1. Porsche 911
In Brauer’s estimation the Porsche 911 is the greatest sports car of all time—remarkable, because he believes the car is an assembly of engineering design mistakes that should undermine its performance.
“The engine is mounted over the rear axle, which can compromise handling,” Brauer said. “The 911′s horizontally opposed engine, or ‘boxer engine,’ isn’t typically associated with refined horsepower. And until relatively recently the engine was air-cooled, like the original Volkswagen Beetle.”
Regardless, the 911 has remained in production for over 50 years with only minimal changes to its basic design, so Porsche must be doing something right.
“It boasts a more impressive racing pedigree than any other road car ever produced,” Brauer said, “and its performance continues to set the bar by which all other sports cars are measured.”
2. Chevrolet Corvette
It may be hard to believe, but the Corvette has been in an almost constant production for more than 60 years.
As a result, said Brauer, it wears the mantle of “America’s Sports Car” and should be used in the same breath with “baseball” and “apple pie” when speaking of uniquely American products.
“Now in its seventh generation, the Corvette has always offered a high degree of performance at a remarkably low price,” he said. “While never considered an ‘exotic car’ the Corvette has often been described as an ‘exotic car slayer,’ because it effectively competes with sports cars costing two to five times as much.”
3. Mercedes-Benz SL
Introduced in 1954, the SL is one of the oldest cars on this list. It was the first production car to offer fuel injection and a top speed of more than 160 miles per hour, both major technological leaps forward.
“Over the following 60 years the Mercedes-Benz SL has continued to be a leader in technology, luxury, performance and style,” Brauer said. “Today’s SLs can be ordered with up to 621 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque in the SL65 AMG, making them among the most powerful cars available for public road use.”
4. Mazda MX-5 Miata
When a car is described as “powerful” and “exotic,” the Miata is not necessarily the first to spring to mind. Regardless, the “Guinness Book of World Records” proclaimed it the best-selling two-seat convertible sports car in history, so Mazda gets the last laugh.
“Introduced in 1990, the Miata essentially recreated the successful British roadster recipe of the 1950s,” Brauer said. “It was small and light, with incredibly responsive handling, while costing barely more than a well-equipped economy car.”
5. Shelby Cobra
The Shelby Cobra had an inauspicious beginning. According to Brauer, the car was the brainchild of a Texas chicken farmer, Carroll Shelby, who envisioned a vehicle with a small British body and a big American V8 engine. The result was the racing legend that is beloved to this day.
“If being copied by dozens of kit car companies is the most important measure of success, the Shelby Cobra wins the crown hands down,” Brauer said. “It’s one of the most recognizable sports cars to come out of the 1960s, with a proven competition history that included beating Ferrari on the world racing stage.”