Supercar is a term used most often to describe an expensive high end car. It has been defined specifically as "a very expensive, fast or powerful car".[1] Stated in more general terms: "it must be very fast, with sporting handling to match," "it should be sleek and eye-catching" and its price should be "one in a rarefied atmosphere of its own".[2]

However, the proper application of the term is subjective and disputed, especially among enthusiasts. So-called vehicles are typically out of the ordinary and are marketed by automakers to be perceived by the public as unusual. The supercar can take many forms including limited production specials from an "elite" automaker, standard looking cars made by mainstream companies that hide massive power and performance, as well as models that appeal to "hardcore enthusiasts" from "manufacturers on the fringe of the car industry."[3]

History of the term 'supercar'Edit

An advertisement for the Ensign Six, a 6.7 L (410 cu in) high-performance car similar to the Bentley Speed Six, appeared in The Times for 11 November 1920 with the phrase "If you are interested in a supercar, you cannot afford to ignore the claims of the Ensign 6."[4] The Oxford English Dictionary also cites the use of the word in an advertisement for an unnamed car in The Motor dated 3 November 1920, "The Supreme development of the British super-car."[5] and defines the phrase as suggesting 'a car superior to all others'. A book published by the Research Institute of America in 1944, that previewed the economic and industrial changes to occur after World War II,[6] used the term "supercar" (author's emphasis) to describe future automobiles incorporating advances in design and technology such as flat floorpans and automatic transmissions.[7]

Lamborghini Miura

The current usage of "supercar" dates to L. J. K. Setright's description of the Lamborghini Miura as such

The phrase supercar did not become popular until much later and is said to have had its revival originated with British motor journalist L. J. K. Setright writing about the Lamborghini Miura in CAR in the mid-1960s. The magazine was originally launched in 1962 as Small Car and Mini Owner, and claims to have "coined the phrase".[8]

In the United States, the term "supercar" predates the classification of muscle car[9][10] to describe the "dragstrip bred" affordable mid-size cars of the 1960s and early 1970s that were equipped with large, powerful V8 engines and rear wheel drive.[11] The combination of a potent engine in a lightweight car began with the 1957 Rambler Rebel that was described as a "veritable supercar."[12] "In 1966 the sixties supercar became an official industry trend"[13] as the four domestic automakers "needed to cash in on the supercar market" with eye-catching, heart-stopping cars.[14] Among the numerous examples of the use of the supercar description include the May 1965 issue of the American magazine Car Life, in a road test of the Pontiac GTO, and how "Hurst puts American Motors into the Supercar club with the 390 Rogue"[15] (the SC/Rambler) to fight in "the Supercar street racer gang" market segment.[16] The "SC" in the model name stood for "SuperCar".[17] The supercar market segment included regular production models[18] in different muscle market segments (such as the "economy supercar"[19]), as well as limited edition, documented dealer-converted vehicles.[20]

The word supercar later became to mean a "GT" or grand touring type of car.[21] By the 1970s and 1980s the phrase was in regular use, if not precisely defined.[22][23]

During the late 20th century, the term supercar was used to describe "a very expensive, fast or powerful car with a centrally located engine",[24] and stated in more general terms: "it must be very fast, with sporting handling to match", "it should be sleek and eye-catching" and its price should be "one in a rarefied atmosphere of its own".[25]

The supercar term has also been applied to technologically advanced vehicles using new fuel sources, powerplants, aerodynamics, and lightweight materials to develop an 80 mpg-US (2.9 L/100 km/96 mpg-imp) family-sized sedan.[26] "Supercar" was the unofficial description for the United States Department of Commerce R&D program, Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV).[27] The program was established to support the domestic U.S. automakers (GM, Ford, and Chrysler) develop prototypes of a safe, clean, affordable car the size of the Ford Taurus, but delivering 3-times the fuel efficiency.[28][27]

See alsoEdit


  1. (2003) Collins English Dictionary. Glasgow: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0007109830. 
  2. Ward, Ian. "Secondhand Supercars". 
  3. Cheetham, Craig (2006). Supercars. MotorBooks/MBI Publishing, 6. ISBN 9780760325650. 
  4. "British Ensign Motors", The Times (11 November 1920), p. 6. 
  5. "super-, prefix 6.c". Oxford English Dictionary (1989). Retrieved on 2007-12-27.
  6. Saxon, Wolfgang (1989-09-04). "Carl Hovgard, Tax Adviser, 83; Founder of the Research Institute", The New York Times. Retrieved on 2010-08-23. 
  7. Cherne, Leo (1944). The Rest of Your Life. Doubleday, Doran and Co., 216–217. Retrieved on 2010-01-21. 
  8. "About CAR magazine". CAR Magazine Online. Retrieved on 2010-01-21.
  9. Harless, Robert (2004). Horsepower War: Our Way of Life. iUniverse, 1. ISBN 9780595302963. Retrieved on 23 August 2010. 
  10. Gunnell, John (2001). Standard Guide to American Muscle Cars: A Supercar Source Book, 1960-2000. Krause Publications. ISBN 9780873492621. 
  11. Norbye, Jan P.; Dunne, Jim (October 1966), "The Hot Ones: Supercars of medium size flaunt tough suspensions, great brakes, most powerful engines in existence", Popular Science 189(4): 83–85, Retrieved on <time class="dtstart" datetime="2010-01-21">2010-01-21</time>. 
  12. Auto Editors of Consumer Guide (2007-08-22). "1957-1960 Rambler Rebel". Retrieved on 2010-08-23.
  13. Harless, p. 8.
  14. Campisano, Jim (1995). American Muscle Cars. MetroBooks, 91. ISBN 9781567991642. 
  15. "Rambler Scrambler", Car Life 16: 33–36. 1969, Retrieved on <time class="dtstart" datetime="2010-03-19">2010-03-19</time>. 
  16. "Rambler Scrambler", Car & Driver 14: 84. 1968. 
  17. Lyons, Dan (2004). Muscle Car Milestones. MotorBooks/MBI Publishing, 89. ISBN 9780760306154. Retrieved on 2010-01-21. 
  18. Bonsall, Thomas E. (1985). Muscle Plymouths: The Story of a Supercar. Bookman Publishing. ISBN 9780934780711. 
  19. Primedia (2004). Hot Rod Magazine: Muscle Car Files. MotorBooks International, 112. ISBN 9780760316474. Retrieved on 23 August 2010. 
  20. Carner, Colin (February 1999), "1967 Chevrolet Stage III Nickey Camaro", Sports Car Market, Retrieved on <time class="dtstart" datetime="2010-03-19">2010-03-19</time>. 
  21. Harless, p. 5.
  22. Stuart Marshall (September 4, 1975). "Rewards and frustrations of the supercars", The Times (London), p. 23. 
  23. "Business Roundup; From the Land of the VW, a $35,000 Supercar", New York Times (New York) (September 21, 1975), p. F15. 
  24. Eds. Jeremy Butterfield ... (2003). Collins English Dictionary. Glasgow: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0007109830. 
  25. Ward, Ian. "Secondhand Supercars". 
  26. McCosh, Dan (June 1994), "Emerging Technologies for the Supercar", Popular Science 244(6): 95–100, Retrieved on <time class="dtstart" datetime="2010-08-23">2010-08-23</time>. 
  27. 27.0 27.1 Eisenstien, Paul (June 2000), "80 mpg", Popular Mechanics 177(6): 88–91. 
  28. Fuhs, Allen E. (2008). Hybrid vehicles and the future of personal transportation. CRC Press, 10. ISBN 9781420075342. Retrieved on 2010-08-23. 

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