One of the most important features of a sports car is not the design, low silhouette or bright paint. It’s the performance, share speed, and driving excitement. The performance is what makes a sports car interesting and desirable. It is not even the big engine or high horsepower ratings. It is the performance, pure and simple.
1. Matra Bagheera
Matra is one of the most interesting automotive design and development outfits. In the early `70s, in cooperation with Simca, Matra decided to produce a small sports car for the European market. Called Bagheera, this cool-looking three-seater was introduced in 1973. Unfortunately, the power came from quite diminutive 1.2 and 1.4-liter engines which didn’t provide very exhilarating performance.
2. ASA 1000 GT
Called “Ferrarina” (little Ferrari), the ASA 1000 GT was exactly that since it was built on tubular chassis with lightweight body and engine designed by then Ferrari engineer Giotto Bizzarinni. However, despite the big initial interest by the customers, production stopped in 1967 after only 95 examples were built.
3. Bricklin SV-1
The SV-1 was the brainchild of automotive entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin and it was in fact produced in Canada, from 1974 to 1975 in less than 3000 examples. The idea was to produce a safe and fast sports car as the name SV-1 (Safety Vehicle One) suggested. Bricklin designed the car with big bumpers, numerous additional features, warning sensors, power Gullwing doors, no cigarette lighters, and an integrated roll cage and lots of other things making it heavy and not very agile.
4. Volkswagen SP2
The combination of air-cooled quality, usability and low price made Volkswagens the most popular cars in Brazil by far. in order to produce a muscle/performance car, Volkswagen took the Beetle floor pan, 1.7-liter flat four engine and tuned it to 75 HP which wasn’t much but it was far more than stock. The finished product was called SP2 and it debuted in 1972. It looked pretty modern with a long front end, low profile and sporty silhouette. The car cost more than any other Volkswagen product and it did have some performance but it failed to meet the expectations of performance-oriented car fans.
5. Marcos GT
Produced from 1964 to 1971 and again from 1981 to 1990, Marcos GT was the most popular and interesting model from this company. Marcos GT was relatively cheap but capable sports car with aggressive styling, low weight, and decent performance. The GT could be had with numerous engines, mostly by Ford and lineup started with small 1.5 or 1.6-liter four-cylinders. For a brief period of time, Marcos GT was offered on the American market with Volvo`s straight six but not many cars were sold and performance was pretty poor.
6. SAAB Sonett
Designed on box chassis and fitted with the fiberglass body, Sonett was initially equipped with tiny SAAB`s three-cylinder two-stroke engine with just 60 HP. As you can expect, customers were disappointed with the poor performance but soon company fitted 1.7-liter V4 borrowed from Ford`s European division.
7. Porsche 914
Porsche 914 was built from 1969 to 1976 as an entry-level model. It was designed and produced in cooperation with Volkswagen and sometimes called VW-Porsche 914. Behind the driver is a Volkswagen derived flat four engine with around 100 hp. It doesn’t sound much and despite low weight, this Porsche wasn’t really a sports car.
8. Toyota Celica
Toyota produced Celica for decades as affordable coupe builds on a regular car platform. This meant that Celica looked different, sporty and fast but it wasn’t much faster than Camry or Corolla from the same model year. The last generation Celica was a really sharp looking coupe with a wedge shape and low silhouette and suggested big performance but no.
9. Hyundai Tiburon
When it was released, Tiburon was breath of fresh air in affordable coupe class. It was a good-looking, inexpensive and exciting couple to own. At least it was marketed as such. Under the body was regular Hyundai chassis and running gear with 2.0-liter, 140 HP engine and 172 HP engine as an option. It wasn’t fast or particularly rewarding to drive and it was a total disappointment as a result.
10. Chevrolet Corvette C3 (1980)
In 1970, the hottest Corvette had 435 hp and in 1980, the hottest Corvette had modest 180 hp. In California, due to more strict emission standards for that state, the recession, emission standards, and safety regulations appeared and killed almost all performance from the legendary Corvette. The 1980 Corvette was kind of a dinosaur with old technology under the plastic skin, lazy engines, and outdated interior.