Retro Supercars were the best, right? We don’t mean that in a technical sense of course, and we’ve no doubt that a modern Bugatti Chiron would run rings around an EB110 – but that’s hardly the point. Old school supercars were raw, visceral, compromised and hard to live with. They also looked achingly cool; cooler than any modern super or hyper car beholden to modern safety and eco emissions could ever dream of.
So with this in mind, which of the totems to ‘80s and ‘90s automotive excess and would-be motorsport glory shown below would you take for a drive?
1 – Daur 962/Schuppan 962CR/ Switec-Porsche 962C/ Koenig C62/DP Motorsports 962
The sudden demise of Group C in the early ‘90s meant that there was a glut (hey, everything’s relative) of would-be Le Mans racers gathering dust with nowhere to race, and a handful of companies decided to make them road legal, then sell them for extortionate sums. All were based upon the Porsche 962, one of the most successful race cars ever built, and all were mind-bendingly quick thanks to various turbocharged flat six engines.
We’ll leave it to you to decide which of these bonkers, would-be Le Mans botherers you’d ideally like, though all are certifiable and all are ferociously fast by the standards of us mere mortals.
2 – Callaway Sledegehammer
Leave it to the Americans – and 1980s Americans at that – to come up with a supercar named after a tool used to knock down walls! The Callaway Sledgehammer was based upon the Corvette C4 of the period, and while the standard GM creation was no slouch, the Callaway took things several levels higher by dint of a twin turbo big block V8. Said blowers (Turbonetics T04bs, if you wanted to know) were paired with forged internals and Brodix heads, all bespoke in nature.
The resulting Corvette based monster wasn’t the most finessed of creations, but it was certainly powerful – 898bhp powerful, with a mooted top speed of 252mph. In 1988!
3 – Venturi 400/400GT
There can few scarier sounding series of words than ‘French designed and built supercar,’ but that’s essentially what the Venturi 400GT was. Ok so supercar might be a stretch when you consider its twin-turbo V6 made a modest 400bhp, but it was the early ‘90s for crying out loud! It certainly looked the part and, in the tradition of all good ‘pie in the sky’ supercar-shaped endeavours, spawned a GT race programme, the 400GT.
4 – TVR Cerbera Speed 12
Everyone loves a would-be supercar with an interesting backstory, and the Cerbera Speed 12 most certainly delivers in this regard. Borne from TVR’s mid ‘90s rebirth and therefore innovatively styled, the Speed 12 was the brainchild of Peter Wheeler and very much his pet project. His desire was to create a GT-1 racer able to fight against the likes of Porsche and McLaren, and while it never graced Le Mans thanks to last minute rule changes, it did appear in a number of British GT rounds.
Where the story really comes to life is when Peter Wheeler drove the road car prototype home one Friday evening. He returned the 960bhp monster to Blackpool the following Monday, convinced that such a road car was at best unusable, at worst downright dangerous. All deposits were returned, and the road car programme shelved.
That might have been the end of the project had TVR not built a single, solitary road going Speed 12 from spare race car parts, then offered it for sale in 2013. The proviso? That Wheeler had to personally interview and vet any would be buyer to ensure that he or she had ‘the minerals’ for such a brutally powerful, drive aid-free car.
5 – Bugatti EB110
Long before the world gawped at the VW-bankrolled technofest that was the Bugatti Veyron, France’s foremost, perennially broke exotic car builder opted to give the world the EB110. It was built to a similar brief to the Veyron and Chiron, namely a means of giving well-heeled folk a comfy, sophisticated means of cracking the ‘double ton’ as and when they felt the need. The addition of a twin-turbo, 3.5l quad cam V12 (good for 600bhp) made this very feasible indeed.
In line with many of the entries on this list the EB110 (built to mark the 110th’ birthday of Ettore Bugatti) was released into the decidedly hostile economic waters of the early ‘90s, and it sank like the proverbial stone. There was now little appetite for an immensely expensive, unproven supercar from a firm with a somewhat patchy reliability history, and just 130 road cars were eventually sold.
6 – Cizeta V16T
It might look like a Lamborghini, but the Cizeta V16T is something altogether weirder and even more exclusive. Borne from the pen of one Marcello Gandini, the man responsible for the Countach, funnily enough, the Cizeta was pure wedge and ladled with late ’80s excess…which must’ve been a tad incongorous when it made its debut in the early ‘90s.
But looks were only part of what made the Cizeta such on oddly compelling prospect, the other being the source of its name, the transversely mounted V16. The father of the project was one Claudio Zampolli, the man charged with creating a new engine from a pair of leftover V8s from the Urraco programme, eventually resulting in a 6.0 monster with 8 cams and 4 cylinders. That’s right, your teeth should be itching at mere prospect of the amount of trouble a bespoke Italian engine of this kind would cause.
Perhaps the oddest thing about the Cizeta V16T is that as of last year you could still buy one, brand new from none other than Zampolli himself. He still owns all the tooling and the workshop facilties required to build a few more examples, though you’ll of course need the deepest of pockets to convince him to pick up tools one again!
7 – Vector W8 Turbo
This is what happens if you give a frustrated petrolhead a hefty budget and carte blanche to run wild. The man in question was one Jerry Wiegert and the car was the Vector W8 Turbo, a machine intended to beat the established European supercar builders at their own game. It didn’t work out, thanks in part to a decade long gestation period, a lack of money and patchy reliability from the handful of cars made, but that’s hardly the point. When working and working well, the W8 was seriously fast – think 625bhp, twin turbo V8 fast, with a suitably mid ‘80s side order of immense lag.
8 – Mosler Consulier GTP
We’ve heard of that old expression about looks only a mother could love, but the Mosler Consulier GTP really is stretching things in this respect, if only because it appears to be like the lovechild of a Group C racer and a post box. But there was reason enough to at least try to look beyond the GTP’s looks, at least to early ‘80s eyes. The car was built to a decidedly unamerican philosophy of lightweight, hence why it was made from composite materials. Indeed, the GTP was the first series production car based upon a carbon/Kevlar composite monocoque tub, which is a top pub quiz question if nothing else.
The engine was also notable for not being an American V8, Warren Mosler instead opting to utilise a turbocharged 2.2 Chrysler four pot, good for between 175 and 200bhp. Hey, 1985 was a long, long time ago, OK?
9 -Lotus Elise GT-1
Another example of GT and Sportscar racing’s ‘homologation’ based rules of the mid ‘90s, the Elise GT-1 was a one-off, built by Lotus as a means of satisfying the FIA’s type approval requirements. As such it has little in common with the regular Elise bar some vague styling clues, with the biggest departure from the road car being its mid-mounted LT5 V8 (a product of the Lotus-GM relationship of the period) complete with a pair of turbos. The finished race car was both unreliable and out gunned when compared to rivals from McLaren and Porsche, and the whole programme soon folded. Just one road car was constructed, and it was never sold, remaining within the bowels of Lotus HQ in Hethel.
10 – Lister Storm
There’s only one thing you really need to know about the Lister Storm, and that’s that it was powered by the largest V12 fitted to a road car, a 7.0 monster taken from Jaguar’s successful Le Mans campaign of the 1980s. The all alloy brute was able propel the menacing wedge to well over 200mph thanks to its 550bhp output, that and the Storm’s lightweight, carbon fibre and aluminium construction. Oh, and it happened to look simply amazing in Newcastle football war paint.