American cars are known worldwide for their powerful engines and excellent handling, and there’s no better way to experience them than in classic models from decades past.
These cars combine timeless designs with cutting-edge technology, making them equally thrilling to drive on the open road and look at as they are parked in your garage.
This list of classic American sports cars will take your breath away from Mustangs to Corvettes, so buckle up and get ready to roll!
Table of Contents
- Acura NSX
- Alfa Romeo 4C
- BMW M3 GRT
- Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4
- Jaguar E-Type
- Jaguar C-Type
- Ford GT40
- Ferrari F40
- Ferrari 250 GTO
- Chevy Corvette
- Dodge Viper
- Ford Mustang GT500
- Ford Torino
- Plymouth fury
- Lamborghini Murcielago
- Lexus LFA
- Porsche 911 SC RS3
- AC Cobra 427 MKIII
- McLaren Senna
- Saleen S7
- Pagani Huayra BC
- Pagani Zonda
- Koenigsegg Jesko
- Ariel Atom
- Detomaso Pantera
- Hennessey Venom GT
The Acura NSX was initially known as simply the Honda NSX. The first model produced by Honda debuted in 1990 and featured a 3.0-liter V6 engine.
It had a top speed of 161 mph and acceleration from 0 to 60 in 5.7 seconds. It cost around $60,000 but was also imported into Canada and other countries, where it retailed for up to $80,000 due to high demand.
The car quickly became famous as one of the classic American sports cars on racing circuits. It has a rear-wheel-drive design, six-speed manual transmission, a light curb weight of 2,576 pounds, and a mid-engine layout.
These allowed it to corner more effectively than other sports cars on tracks like Suzuka in Japan. Here, they quickly garnered a reputation for stellar cornering performance.
Alfa Romeo 4C
The Alfa Romeo 4C is a two-seater, mid-engined roadster with a carbon-fiber tub chassis and an aluminum skin. The 4C’s ultra-lightweight construction contributes to its low curb weight of 2,200 pounds, about what you’d expect for a compact economy car.
Despite its unassuming appearance, including a wire mesh grille and small exhaust tips out back, there’s nothing modest about Alfa Romeo’s latest creation. This car may be small, but it has plenty of guts among classic American sports cars.
It has a 1.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine from Ferrari—yes, that Ferrari—develops 237 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque between 3000 and 6000 pm.
BMW M3 GRT
The BMW M3 is a high-performance version of the BMW 3 Series, developed by BMW’s in-house motorsport division, BMW M GmbH.
The initial model was designed to be used in touring car racing and debuted in 1986 as an evolution of the 3 Series and powered by an inline four-cylinder engine. It was more significant, had more power, and handled better than its predecessor.
Since its introduction as part of the classic American sports cars, engine output has been increased through a series of developments; three generations of engines have been introduced.
Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4
If a car is so exclusive and expensive that only 300 are ever produced, it’s got to be worth talking about. Such is the case with all Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4s, and if you get one of these beautiful beasts, you’ll truly understand why they cost more than $1 million each.
This one of the classic American sports cars were built in 2005 in France by Volkswagen AG, which also made its W-16 engine (1,001 bhp), along with some unique materials like carbon fiber and titanium.
The Bugatti can reach up to 254 mph and even hit 0-60 mph in 2.5 seconds—pretty impressive for a four-door sedan!
The E-Type, produced from 1961 to 1975, is still a household name for any car enthusiast. It is a sleek, sexy, and speedy car with a top speed of 150 mph. The large glass area makes for not only an impressive view but also excellent aerodynamics.
Moreover, over 70% of all E-Types ever made are still on the road today—quite a remarkable number for such an old model. The convertible version was sold in limited quantities and fetched higher prices than its fixed-roof counterpart.
If you can’t afford one of those classic American sports cars, you can always opt for an electric Jaguar E-Type concept car instead.
The Jaguar C-Type was manufactured by Jaguar Cars Ltd between 1951 and 1954. It is a racing sports car that competed in various races, including Le Mans, Sebring, and many others during its time.
The vehicle had a significant racing success with wins at events such as Goodwood and Nurburgring 1000km race.
The Jaguar C-Type was powered by an inline four-cylinder 2195cc engine which produced 160bhp of power. Weighing a total of 820kgs allowed it to achieve a top speed of 175mph or 282km/h.
These classic American sports cars cost an estimated $33,000 in 1954 and sold for $1,420,000 at auction in 2010
The Ford GT40 is one of those classic American sports cars, a rare product of coincidence. In 1965, Lee Iacocca was facing a crisis.
Ford’s flagship Continental had just been panned in comparison to its competition in Europe and was not selling well.
Worse yet, Iacocca discovered that Henry Ford II had developed an interest in making his car, prompting fears of another Edsel fiasco. Iacocca decided it was time for a radical response.
He sold a controlling stake in Ferrari to Enzo Ferrari, Ford’s longtime European rival, and negotiated with Ken Miles for permission to buy the faltering Shelby name from Shelby-American.
