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Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport World Record Edition - the fastest road legal production car reaching 431 km/h (268 mph)

A supercar (also known as an exotic car) is a very expensive and high-performance sports car or grand tourer.[1][2] The term is used in marketing by automakers for unusual, high-end vehicles, and has been used to refer to at least four different sorts of cars:

  • Limited-production specials from an "elite" automaker[3]
  • Standard-looking cars modified for power and performance[3]
  • Models that appeal to enthusiasts, from smaller manufacturers[3]
  • One-of-a-kind "showcase" project vehicles built by custom car retrofitters (usually extensively modified collectible muscle cars or grand tourers updated to the latest "streetable" racing technology).[4][5]
The Porsche 918 is Porsche's attempt at a plug-in hybrid supercar. With 887 horsepower coming from two engines, A 608 hp 4.6 liter V8 and a 279 hp electric engine.


  • History 1
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


An advertisement for the Ensign Six, a 6.7 L (410 cu in) high-performance car similar to the Bentley Speed Six, appeared in The Times for 11 November 1920 with the phrase "If you are interested in a supercar, you cannot afford to ignore the claims of the Ensign 6."[6] The Oxford English Dictionary also cites the use of the word in an advertisement for an unnamed car in The Motor dated 3 November 1920, "The Supreme development of the British super-car."[7] and defines the phrase as suggesting "a car superior to all others". A book published by the Research Institute of America in 1944, that previewed the economic and industrial changes to occur after World War II,[8] used the term "supercar" (author's emphasis) to describe future automobiles incorporating advances in design and technology such as flat floorpans and automatic transmissions.[9]

In the United States, the term "supercar" predates the classification of muscle car[10][11] to describe the "dragstrip bred" affordable mid-size cars of the 1960s and early 1970s that were equipped with large, powerful V8 engines and rear wheel drive.[12] The combination of a potent engine in a lightweight car began with the 1957 Rambler Rebel that was described as a "veritable supercar".[13] "In 1966 the sixties supercar became an official industry trend"[14] as the four domestic automakers "needed to cash in on the supercar market" with eye-catching, heart-stopping cars.[15] Among the numerous examples of the use of the supercar description include the May 1965 issue of the American magazine Car Life, in a road test of the Pontiac GTO, as well as how "Hurst puts American Motors into the Supercar club with the 390 Rogue"[16] (the SC/Rambler) to fight in "the Supercar street racer gang" market segment.[17] The "SC" in the model name stood for "SuperCar".[18] The supercar market segment included regular production models[19] in different muscle market segments (such as the "economy supercar"[20]), as well as limited edition, documented dealer-converted vehicles.[21]

The word supercar later became to mean a "GT" or grand touring type of car.[22] By the 1970s and 1980s the phrase was in regular use, if not precisely defined.[23][24]

During the late 20th century, the term supercar was used to describe "a very expensive, fast or powerful car with a centrally located engine",[1] and stated in more general terms: "it must be very fast, with sporting handling to match", "it should be sleek and eye-catching" and its price should be "one in a rarefied atmosphere of its own".[25]

The supercar term has also been applied to technologically advanced vehicles using new fuel sources, powerplants, aerodynamics, and lightweight materials to develop an 80 mpg-US (2.9 L/100 km; 96 mpg-imp) family-sized sedan.[26] "Supercar" was the unofficial description for the United States Department of Commerce R&D program, Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV).[27] The program was established to support the domestic U.S. automakers (GM, Ford, and Chrysler) develop prototypes of a safe, clean, affordable car the size of the Ford Taurus, but delivering three times the fuel efficiency.[27][28]

See also


  1. ^ a b Collins English Dictionary. HarperCollins Publishers. 2003.  
  2. ^ Ward, Ian (1985). "Secondhand Supercars". London's Motor Show Motorfair 85 Official Catalogue. 
  3. ^ a b c Cheetham, Craig (2006). Supercars. MotorBooks/MBI Publishing. p. 6.  
  4. ^ Vijayenthiran, Viknesh (10 January 2008). "Nelson Racing’s 1,800HP Mosler MT900S". MotorAuthority. Retrieved 11 September 2014. 
  5. ^ "260mph Keating Supercar". nelsonracingengines. 8 January 2010. Retrieved 11 September 2014. 
  6. ^ "British Ensign Motors". The Times. 11 November 1920. p. 6. 
  7. ^ "super-, prefix 6.c". Oxford English Dictionary. 1989. Archived from the original on June 22, 2011. Retrieved 2007-12-27. 
  8. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (4 September 1989). "Carl Hovgard, Tax Adviser, 83; Founder of the Research Institute". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 September 2014. 
  9. ^ Cherne, Leo (1944). The Rest of Your Life. Doubleday, Doran and Co. pp. 216–217. Retrieved 11 September 2014. 
  10. ^ Harless, Robert (2004). Horsepower War: Our Way of Life. iUniverse. p. 1.  
  11. ^ Gunnell, John (2001). Standard Guide to American Muscle Cars: A Supercar Source Book, 1960–2000. Krause Publications.  
  12. ^ Norbye, Jan P.; Dunne, Jim (October 1966). "The Hot Ones: Supercars of medium size flaunt tough suspensions, great brakes, most powerful engines in existence". Popular Science 189 (4): 83–85. Retrieved 11 September 2014. 
  13. ^ Auto Editors of Consumer Guide (22 August 2007). "1957-1960 Rambler Rebel". Retrieved 11 September 2014. 
  14. ^ Harless, p. 8.
  15. ^ Campisano, Jim (1995). American Muscle Cars. MetroBooks. p. 91.  
  16. ^ "Rambler Scrambler". Car Life 16: 33–36. 1969. Retrieved 11 September 2014. 
  17. ^ "Rambler Scrambler". Car and Driver 14: 84. 1968. 
  18. ^ Lyons, Dan; Scott, Jason (2004). Muscle Car Milestones. MotorBooks/MBI Publishing. p. 89.  
  19. ^ Bonsall, Thomas E. (1985). Muscle Plymouths: The Story of a Supercar. Bookman Publishing.  
  20. ^ Primedia (2004). Hot Rod Magazine: Muscle Car Files. MotorBooks International. p. 112.  
  21. ^ Carner, Colin (February 1999). "1967 Chevrolet Stage III Nickey Camaro". Sports Car Market. Retrieved 11 September 2014. 
  22. ^ Harless, p. 5.
  23. ^ Stuart Marshall (4 September 1975). "Rewards and frustrations of the super cars". The Times (London). p. 23. 
  24. ^ "Business Roundup; From the Land of the VW, a $35,000 Supercar". The New York Times. 21 September 1975. p. F15. 
  25. ^ Ward, Ian (1985), Secondhand Supercars, London Motor Show "Motorfair 1985" Official Catalogue 
  26. ^ McCosh, Dan (June 1994). "Emerging Technologies for the Supercar". Popular Science 244 (6): 95–100. Retrieved 11 September 2014. 
  27. ^ a b Eisenstien, Paul (June 2000). "80 mpg". Popular Mechanics 177 (6): 88–91. 
  28. ^ Fuhs, Allen E. (2008). Hybrid vehicles and the future of personal transportation. CRC Press. p. 10.  

External links

  • Exotic Cars at DMOZ
  • What's A Supercar? The Debate Rages On - Drive, 27 February 2014
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