Home Cars Uncle Sam’s Exotics: American Supercars That Scorch The Roads

Uncle Sam’s Exotics: American Supercars That Scorch The Roads

Vukasin Herbez January 5, 2024

When car fans think of exotic supercars, they almost always think of Italian brands like Ferrari, Lamborghini, or perhaps the UK’s Aston Martin. However, the American car industry has its fair share of exotic machines that rival the best of the European thoroughbreds.

From mid-engine supercars to semi-racing machines, Americans have always produced advanced machines that could beat anything from Italy, the UK, or Germany. These American exotics might not have the same expensive-sounding names as Europeans, but they have the same advanced technology and brutal performance – the same ingredients that make a supercar that was simply made in the USA. We found the best of these American supercars that scorched the roads, so check them out here.

Photo Credit; Edmunds

Saleen S7

Ford Mustang lovers will surely recognize Steve Saleen as one of the best tuners of late model Mustangs and one of the most recognizable names in the business. Some say he is to ’80s and newer Mustangs what Carroll Shelby was to ’60s muscle cars. Either way, he’s a legend of the American car scene. In the early 2000s, Steve Saleen decided to branch out and enter the supercar market with the S7 model, a fast and good-looking exotic model that featured the latest technology and proven V8 power. Saleen invested a lot of time and money into constructing the S7 and even used companies that produced parts for Formula One cars to help him in the development of this car (via Saleen).

Photo Credit; Edmunds

The result was a 550 HP Saleen S7 in 2000, immediately drawing attention from the supercar crowd. The S7’s superb performance looks, and technology were on par with the best European supercars at the time. In 2005, the even more powerful Twin Turbo version was born. It boasted 750 HP and a top speed of almost 250 mph. The car proved relatively successful, even on the track. Saleen produced a racing version too.

Photo Credit: Supercars

Devon GTX

You might remember the Devon GTX sports car. The project caused quite a big stir when it was born in 2009. The vehicle was conceived as the ultimate American sports car. It used a Dodge Viper RT10 basis and engine but with numerous modifications and power upgraded to 650 HP. The GTX used the same six-speed manual and had improved performance and top speed. It broke a few track records during testing, but nothing was official (via Silodrome).

Photo Credit: Top Gear

Unfortunately, the economic downturn and recession of 2009-10 hit the car industry especially hard and caused significant problems among the car makers. Chrysler decided to kill the Viper project and discontinue the production of platforms and engines, thus affecting Devon’s output of the GTX. Devon tried to buy the rights to Viper’s platform. But Chrysler rejected the bid. That sunk Devon as a company and only a few cars ever left the factory as pre-production examples.

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Shelby Series 1

After success with the Viper, Carroll returned to the sports car manufacturing business with a new project. He proposed introducing a retro-styled car. His idea was to make a power roadster with sharper handling, more direct driving dynamics, and a modern drivetrain. The idea was materialized in the form of the Shelby Series 1. It was a world-class convertible and the only vehicle Shelby ever built from the ground up (via Motor Trend).

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The Series 1 was born in 1999. It featured a gorgeous roadster body, low silhouette, and design, which could be traced back to the ’60s. However, everything was brand new under the body. It had an Oldsmobile 4.0-liter V8 engine with 320 HP. Since the car was light, its performance was excellent. The 0 to 60 mph times were around four seconds, fantastic for the late ’90s. Unfortunately, US regulations regarding car manufacturing forbade Shelby from producing Series 1 as a regular model. Due to limited availability and high prices, only about 250 examples left the factory until 2005.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

Panoz Esperante GTR-1

If you are a ’90s kid, you probably remember the Panoz Esperante GTR-1 from racing games like Gran Turismo or Midtown Madness. This American supercar was the talk of the racing community in the late ’90s. However, despite the promising start, Panoz built only a few racing versions and one street-legal example (via Panoz).

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The technology behind the Esperante was clearly for racing purposes. It had a space frame body structure, lightweight panels, two seats, and a front engine mounted towards the middle of the car for the best weight distribution. The characteristic front of the car was aerodynamically efficient, although it wasn’t that attractive. Under the hood was a Roush-built, Ford-derived V8 with over 500 HP mated to a sequential gearbox. Panoz successfully raced the Esperante on numerous race tracks worldwide but managed to build only one street version. However, there is a rumor the company will make a new street-legal Esperante GTR-1 for approximately $1 million.

