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Supercars: Origins
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Supercars: Origins

When I was at university in Arizona, spring 2007, I had a friend whose father owned a one-year-old, Porsche Carrera GT. For those of you who know about the Carrera GT’s history, you’ll know 2006 was the last year they produced this howling supercar, before turning their attention to the much coveted 918 Spyder. At 19 years old, I had no business being within 100 meters of a 5.7 L, V10 beast but there I was, drooling heavily in the garage, anticipating my chance to at least sit in the seat. Much to my surprise, he let me drive a few times around the block before returning the keys. A few months later, I was working on a film studies project, and being the car nut that I am, decided to ask to use the Porsche for the video shoot. Long story short, I destroyed one of the first HD cameras obtained by my university, and caused roughly $32,852.87 in damages to the Porsche, further giving credence that a 19-year-old should have nothing to do with such a rare, and fast vehicle.

I’ve told that long-winded story to bring you into the history of the first supercar on the scene. While there are many contenders, I firmly believe the first supercar, built for not only the track, but the cash toting consumer was the 1966 Lamborghini Miura (aka P400). Arguably neck and neck with the 1965 AC Cobra 427, this vehicle was a pioneer, as it ushered in a new era for mid-engine, two-seated sports cars. When it was released, it was considered the fastest production road car available anywhere, at 267 km/h. Designed by Marcello Gandini (Lamborghini Countach LP400, Diablo and others) the 5 speed manual boasted 350 horsepower from its v12 engine, making it a hot commodity among enthusiasts prepared to spend $20,000. That’s about the equivalent to roughly $145,000 by today’s standards.

There were only 275 of the original P400 Miura made from 1966 to 1969, making it an extremely rare piece of automotive history. The jaw dropping design was based on Gandini’s love for vehicle architecture and mechanics, not necessarily for appearance. Shocking, I know, but nonetheless the truth. By the 1970s, the gas crisis sent the automotive industry reeling, so much to where speed limits in the United States were reduced to a snail-paced 55mph on highways to save on petrol consumption. Lamborghini forged forward during this time to create the 'King of Supercars' Countach LP400 in 1974. Others were produced in this time from other manufactures such as the Ferrari 365BB, the Porsche 911 Turbo, Panther’s 6, Aston Martin’s V8 Vantage, and BMW’s M1, respectively.

Throughout the 1980s, the industry saw a steep incline in high performance supercars, including the Lotus Turbo Esprit and Aston Martin Bulldog, but it wasn’t long before the Lamborghini Countach QV and Ferrari Testarossa stepped on the scene to raise the proverbial bar. Alas, the 1985 Ferrari 288 GTO was the first supercar to post a 0-60mph under 5 seconds, since the 1965 AC Cobra 427. This achievement made way to the creation of its successor, the Ferrari F40.

The birth era of the supercar was golden in its own right, with its continuation to make advancements in automotive history, even while facing tough times in the 70s. But it was the financial boom of the 80s that sent value of such vehicles soaring, continuing the tradition of a taste for high speed, and buyers with deep pockets to fulfill boyhood dreams – a tradition that continues to this day. And as for the Porsche at the beginning of the story, I was only asked to pay $5,000 in damages, as that was the family friend discount for such juvenile stupidity. He was honestly just glad I wasn’t harmed, nor did I harm anyone else.

 

Photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons

 

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