2 January 2015

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What Is A Supercar?

When Henry Ford started producing automobiles, a car was, well, a car. And when Henry's cars had lived out their life and were hauled off to a wrecking yard for burial, they were still a car.
Of course, there were convertibles, sedans, sports cars, trucks and racing cars. But if one of these began its life as, say, a convertible, it was still a convertible when its life ended.

Fast-forward to the 1960's and the present day. Yes, we still have convertibles, sedans, sports cars, trucks and racing cars. But we also have cult cars, chick cars, guy cars, muscle cars, classic cars, and super cars. And while there was never any controversy over whether a convertible was a convertible or a sedan was a sedan, there is disagreement over whether a car is or isn't a cult car, chick car, guy car, muscle car, classic car, or super car.

Further, once a convertible always a convertible. But not so with a supercar. A car can be a supercar in one decade but not in the next. So what characteristics constitute a supercar?

Historically, the term supercar was originally used in 1917 in an article in Car and Track about an Alfa Romeo Monza. However, CAR Magazine takes credit for 'coining' the phrase when L. J. K. Setright, a well-known British motor journalist, applied it to the Lamborghini Miura in the 1960's. In the 1970's it was used regularly although there still wasn't total agreement on exactly what it meant. That is still the case today although there are some benchmarks.

A must for supercars is high speed. However, the ability to attain ultimate speed levels alone is not sufficient. The car must also have world class handling ability when driven at these speeds. As a result, supercars usually have rear engine placement and rear wheel drive. This feature places the bulk of the car's weight in the middle of the car and permits intricate maneuvering and precision handling at high speeds.

Another feature of a supercar is high acceleration. A supercar should be able to go from 0 to 100 mph in less than seven seconds and from 0 to 200 mph in less than thirty seconds.

Added to high performance are the characteristics, which are more difficult to define, and may be the cause of some of the controversy in labeling a supercar.

The supercar should be 'exotic' in appearance and be on the cutting edge of design. Although not a benchmark, one feature that all supercars share is high price which translates to anywhere from a few hundred thousand to around two million dollars.

Supercars can either be factory models or modifications of factory models. An example of a modification is the 1986 Pontiac Trans AM. The Polly Motorsport Company, based in Norway, took this car and modified it so it was 'lightening fast.' The modified Trans AM set a speed record of 407.134 kmph on the Papenburg Test Track in Germany. It could also accelerate from 0-100 kmph in 2.3 seconds. Not only is it now a supercar, it is also the fastest street legal car in Europe.

Another automobile that achieved both supercar and cult status is the Lamborghini Countach, popularized due to its extreme design.

One is not likely to encounter a supercar on the way to work during the morning rush hour. In fact, a supercar is not a daily commuter; it is a toy, albeit a high priced one designed for fun for the elite.

Submitted by: Brenda Williams

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