Photo Credit: Kessel

Mosler MT900

The man behind this car is well-known American car constructor and entrepreneur, Warren Mosler. He is already known for being the man behind the strange but capable Consulier GTP. But his latest creation, the Mosler MT900, is even more successful and arguably a better-looking supercar (via Supercars).

Mosler MT900 - Mosler Automotive
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Introduced in 2001, the MT900 was the product of a long development process to present a car that was as light and powerful as possible. We can say that Warren Mosler managed to do that since the MT900 weighs only 2500 lbs., less than its competitors. The car had a 5.7-liter V8 with 350 HP or a 7.0-liter V8 with 435 HP in the MT900 S version. Chevrolet produces both engines. Mosler MT900 stayed in production until 2011. During that time, 14 cars left the factory. Mosler even had a racing version that competed with some degree of success in the World Endurance Racing championship.

Photo Credit: Ford

Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe

Although the Cobra roadster dominated the international GT racing scene in the early ’60s, Shelby noticed that the roadster body was only suited for some tracks and races. Even with the hard top mounted, the Cobra lacked top speed due to poor aerodynamics. In long straights like on Le Mans, it was slower than the competition. The answer was to redesign the car and turn it into a racing missile capable of insane top speeds (via Shelby American).

Photo Credit: RM Sotherby

To do that, Shelby needed to modify the Cobra entirely So with the help of his talented team of engineers and hot rodders, he managed to construct a more extended chassis and relocate the suspension. This led to the design of a new, longer, sleeker, and much more aerodynamically efficient body. Called the Daytona Coupe, it was a pure racing car barely suitable for street driving and intended to destroy the competition. The car was finished just in time for the legendary 1965 racing season. It was shipped to Europe, where it continued dominance of American engineering and won the 1965 GT Championship. It was an extraordinary success for Ford, Carroll Shelby, and his talented drivers and mechanics team.

Photo Credit: Motor Trend

SSC Ultimate Aero TT

The name Shelby is very well-known throughout the automotive world. Jerod Shelby chose to call his company SSC North America just to avoid the connection with Carroll, to whom he isn’t related. However, both Shelbys needed speed. Jerod’s was materialized in the form of the Ultimate Aero, introduced in 2006. The Ultimate Aero was designed to be the fastest and the most potent supercar on the market, with engineering representing the perfect blend between racing technology and street car design. The first Ultimate Aero models used a 6.2-liter Corvette racing engine with almost 800 HP, which propelled this beast to 238 mph (via SSCNA).

Photo Credit: W Super Cars

But a real treat was introduced in 2009 when the Ultimate Aero TT was released. It featured a turbocharged Corvette mill with 1200 HP and improved suspension, chassis, and aerodynamics. Soon after, the Aero TT broke the production car speed record, achieving 256 mph and making it the fastest car in the world. With a price tag close to $300.000, only 24 Aeros left the factory between 2006 and 2009.

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Vector W8

The legendary Vector W8 is a wedge-shaped, V8-powered monster presented in 1990. It was an ambitious project by the Vector Aeromotive Corporation. They wanted to produce the most advanced supercar in the world by using aeronautical technology and materials in car production. The W8 had a space frame chassis with a Kevlar body reinforced with special plastic. Under the engine cover was a typical American powerhouse, a Chevrolet small block V8. They paired it up with twin turbochargers to produce 625 HP, which was an impressive figure (via Car and Driver).

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The company claimed that the 6.0-liter twin-turbo engine was capable of 1200 HP at full boost. However, they suggested drivers not use full boost for extended periods since it would affect the engine’s durability. The Vector W2 cost $450,000, an enormous sum for the day. When production ended in 1993, the Vector Aeromotive Company managed to produce only 22 examples of this fantastic American supercar.

Photo Credit: Superperformance

1963 Corvette Grand Sport

In the early ’60s, the Corvette had already proven itself on the market. It was time to establish itself on the race track. Back then, the Shelby Cobra by Ford was dominant at the track and the Corvette team wanted to beat it. So, Zora and his team prepared 5 Grand Sport Corvettes with modified bodies, unique suspension, fully loaded race engines, and other specially built components (via Motor Trend).

