Technology has come a long way in the past half-century. A family crossover or sedan now has significantly more power than many sports cars of the old days. The tires, suspension, and brakes of the kind of vehicles people take their kids to school in and deliver their parents to the retirement home with are now surpassing what even supercars used back in the day. This is to say nothing of the family sedans like the Hellcat Charger and the P100D Model S, whose engine and motors produce more power than some F1 cars in race trim did in the late ’60s. And that was all while being easily drivable on a daily basis—just gas and go instead of needing to be rebuilt every other day with the expertise and cost of an entire professional race team.
We don’t need to go that far to show how far the world has come, however. A standard front-wheel-drive V6 Camry will outrun the fastest homologation sports racing cars of the late ’50s and very early ’60s, including such greats as the 550 Spyder series and the most valuable cars on earth, the Ferrari 250 GTOs. It goes without saying that a Camry is much easier to drive and safer in a crash than these death-defying knife-edge racecars. And the extreme supercars, while slower, far less reliable, and, in some cases, even less maneuverable, had so much more soul and were so much more exciting than the modern family sedan than outruns them all.
20. BMW M1
The story of the stillborn racecar that’s the BMW M1 is about as convoluted as it is interesting. BMW wanted to go racing and knew they had the chops to do so but wanted help with the engine.
Contracting a struggling Lamborghini to build the engine for this high-end sports racer, everything only went well—but only at first.
Lamborghini pretty much up and died during the development of their racing engine, largely due to mismanagement of the company with their involvement in the Cheetah, a failed attempt to produce a US military vehicle. In the end, the car produced didn’t fit the rule set, so BMW created a one-make series for it instead.
19. DE TOMASO PANTERA GTS
While the primary life of the M1 was an afterlife, the Pantera lived a very full life. Over the decades, the car didn’t change much, and at its core was always the near-perfect marriage of domestic power and Italian agility and beauty. This was achieved by using the same Ford 351 V8 engine that powered the classic Mustang—but with even more room in the engine bay to make modifications. Before the Skyline GT-R and turbo Porsches, it was the Pantera that dominated illegal highway racing in Japan. Simple, powerful, and easy to modify, the Pantera was quite the handful to pilot.