For when a roadster isn't minimal enough.
The definition of a speedster isn't an easy one to nail down when it comes to cars. The simplest and most traditional explanation is that a speedster is a stripped-down roadster designed for having fun going fast. In the early 1900s, the term speedster and roadster were interchangeable, and the Society of Automobile Engineers finally settled on roadster to describe any open two-seat car with emphasis on sporting appearance or character.
The speedster definition has never been codified, and the idea of a stripped down roadster has been stretched and morphed over the decades, often by marketers. However, like pornography or art, we know it when we see it, and these are the greatest speedsters we've ever seen.
Perhaps the best known, prettiest factory speedster ever built is the Porsche 356 Speedster. It's German designed and German-built, but came about because US distributor Max Hoffman figured that Porsche needed a low-cost spartan sports car in America to compete directly with the small British roadsters that were all the rage in the 1950s. The new version of the 356 arrived with side curtains instead of roll-up side windows, a removable low-raked windscreen, thinly built seats, and little else. In the rear was a 4-cylinder boxer air-cooled engine making just 59 horsepower but weighed only 1,750 lbs. It was instantly popular in the US, and particularly in Southern California.
You're not imagining things, it actually exists. The Lamborghini Aventador J was cooked up by Lamborghini when former CEO Stephan Winkelmann decided he wanted something special to show off at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show. The engineers didn't just chop the roof and windscreen off and stick a J on the name of the 691-hp 6.5-liter V12 powered Aventador, though. The only original panels are the hood, front fenders, and rear fenders. It has new diffusers, and a pair of sculpted humps replace the slatted rear deck. Contrary to popular belief, the Aventador J wasn't commissioned by a customer, but Lamborghini did sell it to an unnamed valued customer before it was unveiled for the princely sum of $2.8 million.
Henry Ford's son, Edsel, loved custom cars and, in particular, speedsters. He commissioned then Lincoln car designer E.T. "Bob" Gregorie to build this Model 18 in a style the young auto design enthusiast had seen in Europe. Both men loved boats, and that can be seen in the boattail design at the back of the car. Edsel kept the car hidden from his father and drove it sparingly before having the flathead V8 updated. Edsel's 1932 Ford Model 18 Speedster led to Gregorie's appointment as Ford's first design director and the start of the Ford Design Department. The history of the actual car after it was sold is a long one that involves several owners and a big crash. However, it was found and then sold by RM Sotheby's at auction for $770,000 to Ford House, the historic home of Edsel and Eleanor Ford in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan, in 2016.
Long before Lewis Hamilton was a glint in his father's eye, Stirling Moss built his racing legend by winning 212 of the 529 races he entered. He raced in different categories, including Formula One, where he's been described as "the greatest driver never to win the World Championship." Like Hamilton, Moss raced for the Mercedes-Benz Formula One team and drove an SLR in the 1950s. To honor that in 2008, Mercedes went to work on a modern SLR to create the Stirling Moss edition. The result is one of the most phallic looking cars yet produced, with power coming from a 650-hp supercharged 5.4-liter V8. It looks as fast as it is with a 0-60mph time of 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 217 mph. Only 75 of these gorgeous speedsters with the stripped-down bodywork were built.
Aston Martin built two speedsters designated CC100. The first one was a concept, planned initially for Aston Martin to keep, and the second was to be sold. Aston sold the original anyway following its centenary celebrations, and both went for a little over $770,000. The CC100 was built on Aston's VH platform, with the beautiful exaggerated design penned by Miles Nurnberger.
Inspiration for the speedster was drawn from the legendary DBR1 that won both the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 1000km of Nürburgring. The CC100 has a lot more power than the 1959 race car, and it comes from Aston's naturally aspirated V12 engine, which makes 565 hp in the Vantage.
The Clubsport Quattro Concept has no roof, no A-pillars, no rearview mirror, and no door handles but adds up to 300 hp of roofless driving fun. It was billed in 2007 by Audi as a hardcore driver's car, and it looked the part. It's the purist model many TT owners still want, complete with wraparound windscreen, smaller door mirrors, and carbon-ceramic brakes. Now the TT is being put out to pasture; we will never see one on the road, so we include this one as something that could have and should have been.
The 911 Carrera 3.2 Speedster started a cycle of speedster variants of the Porsche 911 and was strictly a two-seater due to the fiberglass nacelles hiding the soft top. Losing the seats lost a little weight, the side windows were modified so they would wind down all the way into the doors, and the windscreen was replaced with a new raked piece of glass. The most sought after are the ones equipped with the factory Turbo Look option, which boasts a more aggressive aesthetic due to the flared fenders.
BMW's 328 Touring Coupe from the 1930s still holds the record for the highest average speed on the famed Mille Miglia circuit. The 328 set the time in 1940 with an average speed of 103 mph, and, for its 75th birthday in 2011, BMW paid tribute with the sensational BMW 328 Hommage. Weighing in at just 1,720 lbs due to extensive use of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic and two-part light-alloy wheels, the 328 Hommage is driven by a modern 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine, and the interior made up of leather and aluminum trim.
This list wouldn't be complete without the Eagle Speedster. It's a Jaguar E-Type that retains its jaw-dropping beauty while being brought up to date with modern engineering and materials to make a classic that drives better than many modern sports cars. Under the hood is a 4.7-liter straight-six from a Jaguar XK that makes 330 hp and 340 lb-ft of torque, and a five-speed manual transmission controls the power. It weighs just 2,269 lbs and can clock 0-60 mph in under five seconds and hit a top speed of over 170 mph. The design and options are as bespoke as the price tag, though, as an Eagle Speedster will set you back the best part of a million bucks.
The Brits really do have a handle on the idea of a speedster, and the Morgan Plus 8 Speedster is modern vintage at its frightening best. It looks like it could be 70 years old, but the Plus 8 Speedster is a special edition from 2018 based on a car that first appeared in 1968. Like all Morgans, it's built in the UK and based on a bonded and riveted aluminum chassis with an English Ash wood frame. For the Speedster special edition, the car retains its 4.8-liter BMW V8 engine, but Morgan took the carving knife to the windscreen, side windows, and ditched the folding roof and its mechanism. Only 60 were built, and it cost around $80,000 before ticking any option boxes.
The Ferrari SP1 and SP2 models were created as part of Ferrari's limited-edition Icona series and inspired by vintage Ferrari race cars from the 1950s. Only 599 models (combined) of the two variations were built: the SP1 as a single-seater and SP2 as a two-seater. Both speedsters are based on the Ferrari 812 Superfast's platform, including the 6.5-liter V12 engine pushing a slightly higher 800 hp and 530 lb-ft of torque. Ferrari, inevitably, sold out the whole production run instantly despite a price tag of around $1.8 million each.
Aston Martin loves a speedster, and its latest one is claimed by the company as its most extreme road car. We see no evidence to the contrary, as it has no roof and no windscreen but does have a 5.2-liter twin-turbo V12 generating 700 hp and 555 lb-ft of torque. That's quite a lump of power under the hood, and Aston says that using it without the protection of metal and glass adds to the visceral engagement. There's plenty to engage with as the V12 Speedster will hit zero to 62 mph in 3.5 seconds and has an electronically limited top speed of 186 mph. Power isn't its only talent, though, as the Speedster sports carbon-ceramic brakes and adaptive damping with Sport, Sport+, and Track modes. It's limited to 88 production units priced at $950,000 each.