That pairing — former partner and current competitor — led to conflict over resource allocations as both projects began to wind down during 1966.
Ferrari F40 is one of Ferrari’s classic American sports cars, as it was one of only 400 ever to be produced. The F40 was built for speed and nothing else; features like a radio or air conditioning were not even included in its design.
However, there are some pretty cool perks to owning an F40. These include windows with electro-chromatic plastic and a titanium-aluminum alloy called SPF—the latter being incredibly light.
Along with these perks, Ferrari also decided to include aluminum body panels, making it highly aerodynamic and capable of reaching 220 miles per hour! Not too shabby for a car released in 1987. It sold new for USD 400,000 but now? At auction?
Ferrari 250 GTO
The Ferrari 250 GTO is a grand tourer produced by Ferrari from 1962 to 1964 for homologation into the FIAs Group 3 Grand Touring Car category.
It was powered by an enlarged 3.0 L version of Ferrari’s Colombo V12 engine, producing 300 PS (220 kW; 296 hp). Only 39 examples were built; today, they are among history’s classic American sports cars and sought-after automobiles.
While all 250 GTOs share their numerical designation, a number of them were specially bodied by various manufacturers and designers—including Pininfarina, Scaglietti, Carrozzeria Allemano, Ghia, and Bertone—and thus bore little resemblance to one another.
The Chevrolet Corvette is an icon of American motoring. Created in 1953, it’s seen several incarnations over its 60-year history but has always been regarded as one of North America’s premier performance vehicles.
It offers outstanding performance on both road and track, looks excellent, and can comfortably seat four people. And with rumors of a 2017 model just around the corner, now is a perfect time to consider buying if you’ve got $55K to spare.
When it comes to classic American sports cars, you won’t find much better than a Dodge Viper. Its lightweight, rear-wheel-drive frame and a supercharged V10 engine deliver astonishing speed and performance.
The exterior is just as stunning as its performance: sleek styling and an aggressive look make it a road star of classics. Not bad for an exotic car for less than $100,000.
Ford Mustang GT500
The 1966 Ford Mustang GT500 is among the actual classic American sports cars. The first generation GT500 came with a 428 cu in (7 L) V8 engine, producing.
A modernized version of it was recently re-introduced and is known for being one of the most potent pony cars to date.
However, unlike its predecessors, it is not considered an affordable everyday car for most people. It has an MSRP of $62,290 as of 2012.
During its production run from 1968 to 1976, Ford produced over 4 million Torinos, making it one of the classic American sports cars.
The first-generation (code name F-series) was available in two body styles: a 2-door fastback or a 4-door sedan. The second-generation (code name C series) saw engine sizes increase across all markets.
Two new engine options were offered for North America: a 302 cubic inch (4.9 L) Windsor V8 and a 351 cubic inch Windsor V8 as an option for fleet buyers. A luxury model called Brougham was also introduced in 1971 as a mid-cycle update.
The first fury was built in 1954. Even back then, it was considered one of the classic American sports cars over time. The car gained popularity and quickly earned a reputation as an elite roadster to own.
In 1959, Plymouth introduced a second model called Cobra with added improvements in performance and style, including wider tires and rear fender-mounted mirrors. The Plymouth Fury is still considered a classic American sports car.
The Murcielago was Lamborghini’s answer to Ferrari’s wildly popular 456 GT. While it doesn’t have quite as much power, it is still one of the fastest production road cars ever built.
The Murcielago has a 6.5-liter V12 engine with 661 horsepower and 509 pound-feet of torque and goes from 0 to 60 in 3.6 seconds; the top speed is more than 200 mph!
Unlike some Lamborghinis, which often come across as cold and robotic, Murcielagos are very comfortable cruisers. There are large expanses of leather seats everywhere you look; the fit and finish are excellent.
The Lexus LFA was a limited-production, high-performance supercar by Lexus. The last car was produced on June 18, 2012. It featured a 4.8 liter V10 engine delivering 560hp @ 8000rpm, 0–60 in 3.7 seconds, with a top speed of 202mph.
Production ceased on June 19, with only 500 units made for sale globally at $375,000 per unit. It is now one of the most collectible vehicles available alongside the Ferrari 458 Italia and Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, among other classic American sports cars.
Porsche 911 SC RS3
The Porsche 911 SC RS3 is often overlooked for its successor, launched in 1973. However, many don’t know that in 1969, Porsche produced a limited-edition RS3 version of its 911 model.
The RS3 means Rennsport, which translates to racing sport in English. The most apparent difference between models is how they look.
Instead of having a standard rear spoiler and round taillights, both are long and oval-shaped – similar to today’s contemporary models.
These days, you can own one of these classic American sports cars if you have $1 million to spare. In 1970, Porsche sold 1,580 units at $11k each – accounting for inflation adjustment makes them worth more than $69k nowadays.
