How many of these did you know existed?
There’s little doubt that anyone with a passing interest in cars can identify supercars built by Ferrari or Lamborghini. It’s not much of a deeper dive to know whether you’re looking at a McLaren, Porsche, Pagani, or even a Ford GT. Start going deeper under the surface though, and there’s a whole layer of independent and aspiring supercar makers. Dig into supercar history, and there’s a lot that have come and gone again with varying degrees of notoriety.
The Sirius came onto the road in 2004 built by the German automaker Lotec. Best known for its racing cars, the Lotec road car was almost ten years in the making for the company's founder Kurt Lotterschmid. Even in modern terms, the numbers backing up the Sirius are staggering. It’s mid-mounted Mercedes-sourced 6.0-liter V12 makes 1,200 horsepower in its most powerful guise and sprints to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds and to 120 mph in 7.8 seconds. The engine isn’t the only ticket to supercardom for the Sirius, and Lotec poured its race car know-how into every aspect of its design, including the super light carbon-fiber over tubular frame chassis design.
Ascari Cars was a manufacturer based in the United Kingdom, named after an Italian racing driver and founded by a Dutchman. We've talked about the Ascari A10 before, but the KZ1 was in production from 2005-2010 and KZ is the initials for the company’s founder, Klaas Zwart. Production was limited to 50 units and each one took 340 man-hours to build, making it one of the most exclusive supercars around at the time. Those hours included building and tuning the BMW S62 V8 engine from the legendary E39 BMW 5 Series to make 500 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 406 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. The KZ1 made 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds and the 1/4 mile in 11.8 seconds at 124 mph.
The KZ1-R was the racing version, and once anything not needed for the track was stripped out of the carbon-fiber monocoque chassis, it weighed just 2,755.8 lb.
Gumpert was a German sports car maker headed by the former director of Audi Sport, Roland Gumpert. Gumpert had an enviable track record with Audi and, under his management, the brand won four World Rally Championship titles and 25 World Rally Championship events. The Apollo supercar ended with the company in 2012 but it was one hell of a street-legal race car that held the distinction of holding the Top Gear test track record for two years before being beaten by the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport.
The Apollo used a 4.0-liter twin-turbo version of Audi’s V8 engine that was housed in a tubular Chromoly frame, with either fiberglass or carbon-fibre body panels depending on the required specifications. Gumpert actually claimed the Apollo had aerodynamics so advanced it could be driven upside-down in a tunnel at 190 mph, but nobody has been brave enough to test that claim.
Noble is a small manufacturer from the UK that’s been around since 1999. The company has gone quietly about its business and produced six low production models now, and currently still produces the M600. It’s based, unusually, around a Volvo twin-turbocharged V8 engine and features a carbon-fiber body shell and a 6-speed Yamaha gearbox. The M600's ferocity and speed edges the M600 towards hypercar territory when optioned out to make 650 horsepower with 604 lb-ft of torque at just 3,800 rpm. 0-60 mph then comes at 2.9 seconds, with 100 mph rushing past at 6.5 seconds, and 200 mph at 29.8 seconds. If you wanted to waste the epic cornering ability of the M600, it’ll do the 1/4 mile in 10.9 seconds.
The story of the Vector W2 is an immense one. If Gerald Wiegert, the creator of the Vector M12 and W8, is to be believed then he invented the modern supercar, was responsible for the deal that got Lamborghini from out under Chrysler, and inspired the twin-turbo engine in the Lamborghini Diablo roadster and Ferrari F40. Oh, and he also invented the minivan and the 4-wheeled ATV.
What can’t be denied is his immense determination to complete a vision. Wiegert raised the capital for an immense supercar to be designed and built in the United States. He allowed little compromise, and the Vector W8 had a list of high-performance features that were breathtaking at the time. It starts with the 625-hp twin-turbo V8 mid-mounted in a semi-monocoque chassis clad in Kevlar-and-carbon-fiber bodywork. The interior included power adjustable seating with lumbar adjustment and a high-end Bosch sound system. 22 units of the W8 Twin-Turbos were made between 1989 and 1993, and we're all about those horizontal lines across the rear.
