The pace of automotive development is so fast that it's easy to forget that every generation has its own supercar heroes. The cream of today's technologically advanced automotive crop would not exist without the supercars of the past – cars that took risks with crazy styling, innovative technology and a desire to go faster than anyone else had gone before. We recently spent an afternoon at Dutton Garage in Melbourne, Australia, slaking our supercar thirst and tracking down some of the cars that really moved the game on when they were first launched.
We're pretty familiar with the brands that lead the way in automotive design today, but there are plenty of once renowned marques that have faded into history. Exhibit A is this Hispano-Suiza H6C "Short Chassis". Built in 1924, it packs an 8.0-liter inline six that makes about 145 kW (195 hp) under its massive hood. These "Monzas" were designed to race in the Targa Florio and then be driven home.
Of course, the modern supercar is a different kind of beast. It's no longer a pure racer with little consideration for road use, instead it's a designed to act as a fashion statement that also happens to go really quickly.
This Lamborghini Miura is a prime example. With a 4.9-liter V12 lurking under the rear deck, it could hit 100 km/h (62 mph) in 6.7 seconds on its way to a 280 km/h top speed, making it the fastest car in the world back at its 1966 launch.
Of course, none of that mattered to Leslie "Twiggy" Lawson when she bought the car pictured above. Legendary test driver Valentino Balboni personally delivered the car, which is finished with a special orange stripe down the middle.
With those beautiful Bertone-designed curves and a sonorous soundtrack, it didn't really matter how the Miura handled.
Exclusivity is key when it comes to supercars, as is technology that moves the game on. The Ferrari F50, described by Ferrari President Luca di Montzemolo as "the first and last Formula One car with two seats," did both those things.
The Formula One connection began with the car's 4.7-liter V12, which began service in the Ferrari 641 that Alain Prost drove in his famous battle with Ayrton Senna. The engine was bored out from its original 3.5-liter capacity and Ferrari worked to improve its drivability, but for the most part the F50's motor made few concessions to road driving.
That means that the engine's 383 kW (513 hp) comes at 8,000 rpm, while the 470 Nm peak torque comes at 6,500 rpm. Compared to today's hypercars, with their incredible hybrid-boosted power figures, that might not sound particularly impressive, but it was still enough to shoot the F50 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in just 3.7 seconds.
It's not just hybrid power that's missing from the F50's mix. Every element of the car's design is decidedly old school, from the high revving naturally aspirated engine to the beautiful open-gate gearshift and F1 style carbon tub, to the spartan but immaculately finished cabin.
Just 349 F50s were built, which means it's rarer than an F40, Enzo or LaFerrari. It's also considerably uglier than any of them, but that doesn't mean there isn't a certain allure to the F50.
Another highlight in our wanderings through the garage was this Porsche 911 Sport Classic. It's a collection of the best bits from Porsche's past, like the whale tail spoiler and special Fuchs alloy wheels harking back to the legendary 1973 911 RS 2.7 Sport.
Inside, there's more retro-themed design, including seats trimmed in a special weave to mirror the tartan trim from old 911s.
It's not a case of all show no go with the Sport Classic though, because with lowered suspension and a limited slip differential, all 250 911 SC's handle and stop better than their more common stablemates.