Listed chronologically, the first year of manufacture is indicated in most cases. In a few instances, a later, preferred iteration, reflects drivetrain improvements; as with the Jaguar E-Type, Lamborghini Miura and Shelby Cobra for example. They call them as Greatest Supercars of the Last 100 Year. But enough spoilers—enjoy the ride..
Many of these models were “accessible” when new, but some have become stratospherically expensive today. A few are simply “unobtanium,” while some are within reach of mortals. All, however, are desirable collectibles, and each offers a thrilling experience behind the wheel in its own way.
1. 1907 Rolls-Royce 40/50 “Silver Ghost” AX201
Calling it the Mona Lisa of the automotive world is not an exaggeration. It is one of the first Greatest Supercars in the world. Like Leonardo’s subject, the old Roller isn’t an exquisite beauty, but its significance goes beyond purely aesthetic attributes. Chassis No. 60551, registered on the road as AX201, demonstrated its reliability on a 2,000-mile run, forever earning the marque a reputation as “the best car in the world.”
A private collector acquired the vehicle from its corporate owners last year for a reputed $75 million-plus; a not unreasonable sum in the grand scheme of things for the most famous car in British motoring history. The notion of AX201 coming to market again someday suggests that those with the resources and the urge to acquire it should put a note to themselves on the refrigerator.
2. Greatest Supercars: 1925 Bugatti Type 35
The second Greatest Supercars in the list is 1925 Bugatti Type 35.
Bugatti’s Type 35—also produced in A, B, C and T variants—was the most successful race car from the French marque, garnering more than 2,000 motorsport victories from 1924 to 1930, among them the 1926 Grand Prix Championship and first-place finishes in the Targa Florio for five years in a row.
The diminutive racer was powered by a 2.0-liter inline-eight engine (larger in the 35T) that, when eventually supercharged, developed 135 hp; an impressive figure for the day. Not so impressive was Bugatti’s insistence on cable-actuated brakes—uncompetitive with then-new hydraulic brake systems—which founder Ettore Bugatti reputedly defended; saying, “I make my cars to go, not to stop.” Still, a Type 35 is a treasure in any collection.
3. Greatest Supercars: 1930 Bentley 4½ Litre
The big blower Bentley, so named because of its supercharger, won the 1928 24 Hours of Le Mans and further established the reputation of W.O. Bentley’s brutes as being the fastest trucks of their time. Bentley chassis wore bodies from a variety of coachbuilders, with its motorsport cars earning the company a reputation for rugged durability and speed.
The antithesis of their lithe, nimble French and Italian competition, the 4½ Litres were the heavyweight champions of their day. They produced 720 examples from 1927 to 1931; 55 of which were supercharged and developed a whopping 240 hp in racing form. Driving one improves one’s biceps.
4. 1936 Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic
Here is another Greatest Supercars from Bugatti.
With only four built between 1936 and 1938, and just three extant, the remaining examples of the SC Atlantic are some of the most valuable cars in the world. Though with many other Type 57 models made from 1934 to 1940 in coupe, two-door, four-door and convertible form, Bugatti dreamers can aspire toward a Type 57 of less rarified provenance.
Beneath the long hood of each was a 3.3-liter inline-eight derived from Bugatti’s Type 59 Grand Prix car. Powering the aerodynamic SC Atlantic, it gave speed to the fluid shape that expresses the spirit of Art Deco and makes it the greatest Bugatti ever, though proponents of the Type 41 Royale may demur.
5. Greatest Supercars: 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B
Surely Italy’s greatest prewar automobiles, the Alfa Romeo 2300, 2600 and 2900 series commanded a presence on tracks across Europe throughout the entire reign of Alfa’s most powerful cars. The 2900 and 2900B models, with 2.9-liter, Vittorio Jano straight-eight engines, were primarily developed for endurance in competitions like the Mille Miglia and 24 Hours of Le Mans. A number of coachbuilders—mostly Italian—crafted bodies in long- and short-chassis versions, with Carrozzeria Touring creating some of the most desirable. Whether one prefers an elegant streamlined coupe or dashing low-slung roadster; the 8C 2900 in any form was an Italian dream car more than a decade before they made the first Ferrari ever made.
6. 1937 Talbot-Lago T150-C SS “Teardrop”
French Talbot-Lago developed its T150-C for racing, using a 140 hp, 4.0-liter inline-six in a light, low-slung SS (super sports) chassis featuring independent front suspension. One model expressed French streamline design unlike any other and is; according to some opinions, the most beautiful car ever made.
Launched at the 1937 Paris Motor Show, its body was by French coachbuilder Figoni & Falaschi, who produced Talbot-Lago “Teardrops” in two series; the latter showcased in New York features an uninterrupted fastback profile. They made eleven examples of those, and on the rare occasion one comes to market, it commands formidable interest and a price commensurate with its rarity.
7. Greatest Supercars: 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL
Derived from the successful Mercedes-Benz W194 race car of 1952, the street-going 300 SL raised every bar for engineering, build quality and performance. With its mechanically fuel-injected inline-six and the ability to reach a top speed of 163 mph, it delivered performance unmatched by any other car of the period.
The “Gullwing” coupe, built from 1954 to 1957, was followed by a roadster in 1957 until 1963. While the roadsters are more user-friendly, the Gullwing remains the most iconic model in the history of the Silver Star. They made exactly 1,400 examples, enough to fill a space in major car collections around the world. And the fact that this blue-chip collectible can still run with contemporary automobiles makes it more astounding still.