Supercars are built to represent the pinnacle of automotive technology. Brutally fast and impossibly expensive, they are objects of desire and the stuff dreams are made of. But there’s more to a supercar than just speed and good looks. There’s a certain hierarchy in the supercar world — a select group of car builders that seem to control the collective memory when it comes to performance. Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and McLarens build supercars, unquestionably. Acura, Aston Martin, and Jaguar? Maybe not. Despite looks, speed, and handling to compete with the best, some plenty capable dream machines just get left behind.
And that’s a real shame. For every legendary Porsche 959 or Bugatti Veyron there are several woefully underrated cars that deserve to be part of the “best ever” conversation. Automotive history is littered with cars that reached the pinnacle of performance for a moment, only to quickly fall into obscurity. Whether victims of poor-timing, a lack of funds, or lack of proper supercar credentials, these cars just haven’t entered the creative consciousness in a way the legends have. Here are 10 criminally underrated supercars that deserve to be part of the conversation.
1. 2009-2012 Aston Martin One-77
2. Noble M600
3. 1999 Mercedes-Benz SL 73 AMG
4. 1992-94 Jaguar XJ220
5. BMW 850CSi
6. Acura NSX
7. Cizeta V16T
8. 1989-1992 Vector W8
9. 1971-1992 DeTomaso Pantera
10. 1946-1952 Cisitalia 202 GT
But unlike Ferrari, Cisitalia’s first road cars were international sensations. The 1946 202 GT was a revolutionary grand tourer that applied Cisitalia’s racing know-how to an impossibly gorgeous and well-mannered road car. The 202 GT was considered such a triumph of design that the Museum of Modern Art bought one just to display. Unfortunately, the company was constantly burdened by money woes, and folded in the early 1950s after only 170 202 GTs were produced. By then, Ferrari’s business had taken off, and it’s steadily grown to the performance car juggernaut it is today. Despite its obscure status, the Cisitalia may be the first Italian supercar. Who knows how history would have changed if the brand continued to grow.
From massive automakers to small cottage companies, many have tried to break through the established supercar hierarchy and capture the public imagination. For some reason, none of these cars ever quite made the grade. But they provide an interesting counterpoint to the legends. The Cisitalia can be discussed along the early road-going Ferraris. The Jaguar XJ 220 is a serious competitor to the McLaren F1, the car that unseated it as the world’s fastest production car. These supercars may not be household names, but they’re some of the most impressive cars ever built.