Zenvo is a Danish supercar manufacturer that was founded by Troels Vollertsen. Zenvo made its first mark on the world of supercars in 2008 with the debut of the Zenvo ST1, of which 15 were built to be sold. The TS1-GT is built on the ST1’s foundations, but got a new designation for it’s all-new drivetrain that includes an in-house developed 5.8-liter twin-supercharged V8 engine and a 7-speed paddle shift transmission that uses helical-cut dog gears. Production started in 2016, and the TS1-GT has a claimed 0-60 mph time of 3.0 seconds. It also has a track-focused version called the TSR, which in turn has its own road-legal version called the TSR-S. Like the original ST1, your bank account needs to have at least six zeroes on it to order the TS1-GT.
The UK has a rich history of supercars, and while McLaren is a household name, most have been small concerns aiming for the stars but destined for bankruptcy. At this point, the British parts-bin supercar designed and built in a small corner of an industrial estate is a British institution. Arash Motor Company is one of the companies that hasn’t gone out of business and after 20 years as a boutique supercar company, is selling the AF8. It was revealed in 2015 and uses a GM-sourced 7.0-liter LS7 V8 making 550 horsepower that's mounted in a chassis constructed with steel, aluminum, and carbon-fiber. We love that is comes with a 6-speed manual transmission and that a unique selling point for the AF8 is the Kevlar and carbon-fiber floor that provides "ballistic” protection from stones and debris being kicked up.
The Vencor Sarthe is the product of a dream inspired by early visits to Le Mans by Vencer’s Dutch founder Robert Cobben with his parents. He named his supercar after the local name of the track and did his best to capture the spirit of the racing when Silk Cut Jaguars and the Porsche 956 were shooting down a chicane-free Mulsanne straight. To that end, the Sarthe has a manual transmission and little in the way of electronic gadgetry to help control the 622-hp and 618 lb-ft of torque from the Hennessey-tuned 6.3-liter V8. By little electronic gadgetry, we mean it doesn’t have any traction control at all.
Cobben never intended to make many units of the Sarthe, but he wanted to make the best car he possibly could. As a result, Vencer makes its own carbon-fiber then turns it into body panels because Cobben couldn’t find anyone to make what he wanted to his own price and quality requirements.
The company name is actually called Mega, and it’s an offshoot of the French car brand Axiam who are now owned by Polaris. In the history of supercars, this is up there with anything built during the wondrously absurd largess of the early 1990s. The Track is as long as a Mercedes S-Class and almost as wide as a Hummer, and, as you can see in the pictures, it’s crazy tall for a supercar. The reason for that is it had 20-inch wheels and an adjustable suspension system that could raise it from 8 inches of ground clearance to 13 inches for going off pavement. When you take into account the all-wheel-drive system, that sounds like the first crossover supercar to us.
If that’s not absurd enough, power was provided by a 6.0-liter Mercedes-Benz V12. The project was mismanaged though, and it’s claimed 11 were actually built and released into the wild rather than the more often reported five.
American supercars aren’t common, but when they happen they always go big and the Ultimate Aero TT was the car that held the Guinness production car speed record until it was taken by the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport in 2010. SSC was founded by Jerod Shelby and originally named Shelby SuperCar until a dispute was resolved with the unrelated racing icon Caroll Shelby over licensing. The Ultimate Aero came with a supercharged Chevrolet Corvette C5R V8 engine making 1,046 hp and 821 lb-ft of torque and topped out at 249 mph. The record-breaking TT version clocked 256.14 mph for its record.
Ruf is a well-known name in automotive circles, but the tuning company 9ff has also been rebuilding and turning already crazy Porsches into lunatic level Porsches for some time. The 2007 GT9 is based on the 993 GT3, but takes the heavily modified engine and mounts it in the middle. The engine is a work of flat-6 engineering art, and in top spec makes 1,120 hp and propels the GT9 to its top speed of 254 mph. That’s faster than a Bugatti Veyron but not as fast as the SSC Ultimate Aero TT or Bugatti Veyron Super Sport. 9ff then made a high-performance version with the GT9-R to try and claim the street-legal car record from Bugatti, but the claimed 260 mph speed was never tested. In total, 150 GT9 models were produced, and all sold before release. 20 models of the GT9-R were built.