When you set yourself up as judges to discover the “Greatest Sports Car Of All Time“, you need to use a decent track for the test.  Which the guys at Road & Track  did, choosing the lovely Lime Rock Park circuit in northern Connecticut (which I’ve driven round a couple times before, once in a BMW 3-series, and again in a restored ’65 Mustang), and the track is perfect for the task (right-click to embiggen).

However, in such a competition you can always count on amateurs such as I to question the choices of the finalists.  Which in this case were:

  1. 1949 MG TC
  2. 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL
  3. 1965 Shelby 289 Cobra
  4. 1967 Porsche 911 S
  5. 1988 BMW M5
  6. 1995 McLaren F1
  7. 2001 Acura Integra Type R
  8. 2020 Mazda Miata MX-5

I have no problem whatsoever with the first four cars and the last car on the list:  all five are excellent choices, and are almost perfect sports cars.  Now for the bad news.

The Beemer M5 is a fine car — I once owned a “detuned” 525i myself — but by no stretch of the imagination could it ever be called a sports car, because it has four doors.  No.  Just… no.

Ditto the Acura.  I think that the selection committee for this exercise got carried away with engine performance which, need I remind anyone, might be a prerequisite for a track car or race car, but that’s not in the sporting tradition (as I once mentioned here and here ).

In similar vein, the MacLaren doesn’t belong here, just as the Porsche 918 or Ferrari 458 would be out of place in this company.

So scratch those three imposters from the list.  Which begs the question:  what three (actual) sports cars should take their place?

I don’t think that anyone would argue against the 1960s-era E-type Jaguar as my #1 choice for inclusion.

…even though its performance takes it perilously close to the “supercar” definition (and in its time, it certainly was).

No list of “Best Sports Cars” would be complete without at least one Ferrari (with the “supercar” reservation as above), and I think the 1960 Ferrari 250 California Spyder might pip all others –even the more modern ones — in the marque:

My third replacement would be the 1966 Alfa Romeo 1600 Spider Duetto:

Finally, as a concession to my Murkin Readers, I might be persuaded to substitute the 1965 Ford Mustang for one or the other of the cars — but while the Mustang is a undoubtedly fun car, I don’t think it’s really a sports car, when compared to the above.

Honorable mentions should also go to the 1959 Aston Martin DB4, the 1955 Ford T-bird, the Porsche 356, the Morgan (any year, although the Morgan is really just a perfected version of the MG TC), the Honda S2000 and the BMW 507.


If you go along with my rejection of the two 4-door models and the outright supercar, then which three cars (not necessarily listed here) would you substitute?


  1. We used to have an expression (normally not referencing cars, but…) – The Morgan is the only one I’d let in my bed.

  2. Road and Track used to be a well written magazine. This “search” was just a silly exercise in driving some cars with some not being sports cars at all.

    1. It is a shame. I was given a subscription in 1957 by a colleague of my dad’s who got his cars directly from Max Hoffman in Manhattan. That poisoned me for American cars. Since then I was given one and bought a wrecked one, 2007 CTS-V, and either German, Japanese, or Swede otherwise.

  3. Oh, to answer your question about a substitute from your list, let’s try the BMW 507 and the Honda S2000.

  4. That’s a good list of post WW2 cars and I can’t knock any of them, but what about before WW2?

    Let me add two cars to your list, to round it to 10: for before WW1 I’ll nominate the Rolls Royce Silver Ghost – this was back when Rolls Royce were into sports cars – and for the inter-war years, I’ll nominate the Bentley Speed Six for its combination of power an elegance. I thought about Bugatti but they just don’t look good enough.

  5. Instead of the Mustang, why wouldn’t you go with an early Corvette, say anything before 1965? I’ve never driven any of the cars listed so no clue as to what’s what on the sportscar scene, I was always big trucks and muscle cars – you know, what with growing up in Texas. Nothing but flat straight roads for hours in any direction, drag racing and off-road were more our experience. A sportscar would have been nothing but wasted money down here.

    1. If you want a Mustang sportscar, there is only one:
      the first series Shelby GT350, which had the rear seat removed to make room for the trailing links to control the rear axle.

      1. It wasn’t just the rear that needed to be reworked. Shelby also changed the geometry of the front suspension. The original fastback ’65 handled like a small dumptruck. I had a ’65 2+2 with 4spd v8, and it was so bad that I got rid of it. Had a buddy with a ’60 Chevy pie wagon (station wagon without windows), and he could run through the woods roads and pull away from me while my Mustang was squeeling tires everywhere. If I had known about the Shelby mods I might have kept it. I had already swapped in a 302, a toploader trans, dual point distributor, traction bars, much bigger brakes, and painted it in my dad’s body shop. Had a better looking ’66 interior swapped in. I think I got $450 for it, and it took a month to find a buyer. Not wrecked or rusted. Btw, the original rear gears were a 2.80, and it got over 30mpg with a stock (’68?) 2-barrel 302.

  6. John Bond must be vastly disappointed by what’s become of his creation. He would have never allowed such a headline. it should read ” Most influential Sports Cars “. John was also a great champion of the Red Cars, so the lack of a Ferrari on the list would also never have happened.

