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This is the pinnacle of speed, the fastest production cars of the past century.

The Insatiable Need for Speed

Your fastest zero to sixty mph time isn’t a measure of how fast a car is. Rather, it’s a measure of how quick a car is. The title of fastest is literally that, a measure of absolute top speed. While zero to sixty runs might be more salient for the average consumer vehicle, raw top speed is the Mount Olympus of automotive excellence. Only the best of the very best make it onto this, a list of the fastest cars each year dating back 110 years.

Austro-Daimler Prinz Heinrich (1911-27)

Austro-Daimler Prinz Heinrich - fahrtraum.at
Austro-Daimler Prinz Heinrich - fahrtraum.at

Designed by Ferdinand Porsche Sr., the Prinz Heinrich was powered by a 5.7L four-cylinder that made 95 brake horsepower and could propel the world’s first true sports car to a record setting 85 mph.

Duesenberg Model J (1928-48) 

Duesenberg Model J - Jay Leno's Garage on youtube.com
Duesenberg Model J - Jay Leno's Garage on youtube.com

Not only did the Duesenberg brother make some of the world’s most luxurious cars, but they also made the fastest cars, including the Model J. Powered by its massive 7-liter straight-eight, the Model J could achieve 119 mph. The Model J would stay the world’s fastest production car for a full twenty years.

Jaguar XK120 (1949-54)

Jaguar XK120 - netcarshow.com
Jaguar XK120 - netcarshow.com

The Jaguar XK120 was a sleek two-seater that looked the part of the world’s fastest car. It ran a 3.4L straight-six and reached an official top speed of 124 mph (though rumor has it the car could actually push 130 mph).

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (1955-57)

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL - netcarshow.com
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL - netcarshow.com

Best known for its gullwing doors, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL was also the fastest production car in its day with a top speed of 140.7 mph. Read more about the 300 SL here.

Aston Martin DB4 (1958)

Aston Martin DB4 - netcarshow.com
Aston Martin DB4 - netcarshow.com

Though not James Bond’s car, that would be the DB5, the DB4 was perhaps the more impressive in real life. Its 3.7L straight-six made 240 horsepower and was good for a 141mph top speed.

Aston Martin DB4 GT (1959-61)

Aston Martin DB4 GT - netcarshow.com
Aston Martin DB4 GT - netcarshow.com

The DB4 GT was a lightweight version of the DB4 with an optional 3.8L engine and a tops speed of 152 mph.

Ferrari 250 GTO (1962)

Ferrari 250 GTO - ferrari.com
Ferrari 250 GTO - ferrari.com

A legend of motorsports, the Ferrari 250 GTO ran a 3.0L V12 making 296 horsepower and achieved a top speed of 158 mph. Read more about the 250 GTO here.

Studebaker Avanti (1963)

Studebaker Avanti - archives.studebakermuseum.org
Studebaker Avanti - archives.studebakermuseum.org

The Studebaker Avanti was a last-ditch effort from a dying automaker. Though it failed to save the company, the Avanti was a heck of a car. It’s 4.7L V8 made 290 horsepower and reached a top speed of 168.2 mph. Sadly, the Avanti was out of production in the US by the end of 1963.

AC Cobra Mk. III 427 (1964-66)

AC Cobra Mk. III 427 - shelby.com
AC Cobra Mk. III 427 - shelby.com

With the Avanti out of production, the title of fastest production car reverted to Carroll Shelby’s AC Cobra Mk. III 427. This V8 legend mixed the lightness of British roadsters with raw American muscle to produce a top speed of 165 mph.

Lamborghini Miura P400 (1967)

Lamborghini Miura P400 - netcarshow.com
Lamborghini Miura P400 - netcarshow.com

The Lamborghini Miura, like the 300 SL, is notable first for its transcendent design and second for its speed. The 4.0L V12 in the Miura made 385 horsepower (a dizzying number in 1967) and allowed the world’s first supercar to achieve 171 mph. Read more about the Miura here.

Ferrari GTB4 Daytona (1968)

Ferrari GTB 4 Daytona - SUPERCARCLASSICS on youtube.com
Ferrari GTB 4 Daytona - SUPERCARCLASSICS on youtube.com

Not to be out done, Ferrari shot back at their home country rivals with the GTB4 Daytona, which could reach 174 mph.

Lamborghini Miura P400 S (1969-78)

Lamborghini Miura P400 S - media.lamborghini.com
Lamborghini Miura P400 S - media.lamborghini.com

The Miura P400 S snatched back the crown of world’s fastest with an even greater top speed of 179.3 mph.

Lamborghini Countach LP400 (1979-83)

Lamborghini Countach LP400 - media.lamborghini.com
Lamborghini Countach LP400 - media.lamborghini.com

The replacement for the Miura proved equally iconic and even faster. The Lamborghini Countach redefined supercar design for generations while also being the world’s fastest production car with a top speed of 182 mph.

