Top Fastest Cars by Year
Summer is firing on all cylinders. There’s no better way to beat the heat than by outrunning it on the open road. In honor of sports car season, the experts at Caliber are taking a road trip through time. In this article, we showcase the top fastest cars to roll off the production line in the last century.
Part I: Top fastest cars in the world: 1900 - 1950
Let's get the ball rolling with the first half of the 20th century. This is where speed got its first real start.
1. Top fastest car in the 1900s: Mercedes-Simplex 60HP
Speed: 73 mph
Our first stop takes us to the very beginning of the 20th century when the mainstream auto industry was still in its infancy.
The 60HP was one of the earliest Mercedes-branded production cars. It maxed out at a more-than-brisk 73 mph — an impressive feat for its time.
Its magneto electric spark ignition system went above and far beyond other contemporary cars. This fact only cemented Mercedes' high-performing legacy and it is still alive and well more than 100 years later.
2. 1910 Race car: Austro-Daimler Prince Henry
Speed: 85 mph
Like the Mercedes-Simplex, the Austro-Daimler was originally built for racing.
Ferdinand Porsche himself developed the engine. Shortly afterward, the Prince Henry rolled off the production line and into the history books.
Due to the manufacturing strains of the first World War, Austro-Daimler soon collapsed financially. The Prince Henry, however, remains the epitome of luxury and technological prowess of the time period.
3. Fastest car in the 1920s: Duesenberg Model J
Speed: 119 mph
If you’re wondering where the phrase “It’s a Deusy” got its start, look no further. Even though the modern spelling changed to “it’s a doozy,” this phrase’s legendary namesake remains the same.
The Duesenberg Model J rolled off the production lines in 1928 as an embodiment of American speed and pride.
Although smaller than other engines of the time, it generated a whopping 265 hp. That's more than some cars put out today. Moreover, the Model J reached speeds of up to 119 mph.
As a result, it put the United States on the map in the auto world.
4. Fastest car of the 1930s: Duesenberg Model SJ
Speed: 140 mph
The Duesenberg dominated the auto market in the 20s. To maintain its clear supremacy, the automaker souped up the speedster even more for the next decade.
The baseline Model SJ maxed out at 140 mph. It even held the record until 1990 for the highest average speed over a 24-hour period.
Here are just a few of the Model SJ's specs that prove oldies can certainly still be goodies:
- 320 hp
- Inline eight-cylinder engine
- Centrifugal supercharger
...and a literal hoodfull of other bells and whistles.
5. Top fastest car of the 1940s: Jaguar XK120
Speed: 132 mph
No one could out-speed the Duesenberg for years after its production. But, Jaguar quickly climbed the ranks after WWII. By the mid-1940s, the English automaker was ready to contend for the top fastest car title.
The manufacturer's success took the form of the aptly named XK120. This model is a roadster equipped with a then state-of-the-art straight six engine. It could top 120 mph and would carry the Jaguar name to fame in the coming decades.
At a time when family cars struggled to top 70 mph, the XK120 took to the road like a speeding bullet. It's no wonder that it became a classic.
6. Fastest car of the 1950s: Aston Martin DB4 GT
Speed: 153 mph
The Aston Martin DB4 GT rolled into the latter half of the century as the epitome of luxury. It symbolized both high speed and high class.
A lighter, higher-performance version of the DB4 was introduced in September 1959.
The newly improved DB4 GT reached a top speed of 153 mph. What's more, it was also able to reach 302 hp thanks to:
- A 3.7 L engine
- Three twin-choke Weber carburetors
- A lighter aluminum body
Aston Martin only produced 75 of these vehicles originally. As a result, the car is worth millions today.
From speed to sex appeal, the DB4 GT had it all. In fact, the model’s later iteration even caught the attention of James Bond.
Part II: Top fastest cars 1960 - present
In an era before electronics and automation, cars more than doubled their speed capabilities in only 50 years. Reviewing the fastest cars from 1900 to 1950 was certainly a thrill. But don’t blink!
We’re about to speed through the modern era of supercars this go-around. This next group of production autos show no signs of slowing down.
7. Fastest car of the 60s: Ferrari 365 GTB “Daytona”
Speed: 174 mph
In 1967, Ferrari impressed the world at the Daytona 24-hour race, securing a 1-2-3 victory. The Italian car crafter then commemorated the accomplishment by releasing the record-breaking 365 GTB “Daytona.”
This 352 hp 4-cam V12 Berlinetta came with:
- Retractable headlights that lowered to reduce drag
- A top speed of 174 mph
The Daytona marked the first in a long line of incredible autos from Ferrari. Furthermore, this vehicle established the brand as a contender in the modern era.
8. Top fastest car of the 70s: Lamborghini Countach LP400
Speed: 179 mph
We can trace the unique and outrageous design choices on modern supercars to this iconic ride.
The Lamborghini Countach LP400 was the first production Lamborghini to feature the brand’s now-iconic scissor doors.
A spaceship on wheels, the Countach looked and drove out of this world. Equipped with a 3929 cc mid-engined V12, it could deliver up to 370 hp and top 179 mph on the open road.
Just like Ferrari in the decade before, Lamborghini changed the supercar game, and it continues to do so nearly 50 years later.
9. Fastest car of the 80s: Porsche 959
Speed: 197 mph
The Porsche 959 made its debut as the world’s fastest car in 1986. Experts and enthusiasts alike consider it the most technologically advanced, mold-breaking supercar of the decade.
The 959 was one of the few models that could contend with the powerhouse that was the Ferrari F40. For this reason, the debate about which supercar truly defined the 80s rages on today.
The Porsche 959 could reach 0-to-60 in 3.6 seconds flat. Equally impressive is that it reached a top speed of 197 mph. Against this feat, previous records went up in smoke until the next generation.
10. Fastest car of the 90s: McLaren F1
Speed: 240 mph
To call the McLaren F1 a significant development in the auto industry would be an understatement.
The body was so aerodynamic that, for once, engine capabilities rather than wind resistance capped the car’s top speed at 240 mph.
Only 106 cars were manufactured. Some are priced at auction in the tens of millions! This fact is a testament to the ride’s incredible performance, even by today’s standards.
Fastest car of the 2000s: SSC Ultimate Aero TT
Speed: 256 mph
At the dawn of the new millennium, Shelby Supercars pooled their resources behind a single goal: to bring the “world’s fastest car” title back to America.
The resulting SSC Ultimate Aero TT accomplished its purpose and more. This modern marvel shattered the world record at a clocked max speed of 256 mph.
Living up to the “Ultimate” name, the Aero TT boasted more power than any car ever made. It even raced to make headlines across the globe when it was crowned king in 2007.
12. Top fastest car of today: Koenigsegg Agera RS
Speed: 284 mph
Some might say the Hennessey Venom F5 rules the road at an alleged 301 mph. However, the official speed king currently on record is the Koenigsegg Agera RS.
Reaching a top speed of 284 mph, this 3,000lb.slab of carbon fiber, aluminum and Kevlar, defied gravity.
It can reach such speeds thanks to a twin-turbocharged eight-cylinder engine. This engine cranked out 1,360 hp and 1,011lb-ft of torque (more power than 11 Toyota Priuses, combined).
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