6 Of History's Most Dangerous Sports Cars

Car Culture / 17 Comments

From the merely unbalanced to the truly deranged.

There's an inherent danger in driving sports cars, even though they are a mature technology here in 2022. Despite disc brake systems hooked to computers, technologically advanced suspensions, advanced forms of traction and stability control, and chassis built to protect the occupants in a crash, people still come unstuck and hurt themselves and others. Nowadays, despite the dangers, technology can make a casual enthusiast driver look like a hero on a back road. Dial it back just 20 years to the turn of the century, though, and sports cars could bite the unwary. Some traits made them outright dangerous for casual enthusiasts trying to go fast. These are some of those cars.

1. Porsche 930 Turbo

We'll start with the most obvious - the car nicknamed in the 1980s as the widowmaker. There's a joke out there that it had to be men that designed the Porsche 911, as they would not admit putting the engine right at the back is a bad idea. While placing the weight over the back wheels on a rear-wheel-drive car has its benefits, once the rear wheels lose traction, that rear-hanging weight turns the car into a pendulum.

Early Porsche 911s needed skill to drive fast, but then in the 1980s, Porsche added a turbo and created a legendarily fast 911. Its ascendance into pop culture and as a status symbol brought some issues. Early turbos suffered from lag, and the turbo would come on suddenly; if that was in a corner, the result could easily be snap oversteer. It could catch out even the most experienced drivers and the end result for the inexperienced was even worse. Hand the keys over to a freshly minted millionaire, a suddenly successful stock market broker, or a highly paid doctor with no prior sports car experience, and you end up with a widowmaker.

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2. Dodge Viper

The car that springs to mind in the same vein as the Porsche 930 Turbo for Americans is the Dodge Viper. It was a massively overpowered sports car. With zero driver aids and an 8.0-liter V10 under the hood making 400 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque upon release, the Viper arrived as a handful for even the most experienced race car drivers. The first generation (1991-1995) even eschewed airbags as it would add unwanted weight. By the end of its five-generation run, the Viper's V10 made 645 hp, but even with electronic stability control, traction control, and a four-channel anti-lock brake system, it was still a snake that would bite. Weirdly, you can still buy fifth-generation models in 2022.

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3. TVR Chimaera

Show us a TVR Chimaera without damage from falling off the road, and we'll have a good laugh at your naivety. The Chimaera was billed as a larger, softer take on TVR's bananas approach to building two-seater, V8-powered sports cars between 1992 and 2003. By bananas approach to building cars, we mean that the British company built its reputation on shoddy build quality and leaving out safety equipment in favor of shoveling as much power under the hood as possible. The Chimaera had, and still has, a habit of sucking the driver in with its intoxicating sound and sensation of speed, but with its soft suspension and impressive handling, it could get out of shape quickly. It's not the nuttiest TVR to hit the road, but the Chimaera doesn't threaten to spit you off the road from the start. It'll let you feel comfortable and start to relax, then show you what a tank slapper feels like. So, don't drive one on a massive pub crawl like this guy did.


4. Shelby Cobra

When Carroll Shelby stuck a honking great V8 engine in a tiny British sports car in the 1960s, he created a new legend. It was an unwieldy car that needed to be tamed by an expert right foot. The Cobra would bite the unwary and overconfident, which is why so few of the 348 Shelby Cobra 427 units are left. The most infamous of the Cobra versions built are the two Super Snake models. Shelby designed the Super Snake to be the ultimate street-legal expression of the racing Cobra. The two superchargers added to the engine are the most significant of the modifications made. Reportedly, the Super Snake generated around 800 hp. In the 1960s.

Carroll Shelby kept the first Super Snake for himself, and gave the second to his close friend, then comedian and now shamed sitcom star, Bill Cosby. Cosby couldn't control it and gave it back to Shelby, who sold it via a dealer to a customer named Tony Maxey. Maxey lost control of the car when the throttle stuck when leaving a traffic light and ended up going off a cliff and into the Pacific ocean.

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5. Toyota MR2 Spyder

It was known by other names around the world, but the third-generation Toyota MR2 was the MR2 Spyder in the US. The MR2 had become popular as an inexpensive, lightweight sports car that brought mid-engined handling to the masses. Unfortunately, the second generation (1989-1999) had a tendency to exhibit snap oversteer. To experienced race car drivers, like then Top Gear host and fan of driving sideways, Tiff Needell, the second-generation MR2 was a delight to drive on the edge. To less experienced drivers, it was a confidence-inspiring sports car that could, with little to no warning, exit a corner backward and in the direction of its own choosing.

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6. Chevrolet Corvette

Statistically speaking, the most dangerous car sports car you can buy in the US the Chevrolet Corvette. According to data from the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System for model years 2013-2017, the Corvette is the most dangerous sports car on the road. More likely though, it's the drivers who are to blame as the seventh generation was the most technologically advanced Corvette until the recent mid-engine model. When the Mitsubishi Mirage is the only car that's recorded as more dangerous than the Corvette, it's a healthy reminder that it isn't necessarily speed that kills. When it comes to high performance cars, it's overconfidence in one's own skills and driving too fast for the road and conditions that kills.

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