But the most radical statement came from Lamborghini when they unleashed the Miura upon an unsuspecting public in 1966. With aggressive, aerodynamic styling and a rear-mounted V12 engine, the Miura was an ostentatious first salvo in what would become the battle of auto manufacturers attempting to outdo each other in terms of outrageous performance.
Lamborghini continued to refine their supercar concept through the 80’s and 90’s with models such as the Countach and the Diablo, the latter a near-500 horsepower wedge shaped beast with scissor doors and a reputation as a challenging car to drive at the limits.
Not to be outdone by their Italian countrymen, Ferrari too developed their own homegrown supercar, the F40. While the Lamborghini was oriented more towards top speed, due to its high curb weight, the 478 horsepower F40 was essentially an expression of Ferrari’s Formula 1 car in (barely) street-legal form. With manual windows, no radio, a stripped down interior and a rear-mounted twin-turbo V8, the F40 shot to from zero to sixty miles an hour in a scant 3.2 seconds.
This number was absolutely incredible in the late 80’s, and remains extremely respectable in the world of supercars to this day. The mantle of ultimate supercar for the 90’s, however, belonged to the McLaren F1. Powered by a BMW V12 engine, the McLaren had a top speed of 242 miles per hour. This would hold as the record for a production car until 2005.
Modern supercars have benefited from the technology advances of the last ten years. Materials such as carbon fiber and extensive use of fiberglass and aluminum have allowed curb weights to drop dramatically despite the addition of luxury items and safety systems. While it has always been relatively simple to employ the formula of light car plus powerful engine to achieve an impressive top speed, controlling a vehicle at those speeds is a challenge.
Vehicles like the 1001 horsepower Bugatti Veyron are chock full of computerized traction control systems, all-wheel drive systems, and variable aerodynamics that allow them to top 250 miles per hour. Representing the upper crust of the supercar pantheon, the Bugatti Veyron costs 1 million dollars and can reach 60 miles per hour in a blazing 2.5 seconds.