Today the world’s fastest (road-legal) car is the Bugatti Veyron which, under the right conditions, can reach a maximum speed of 415 km/h. Although there are a few cars that are faster—concept cars, cars purpose-built to break land-speed records, and racing cars for example—the Veyron remains the king of road cars where speed is concerned. However, it goes without being said that the Veyron hasn’t always been the most powerful production car. In this article, we’re looking at some of the most technologically advanced and fastest cars throughout the history of cars.
It’s self-evident that the first ever production 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, later and today known as Mercedes-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, sports betting, 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 early days of mass production were dominated by the French and the best performing cars were designed in Germany, but by the end of the war the Americans were producing more cars than any other nation and the British had built the fastest car, Jaguar Mark IV. This car could travel at a top speed of 153 km/h, making it a fast car even by today’s standards.Two years later, British manufacturers Healy developed the Type 2.4, a car that added another 25 km/h to the Jaguar Mark IV’s top speed, and a further two years later Jaguar was back on top with its XK 120, the first production car to break the 200 km/h barrier.
Throughout most of the 50s it was the British who dominated in high-end production vehicles with fierce but intermittent competition coming from Germany. The Mercedes 300SL debuted 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 Ferrari 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.