Ferrari 288 GTO (1984-85)

Ferrari 288 GTO - netcarshow.com
Ferrari 288 GTO - netcarshow.com

A homologation special of the Ferrari 308 GTB, the 288 GTO featured a 2.9L twin-turbo V8 making 395 hp and was capable of a top speed of 188 mph.

Porsche 959 (1986-87)

Porsche 959 - netcarshow.com
Porsche 959 - netcarshow.com

The Porsche 959 was a money loser for Porsche. So laden with new, cutting-edge technology, the car cost more to produce than the company could sell it for. But it provided a testing ground for all manner of new tech for Porsches to come and had the distinction of the fastest car in the world with a top speed of 197 mph. Read more about the 959 here.

RUF CTR “Yellowbird” 911 (1988-1991)

RUF CTR “Yellowbird” 911 - ruf-automobile.de
RUF CTR “Yellowbird” 911 - ruf-automobile.de

RUF made their name as a legendary tuning company thanks to their work making the already stellar Porsche 911 even faster. Their RUF CTR, dubbed the “Yellowbird” thanks to its bright yellow paint job, blew the doors off everything in 1988 with a top speed of 212 mph. Making it the first car on our list to crest the 200-mph mark.

Jaguar XJ220 (1992)

Jaguar XJ220 - netcarshow.com
Jaguar XJ220 - netcarshow.com

For a brief few months, the Jaguar XJ220 laid claim to the title of world’s fastest car with a top speed of 217.1 mph.

Bugatti EB110 (1992)

Bugatti EB110 - netcarshow.com
Bugatti EB110 - netcarshow.com

But then the Bugatti EB110 arrived that same year with a 218-mph top speed.

McLaren F1 (1993-2004)

McLaren F1 - netcarshow.com
McLaren F1 - netcarshow.com

The McLaren F1 is a marvel in innumerable ways and redefined our idea of the supercar. The BMW 6.1L V12 made 618 hp and allowed the F1 to reach 240 mph, a huge leap from the prior champ EB110. The F1 still holds the title of fastest naturally aspirated production car.

Koenigsegg CCR (2005)

Koenigsegg CCR - netcarshow.com
Koenigsegg CCR - netcarshow.com

Koenigsegg might still be unknown to those outside the world of supercars, but their first production car made it plain the Swedish were serious about speed. The CCR set a new record of 241 mph to finally unset the F1. For more on Koenigsegg and their amazing cars, click here.

Bugatti Veyron (2005-2006)

Bugatti Veyron - netcarshow.com
Bugatti Veyron - netcarshow.com

Bugatti Veyron features an 8.0L quad-turbocharged W12 engine making 987 horsepower. This atypical engine allowed the Veyron to reach a top speed of 253 mph.

SSC Ultimate Aero (2007-2009)

SSC Ultimate Aero - DtRockstar1 on youtube.com
SSC Ultimate Aero - DtRockstar1 on youtube.com

The SSC Ultimate Aero took a Corvette CR5 V8 and tuned it to produce some 1,045 horsepower. It broke the Veyron’s record in 2007 with a run up to a blistering 256 mph.

Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport (2010-16)

Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport - bugatti.com
Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport - bugatti.com

The Bugatti would retake the title of fastest production car with the advent of the Veyron Super Sport and its top speed of 267.8 mph

Koenigsegg Agera RS (2017)

Koenigsegg Agera RS - netcarshow.com
Koenigsegg Agera RS - netcarshow.com

Koenigsegg reclaimed the top speed record with the Agera RS with it’s 5.0L twin-turbo V8 making 1,160 horsepower allowing it to reach 277.8 mph.

Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+ (2019-Present)

Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300 - netcarshow.com
Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300 - netcarshow.com

First to officially reach the triple century mark, the Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+ was designed and named for its target top speed. In 2019, the Chiron did just that, reaching a mind bending 304.7 mph.

SSC Tuatara (2020*)

SSC Tuatara - sscnorthamerica.com
SSC Tuatara - sscnorthamerica.com

Last year, SSC was forced to retract its claimed top speed run of 316 mph with their new Tuatara hypercar. They’ve achieved a verified top speed of 289 mph, making the Tuatara the second fastest production car. But make no mistake, they, Koenigsegg, and other supercar makers remain interested in joining Bugatti at the top of the 300-mph mountain. Given the limits of current tire technology and those of the human nervous system, we may be nearing the upper reaches of what is possible for production car top speeds (since we’ve obviously left what is sane way back with the 300 SL in 1955).

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Chris Kaiser

With two decades of writing experience and five years of creating advertising materials for car dealerships across the U.S., Chris Kaiser explores and documents the car world’s latest innovations, unique subcultures, and era-defining classics. Armed with a Master's Degree in English from the University of South Dakota, Chris left an academic career to return to writing full-time. He is passionate about covering all aspects of the continuing evolution of personal transportation, but he specializes in automotive history, industry news, and car buying advice.

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