In the last part of this article, I explained how some of the fastest road going cars of the past few decades earned themselves a valuable place in the history of speed.
In this post, I will look at the milestone of the 1980s; when the first production cars went past 200 MPH, before exploring how a F1 team made a speed machine with a V12 heart worthy of gold, reminding ourselves of the close rivalries to come onto the scene in the last 18 years and asking what is next in the automotive industry’s pursuit of performance.
1980s: Ruf CTR (213 MPH).
Ferrari fans may be confused and disappointed to hear that; no, the F40 wasn’t the fastest car of the 1980s, despite often being said to be the first production car to go past 200MPH. Technically, the Ruf CTR holds the fastest road car of the 1980s title.
Upon first appearance the CTR looks just like another Porsche 911, and a rather unremarkable one at that; so this means that this Ferrari thrasher is essentially a Volkswagen Beetle. Unlike a Beetle though, the CTR’s 469 horsepower modified Porsche flat-6 would let it do 0-60MPH in 3.65 seconds and gave it a top speed of 213 MPH.
Ruf also replaced some of the 911’s body panels with aluminium and decided to use fiberglass back and front bumpers to further reduce weight, this left the car with a total weight of less than 1.2 tonnes.
1990s: McLaren F1 (221 MPH).
In the 1990s, Ferrari tried to create a Formula 1 car for the road, with a 520 horsepower V12 from one of Ferrari’s F1 cars, F1 style chassis and suspension. Ferrari’s creation had the finesse, style and precision of an intoxicated rat; the company had inadvertently made one of the worst models in its 50 year history,… what was supposed to celebrate the brand’s 50th anniversary turned out to be a hideous, dangerous death trap with a ride hard enough to turn your skeleton into a 3D jigsaw puzzle of over eight thousand different pieces.
So how could a formula one team, with no production cars on its CV, make a supercar more suited to the road than the F50? As it tuned out they did so effortlessly, (well, in truth, a toddler could have made a better supercar than the F50, but never mind.)
Despite McLaren naming their first road car the F1 and giving it a central driving position, it was not meant to be a road going race car, it was intended to be “The finest sports car the world was ever going to see.” In their effort to do this, McLaren fitted the F1 with a 618 horsepower 6.1 Litre V12, a highly advanced air braking system, spent months fine tuning the aerodynamics and reduced the car’s weight wherever possible. The result; a car capable of doing 0-60 MPH in 3.2 seconds, and achieving speeds of over 220 MPH, many modern supercars struggle to get anywhere near these figures.
In case all of this is not good enough, the F1’s engine bay was lined with real gold; why? McLaren claim that it was “the best heat reflector available”.
2000s: Bugatti Veyron (253 MPH).
If you’ve only heard of one of the cars in this article, it will most likely be this one, possibly because in my opinion at least, the Veyron was the revolution, the game changer, the single most significant gem of cutting edge engineering of the 21st century. It was the automotive equivalent of the smartphone. Why? Up until this point, the record breaking speed machines had all been hard core, usually lethally untamed beasts.
This is where the Veyron differed, although it was never really a daily driver, it did feature a luxury leather interior, an automatic 7-speed gearbox and suspension that wouldn’t dislocate the driver’s spine. These luxuries however, did make the supercar quite hefty; with a driver, passenger and luggage on board, it would weigh something around two tonnes, meaning that as a driver’s car the Veyron wasn’t perfect, but when you can do 0-60 in 2.5 seconds, that doesn’t really matter.
But the key to they Veyron’s 253MPH top speed? Is the key. No really, the Bugatti had two separate keys, one that prevents the car from being stolen, and one that is inserted by the driver’s seat, only then can the car prepare itself to reach its top speed that happens to be around a third of the speed of sound.
The Veyron was powered by a 8 litre, 1001 horsepower W16 engine that was so powerful, Bugatti’s engineers struggled to put all of the power to all four wheels, but their hard work certainly paid off.
Present: Koenigsegg Agera RS (277 MPH)
When researching into the modern days of top speeds, I found that, strangely, Bugatti doesn’t explicitly state the top speed of the Chiron, I can only assume that this because last year Koenigsegg blasted past the Chiron’s top speed with a car that only has half as many cylinders.
This is a car that; before the total two way average speed was taken, was nudging 285 MPH, a car with a 5 litre V8 producing up to 1314 horsepower, a car that, yes even has satnav*. They call it the Agera RS (though you already knew that because you already read the heading).
If all that isn’t impressive enough, the Agera doesn’t have a Four wheel drive system; each rear wheel can be tasked with handling 657 horsepower, to put that into comparison, the Audi R8 V10 plus barely puts out more than 600 horsepower through all four of its wheels.
The future: (300 MPH?)
Some believe that within the Bugatti Chiron’s lifetime, the car could go past 300 MPH, Hennessey also has such speeds in mind. I think though, the most astonishing thing about this constant hunt for speed is that; back in the early 1980s, the best of the best were competing to make the first car that could be used by their customers to fly past a speed camera at 200 mph, that was only a few decades ago.
What do you think is the largest possible top speed of a car with number plates? Tell me in the comments
Sources: Wikipedia, McLaren, Ferrari, Bugatti, Koenigsegg, Audi, Hennessey.
*Perhaps that last one isn’t so impressive but I have to spread the interesting facts out.