Auto Racing

0 to 415: the fastest cars in history

Right now the world’s fastest car is the Bugatti Veyron which can reach a maximum speed of 415 km/h under the appropriate conditions. Although there are a couple of cars that are faster—mostly concept cars or cars specifically built to break land-speed records, and other racing cars for example—the Veyron is the king of road cars. However, it goes without stating, the Veyron hasn’t always been the most powerful production car. In this article, we look at some of the most technologically advanced and fastest cars throughout the history of cars.

For obvious reasons the first ever production car was, at that time, the fastest car ever built (as well as the slowest, the most efficient, the least efficient, etc, etc). The Benz Velo, manufactured by Rheinische Gasmotornfabrik Benz & Cie, known nowadays by the name ofMercedes-Benz, was produced from 1894 to 1901 had a three horse power engine and could travel at a top speed of 19 km/h. With a bench seat and two back wheels larger than the two front wheels this early vehicle looked far more like a horse-drawn carriage of the 1800s than an internal combustion engine of the 1900s. Even though technology developed throughout the early 20th century and cars became faster and faster and the racing industry and auxiliary industries (tyre manufacturers, road building, specialised parts productions, just to name a few) it wasn’t until after WWII that the mainstream became interested in fast production cars.

The nascent days of mass production were dominated by French carmakers and the top performing cars were designed in Germany, but towards the end of the war it was the Americans who were producing more cars than any other country, while the British had created the fastest car, Jaguar Mark IV. This auto could travel at an impressive top speed of 153 km/h, making it fast even by today’s standards.Two years later, the British manufacturer Healy developed the Type 2.4, a car which added another 25 km/h to the Jaguar Mark IV’s top speed, and another two years later Jaguar was back on top with its XK 120, the first car to crash the 200 km/h barrier.

Throughout much of the 1950s the British dominated high-end production vehicles with tough but intermittent competition coming from the Germans. The beautiful Mercedes 300SL came out in 1955 and was the fastest car at the time, being displaced by the Aston Martin DB4, itself replaced as the world’s fastest car by the DB4 GT. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s it was predominately Italians and the Germans building the cars that could cruise faster than all others. And despite these rapid early developments that tended to add 15 or 20 km/h to the top speeds, it seemed that cars had almost peaked in their speeds with new supercars adding only two or three km/h.

That was until 1984 when the Ferrai 288 GTO broke the 300 km/h in 1984. From there the technology again seemed to have found a second wind and top speeds increased dramatically until 2010 when the Bugatti Veyron was released.

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