    So if the criteria is what were the most influential Sports Cars of their time It needs to include a Ferrari. For open sports cars, excluding modern supercars. has to be a Testa Rossa ( the Pontoon fender 250 – not the Miami Vice car ). I’m tempted to include the GTO, but that’s really a Gran Touring car and not a ” Sports Car.

    Now if we are also including early Pre war car’s then a Blower Bentley need to be on the list.

    ….and lastly, as much as i love an early 911S, I’d have to say that a 930 would have been a better representative of the 911 line. It was more of a game changer than the early 911’s . But if the definition of a “sports car” is limited to an open 2 seater then i would chose a 550 over the 356 to represent the Porsche line. And swapped out a 427 for the 289 for the Cobra line.

    But I suspect that the real title of this story should have been. 10 great sports cars that we managed to borrow from 9 gullible owners and Sam Posey – That title john Bond would have agreed to use…..but he would not have published it…..he would have sent it to Car & Driver.

  7. For sliding around a race track just having fun I would consider the Jaguar XK-120 roadster and the Triumph TR3-A roadster because it is fun to go fast when you can reach out and touch the ground. The Austin Healy 3000 is also a fine machine to push through corners but it’s all good. I had a little experience in a friends 57 T-Bird with a 4 barrel Holley carb that would move fast and a girl in our high school had a 59 Vette that was pretty fantastic to drive. A true sports car needs to have two seats, a top that will come off and it really needs to leak when it rains because that what I remember.

  8. … and for some reason there is no Lotus on this list. They probably just could not find a running example so they went with the Miata instead.

  9. I used to have a Morgan +8 and I can personally verify that they are stuck to the road like whatever metaphor you want to use, (apart from hitting the brakes in Southampton Place early one morning when it was wet and sliding sideways on the cobbles for some heart stopping minutes, {double servo fitted!}).

  10. Of the ones on their list, the Shelby Cobra would probably be the one I’d pick.

    The biggest reason they didn’t include the California Spyder was that they couldn’t find one that a collector would let out of his secured storage facility. They tend to start at $13,000,000 or so for one in “fair” condition.

    For “modern” cars, the Eagle Spyder GT would probably be my “stupid money” choice. Classic Jaguar looks, with modern brakes and other components…

  11. I thought that the Morgan’s basic design was laid down in the mid-thirties whereas the MG TC was a post WW II car.

    My late sister Jeanne H. was in timing and scoring for the Eastern Region of the SCCA. Her husband Tom H. was a steward, as in: “Bring me the head of that MG. I want to cc the chambers.” It was their lifetime hobby. Jeanne was the first to have transponders installed on all cars. Before that the T&S people had to do it with paper strips and stopwatches. From time to time my wife and I helped out at Summit, WV, and Pocono, PA. The big thing was how many cars could one person handle simultaneously. Jeanne and Tom were heads of their respective units for the Eastern Region for several years.

    All the workers do this on their own dime and receive no compensation. Most camp out in the infield in tents and RVs. At the end of the weekend there often is a raffle for the workers. At the National Runoffs (Championships) out in Ohio one year Yokohama Tires ran donated the prize. J and T won an all expense paid trip to Le Mans the following year.

    I added a hint to who they were in case any of their old buddies read this blog.

    1. Tom and Jeanne must have been before my time in the SCCA New England region in the late 60’s when T&S was still a manual operation. Yes, 4 to 6 cars a person was the norm unless your name was Judy Stropus.

  12. The E, and the CA Spyder, definitely. The A.L.F.A. allows in those who can’t afford either of the first two, or the other definite substitute, the 507 – which pointed BMW in the direction it needed to go.

    1. Not too bad a choice, either, although the Caterham is really a track-only car.
      As the man said, “With the Caterham, suspension is always an optional extra.”

  13. If they didn’t include a 3rd gen Mazda Rx-7 (’93-’95/6?), they weren’t serious about this. C&D did a comparo back around ’95(?) of the top 10 performance street cars, and it cleaned house. IIRC, NOTHING street legal with 4 wheels was even close. One of the tests was the 0-100mph-0 time/distance, and it looked like it was a different class of car with such a dramatic difference to the others. They claimed it was the closest thing to a race car with a license plate.

    Had a friend with one, and it was so well balanced at the handling limit that it was truly a joy to drive. I didn’t notice that I had scared him while doing so, until I pulled over after running his favorite road in the Oakland Hills (and we were both racers). Twenty-some years since, and I still drool over the memories of that car.

  14. Not the Mustang. Maybe a 1966 Chevy Corvette. Maybe.

    But the 1965 Mustang is cute sheet metal over a small sedan with all the driveability and power of a Ford Falcon.

  15. Seen from Europe, the list lacks a classic rally car (an Alpine A110, for instance), a hot hatch (a Golf GTI, a 205 GTI…) even if the Integra could be considered as an alternative, and something italian (a Ferrari coupe ? An Alfa GTV or a Giulietta ? the options are endless). Honorable mention for a Bugatti 35 (was it really a supercar ?) or a Lotus Seven / Caterham. (Because it can be daily driven. https://youtu.be/iXVYFmnJmno )
    That is with a no supercar (a 1954 300 SL is definitely in supercar territory, though. The price tag was outrageous) or track-only car rule.

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