4 Berlinetta Boxer | 175mph

Lamborghini launched the Countach and said it could do 200mph... but it could not. Ferrari launched the BB and said it could do 188... but it could not. In various tests, however, it did reach speeds between 174 and 175mph, which still makes it top in this decade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1980-1989 | Ferrari F40 | 202mph

When the Porsche 959 debuted as the world's fastest car, you have to wonder what went through the engineers' minds when they realized the car was just a fraction slower than 200mph. When the F40 followed suit shortly thereafter and became the first production car to eek its way past the 200mph barrier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1990-1999 | McLaren F1 | 240mph

The McLaren was so powerful and so aerodynamic, that wind resistance is not what stopped its acceleration -- the only reason 240 was the top speed is because the engine could only rev so high. To put that kind of speed in perspective, the McLaren had to be made significantly slower and less powerful in order to be eligible for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Unperturbed, it proceeded to win not just in its own class, but the overall race, too, against the virtual spaceships that make up the prototype classes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2000-2009 | Shelby SSC Aero | 268mph

The Shelby Super Cars SSC Aero was built for the sole purpose of becoming the fastest production car in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2010-Current | Hennessey Venom GT | 270mph

Like the SSC, the Hennessey is sometimes not considered a production car because there are very few in existence. But the fact is, you can order one today if you have the means, so it counts here, even though Guinness currently officially recognizes the Veyron. Theoretically, the Koenigsegg One:1 is capable of 273mph -- which would obviously knock the Hennessey off this list -- but if it has hit such speeds in the real world, Koenigsegg has yet to make an announcement. No proof, no prize.

 

Miller, Aaron. (2016). "The Fastest Car of Every Decade Since Cars Were Invented". Retrieved by https://www.thrillist.com/cars/the-absolute-fastest-cars-in-the-world-by-decade.

 

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