Outta My Wheelhouse

Well, I got dragged into the Clickbait Matrix the other day, and ended up at 30 Greatest American Sports Cars.  I know a great deal about sports cars — especially those of yesteryear, and as I’ve written before, I love them.

But honestly, I know close to diddly about American  sports cars.  I mean, sure, there’s the ’67 Ford Mustang, the various Thunderbirds and Corvettes and so on, but to be frank, on the above list (and to nobody’s surprise, probably), the only two models I would consider owning would be the Duesenberg and the Stutz Bearcat — and of the two, I’d only consider the Bearcat as a true sports car (the Doozy’s a touring  car, and if I were to dump the Doozy as a non-sports car, I’d go with the AC Cobra, reluctantly).  And among the others, they’re akin to muscle cars* or even supercars (e.g. the Vector).

So, O My Readers: enlighten me about this so-called “Top 30” list.  Is it a valid one, or just a load of crap?  Are there other “real” American sports cars which have been missed?  The floor (via Comments) is yours.

*The list which follows the “30 Top Sports Cars” is the 25 Top Muscle Cars.  I confess myself to be confused.  The one after that  is Classic Cars;  them, I know about.


  1. I’m mostly a reformed muscle car guy, having owned and driven several 60’s era big block Mopars. The top 30 list is mostly muscle cars with a few super cars thrown in. The US has never really been a big market for “sports car” in the European sense. Small, 2-seat, well-balanced sporty cars with a spry (but not overly powerful) engine just didn’t sell very well here. It’s just a cultural thing. Outside of the Mazda Miata and the Honda S-2000, I can’t really recall any common sports car sold here in any great numbers.

    Where we did have American sports car (the original T-bird, corvette, etc.), they were quickly overcome with muscle car influence and stuffed with big block V-8’s and mag wheels. The AC Cobra, sold overseas with a 4-banger engine, needed a V8 make-over before the US market would even consider it.

    Americans weren’t landed gentry politely driving fast through the countryside estates, we were brash young teenagers drag-racing on main street in loud, tire-smoking death machines. While drinking cheap beer.

    1. The genesis of the AC Cobra was the AC Ace & Bristol roadsters that were powered by inline-6’s – the Bristol being a BMW designed six from IIRC the 328 of pre-WW2.

    2. I disagree. There’s a reason the Miata was pushed on Mazda by their American office.

      The real issue has been that the Detroit auto industry never understood the sports car. They understand trucks and sedans. Their notion of a “sports car” was to take a sedan chassis, put a two-door body on it, and stuff a big motor into it. Handling? You had to be kidding. They were making the equivalent of cheap rotgut moonshine. A true sports car, which the British could do (with wretched mechanical reliability), was agile. Not terribly fast, often, but fiendishly maneuverable. A good single-malt on wheels.

      The Miata? Mazda reverse-engineered a Lotus Elan, then redesigned it with meticulous detail engineering. I had one for 14 years, retired it…at 243,000 miles.

  2. That website was a fraud all the way around.
    I agree with Don C above, the US has never been a sports car place.
    I only got to page 3 which was the Tesla.
    I didn’t see the point in wasting any more time.
    Several muscle cars of the Ford and Chevy persuasion were my hobby in the late 60’s and 70’s. I had a 66 Mustang 269 hipo, auto, and a 1970 Camaro SS 396 4 speed. I also played around with a 62 Corvair Spyder with a 4 speed and a turbo. Wish I still had all of them.

  3. Yes, you were in clickbait hell there.

    I am a muscle car era guy. In general, that list was fair. There’s no reason for the Gremlin to be on there. There are probably a couple of Corvettes and Camaros that could have made the list. 1968 Charger vs. the 1969 model. A Shelby Cobra should have been included.

    As far as American Sports Cars go, I’m not sure what should be on the list. I always considered a sports car one that has sufficient power but handles well and is comfortable to drive. My list would include a Shelby Cobra, Dodge Viper, GT40, current Mustang, Corvette and Camaro. There are a few older versions of those models that might make the list, but unless they have been upgraded, the handling is lacking in the older cars. Other candidates such as the Challenger and vehicles from Hennesey, Saleen and Tesla would find a place on the list.

  4. Sometimes, store-bought factory-made one-size-fits-all isn’t good enough:

    In the late 1960s, I acquired a 1953 Austin Healey 100-4. Keeping up with California traffic required systematically abusing the poor dear, so I installed a Chevy V-8 with solid lifters, Muncie 4-speed, and huge gumballs.

    California Highway 192 is a twisting one-lane farm-road between Newcastle and Lincoln. About twenty-eight miles (I don’t know the metrical distance) at upwards of 80mph (I don’t know the metrical velocity). Completely in control.

    Except for the flatbed loaded with bales of hay (I don’t know the metrical sizing comparison) almost losing its load on my steering wheel. That was interesting.

    Motorcycles south on coast Highway One, Big Sur to Hearst Castle. Empty the bladder, re-fill with fuel, then immediately run it north.

    A significant amount of ‘ten-feet tall and bomb-proof’… and ‘no’, do not try any of that after 1980 or so. Aunt Nanny teaches today’s vehicle operators they can survive with seatbelts and air-bags and the trendy ‘Supplemental Restraint System’, so they have no need to pay attention.

  5. Growing up in my part of the Midwest in the 70’s, sports car referred to something European. MG’s being the most common.

    Most folks into cars had muscle cars. Mine was a 68 Dodge Charger. Still miss it after 40 years

  6. I’d call them muscle cars. All sorts of horsepower and torque transferred to the rear wheels of some beautiful examples of Detroit manufacturing. We could argue about picking a top 10 or a top 30, but let’s say it starts about 1955 and ends with government imposed finality after the 1971 model year.

  7. “I only got to page 3 which was the Tesla.
    I didn’t see the point in wasting any more time.”

    What Ghostsniper said. If Tesla is #3, I know all I need to know about the rest of the list, and the author can fuck right off.

  8. One of the things missing from that badly written article would be a definition of “sports car”. Generally, it would be agreed to contain two seats, and have adequate corner handling ability and an engine that would make the car fun and reasonably exciting to drive. Monster hp was not considered to be necessary, and a small vehicle size was typical.

    Early Corvettes would fit, and so would the first generation of the Thunderbird. Not much else, really. The Opel GT might qualify, as it was designed by GM, and most of them were sold here by Buick. Neat little car, but even with the 1.9L engine, it seemed a bit underpowered.
    Hmm, my benchmark would be roadracing motorcycles, and big block hotrods, so underpowered might be relative.

    That 429 engine in the ’70 Torino? Ford also put it in the ’71 Mustang, which may be the last of their Muscle Cars in that vintage. My 429 Super Cobra Jet had the very rare optional auto trans, factory modified by Fairbanks Auto (special order for a guy with only one arm). Ford rated it 370hp. Dyno videos of that stock engine setup show over 500hp. My insurance agent looked up the VIN in a booklet, and announced a 20% surcharge for “excessive horsepower”. It was hard to keep from snickering, as I knew that Ford was sandbagging on the rating to try to get those engines into a more amenable dragracing class, and to help keep insurance rates tolerable. When I first presented the paperwork for the Mustang, he asked me what engine it had. With an angelic demeanor, I said I thought it might be a v8.
    Besides the Ram Air intake system, it also sported a 4.11 with a Detroit Locker, the better to spin both tires together. Which it would do, for about a 1/4 mile, with street tires.

    Those early Mustangs? (’65/’66). Handled like a truck in the corners. That’s why I got rid of my ’65 2+2 Fastback 4spd V8. Found out later that the Shelby front end mods would fix the problem. Oops.

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