AC Cobra 427 MKIII
This stunning car is one of the classic American sports cars made in 1966, and today it’s a collectible classic. The surprising thing about it is that it’s beautiful and powerful at the same time; it’s designed to look good but also go fast, which makes for an incredible driving experience.
It had undergone a restoration process twice during its life. Most recently in 1999, when everything from its twin-cam engine to its four-speed manual transmission was rebuilt.
With two seats and no roof or top of any kind, you can’t be afraid of getting caught in bad weather with this baby—and you won’t mind a bit when it does come out!
Named after three-time Formula One champion Ayrton Senna drove for McLaren, it’s built for competition with a carbon fiber chassis and body.
The suspension features motorsport-inspired components derived from racing experience, while an F1-derived steering wheel and shift paddles also come standard.
The engine is also based on an F1 unit and produces 720 horsepower through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. According to McLaren, it has a top speed of over 212 mph (341 km/h).
As expected, it’s available only on the left-hand drive. Buyers can choose between two exterior colors: Vivid Blue or Jet Black when searching for classic American sports cars.
Saleen S7 is one of the greatest (and craziest) classic American sports cars. This 1,000-horsepower car first appeared in 2000, with two versions for track and street use. The track version—with a top speed of 248 mph—made it into production first.
The original cost was $585,000; today, you’ll have to pay around $350,000 to get a used version (don’t worry: you won’t regret it). One thing’s for sure: This car has serious power.
When you press down on its accelerator pedal, it shoots forward like a rocket ship and makes your stomach drop when you go fast enough to send snow and dirt flying up behind you.
Pagani Huayra BC
The Pagani Huayra BC is a limited edition car built by Italian supercar manufacturer Pagani. The BC stands for Benny Caiola, a dear friend of Horacio Pagani’s who passed away in 2013.
It represents one of the most exclusive and striking classic American sports cars of the Huayra ever made. It has an exposed carbon fiber finish on most body panels and components such as doors, fenders, dashboards, and steering wheel.
You might remember seeing one of these beauties on Top Gear. In 1999, Jeremy Clarkson was driving a Zonda F. He tried to do a lap time, but he encountered problems in which he kept getting lost, and his visibility was terrible with a tiny rear window.
Eventually, Clarkson made it around without pitting but failed to beat his previous lap time of 1:17. The car he drove only had a 5-liter V12 engine but could hit 0-60 MPH in 3 seconds flat!
If you can afford an $800k supercar, you might as well get one of these classic American sports cars from Pagani! With its beautiful curves and stunning looks, you’ll have people staring at you when cruising down Rodeo Drive!
The Jesko is a new car built by Swedish automaker Koenigsegg. It was first shown to prospective customers at their factory in March 2019, with deliveries starting in 2021.
The Jesko uses a specially-developed 4.5 liter twin-turbo V8 engine (also known as an I6), delivering over 1200 bhp and approximately 1,100 lb-ft of torque.
This puts it well into supercar territory, but being a mid-engined car means it can be relatively lightweight and, therefore, very fast in terms of acceleration figures. Koenigsegg claims that 0–60 mph takes just 2.3 seconds on its own!
The Ariel Atom has been a popular British vehicle since its introduction in 1991. The car is a street-legal sports car, built on an aluminum chassis and powered by a Honda motorcycle engine. The small size of these automobiles makes them quite attractive to race enthusiasts.
Most owners enjoy racing their vehicles, and it is not uncommon for participants to be spectators at events. Manufacturers claim high speeds for these lightweight roadsters: 240 km/h (150 mph) with a 1.8-liter engine and 160 km/h (100 mph) with a 2-liter model.
However, most drivers find they can only reach 150–160 km/h in real-world driving conditions as they risk damaging their vehicles or, even worse, themselves.
The Pantera is one of my favorite classic American sports cars. At first, I was worried about driving it in winter conditions. The tires cannot handle snow and ice at all, which would mean a limited amount of time you could use it every year.
However, once I got used to driving a different car with an actual clutch, I loved how smooth it felt compared to most other vehicles in its class. It was responsive to shifts and easy to drive even on long trips.
Hennessey Venom GT
The Hennessey Venom GT is the fastest production car in acceleration and top speed. The Venom GT was built to break records, not break necks.
The heart of a drag racer beats under its sleek hood, but rest assured it can handle corners and straight lines.
You’ll be flying with a twin-turbocharged 7.0-liter V8 engine before you know it. No speed is out of reach with 1,451 horsepower and an impressive 1,177 pound-feet of torque available at 3,500 rpm—all while only weighing 2,743 pounds!
Here is our list of classic American sports cars that have to retain their value well enough to be still considered marketable. Also usable in regular road traffic by an enthusiast or collector.
In addition, it should be able to make heads turn when seen in public (regardless of whether it’s driven). In reality, though, some cars are more collectible than others.
The most sought-after classic American sports cars are built during a short production run with limited options or features.