When we think about supercars – and hypercars too of course – the names that come to mind are typically European, with the notable exception of the Ford GT. You know the names of course – Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Aston Martin and McLaren. The news that the Saleen S7 is rolling back into extremely limited production after nearly a decade reminds us though that American automakers have indeed made valuable contributions to the world of supercars.
That Saleen S7 may just be able to lay claim to the title of the first true American mid-engine supercar but that is just a technicality. Despite a penchant for muscle over handling finesse, the Saleen is just the latest in a long line of supercars with an American helping hand.
The DeTomaso Pantera
It may have been built in Italy but it was designed by an American – Tom Tjaarda – and used American horsepower in the shape of the Ford V8 block. What’s more it was imported directly into the US by Ford who sold it at its Mercury dealerships and ironed out all of the issues that plagued all Italian built cars of the era. As a result of Ford’s direct involvement, within three years of production, the Pantera was a genuinely good car capable of challenging the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini on the track and on the road.
Another Italian supercar, this one was built while Lamborghini was owned by Chrysler. It was the first raging bull-badged vehicle to surpass the 200mph barrier and in its second iteration the first to get all-wheel drive to cope with those ferocious levels of power. Chrysler sold Lamborghini in 1994, but not before the two companies had worked together to create the phenomenal V10 engine that would power the Dodge Viper.
Unlike the car that inspired it – the original GT40, this car was built from the start to be a road-going supercar. However, one thing remained constant, it had to surpass the benchmark set by Ferrari and that it did thanks to a supercharged 5.4-liter V8 that delivered 550hp, a 0-100km/h time of 3.9 seconds and 205mph top speed. The result was a faster lap time than a Ferrari 350 Modena.
The SCC Ultimate Aero
This car – that no one outside the US had ever heard of – made global headlines in 2007 when it briefly beat the Bugatti Veyron to become the world’s fastest production car, setting a Guinness-verified 256.14mph. It managed this thanks to a twin-turbocharged Chevy V8 sitting in its middle but stealing Bugatti’s record simply made the VW-owned firm go back to the drawing board and return with the SuperSport, which took the record back. All versions of the Ultimate Aero went out of production in 2013.
The Hennessey Venom GT
No list of US performance cars would be complete without the Venom which uses the nose and doors from a Lotus (to meet crash testing regulations) but everything else is 100% American mechanical know-how. Its twin turbo V8 in its latest state of tune is capable of outputting 1415hp and the Spyder version is currently the world’s fastest open top street legal car, having set a top speed of 265.6mph