Photo Credit: Superperformance

The Grand Sport Corvette had over 550 HP and was capable of brutal performance. The Corvette team had big plans and entered the Grand Sport Corvettes in several races with mixed success when the decision from the top of General Motors stopped all racing activity. For some reason, GM decided to stop investing in all forms of racing in early 1963, which killed the fantastic Grand Sport program before it could prove its worth, making the Corvette Grand Sport one of the greatest “what if” stories of the racing world. All five cars survived and are accounted for.

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Ford GT (2004 – 2006)

The early 2000s supercar boost motivated many manufacturers to offer exotic cars, introduce new models, or revive some old legendary names. Ford jumped on the bandwagon with a new and retro-styled supercar simply called the GT, a clear successor to the fantastic Le Mans-winning GT40 from the late ’60s (via Ford Performance).

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The 2004 GT was a perfect car in many ways. Not only was it introduced at the height of the retro-futuristic car design, but it was also competent and fast. At the moment, it was one of the best supercars on the scene, and buyers loved it, even in Europe. In fact, in just two years of production, Ford managed to sell more than 4000 examples, making it one of the most successful supercars in terms of popularity. The heart of the Ford GT was Ford’s fabulous 5.4-liter V8 with the supercharger and 550 HP on tap. The GT was capable of achieving 0 to 60 mph time of just 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 205 mph. Even though the Ford GT wasn’t constructed or designed with racing in mind, the car proved capable on the track in the hands of private teams.

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Hennessey Venom GT

You probably know about Hennessey from Texas if you’re interested in domestic performance cars. In the last few decades, they have been one of the biggest names in aftermarket muscle and performance car parts, conversion kits, engines, etc. Since 2011, they have also been supercar manufacturers with the Venom GT (via VenomGT).

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The Venom GT is not a 100% American car but a British-American hybrid. It’s based on the Lotus Elise but significantly modified, widened, and stretched with different suspensions, brakes, designs, and drivetrains. Practically everything is new and separate from the original car. The power comes from a 7.0-liter LS2 V8 engine with three power levels – 800 HP, 1000 HP, and 1200 HP. The Venom GT was available as a coupe or convertible. It once held the world record for the fastest production car from 0 to 186 mph (0 to 300 km/h) with an average time of 13.63 seconds. Only 13 cars ever left the factory.

Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 (C6) - Car
Photo Credit: Motor 1

1990 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

Chevrolet engineers knew that the C4 chassis had enormous potential and always looked for ways to improve power and performance. Finally, they got the green light from the management to introduce the best Corvette model in years and show the sports car world what the Corvette was capable of. In 1990, the mighty ZR-1 left the factory with 400 HP and a performance that could beat any Ferrari (via Car and Driver).

Photo Credit: Motor 1

Called “King of the Hill,” the Corvette ZR1 was precisely that. The king of all Corvettes was the 1990 ZR1. Immediately, it was evident that Chevrolet had hit a home run. Under the hood was LT4, a Lotus-engineered V8 engine with 375 HP (later 400 HP), quad-cam heads, and 32 valves. The engine was an engineering marvel and performed exceptionally well. With the beefed-up suspension, gearbox, and a pair of extra wide rear tires, the Corvette ZR1 could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, making it one of the fastest cars of the era and a true modern classic today.

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Falcon F7

In 2009, American car designer and businessman Jeff Lemke established Falcon Motorsports, a company dedicated to building high-performance and limited-production supercars. Their first car debuted at the 2012 New York Motor Show and was called the Falcon F7 (via FMS).

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The Falcon F7 may just be the coolest-looking supercar on sale today, as its silver paint, sharp front end, futuristic interior, and aggressive stance make it a very recognizable and great-looking vehicle. The power comes from a naturally aspirated, all-alloy 7.0-liter V8 engine with 620 to 680 HP. The Falcon also announced a twin-turbo version with 1100 HP. The production is very limited and the Falcon F7 earned praise from car magazines and customers all over the world. If you want to be a proud owner of an F7, be prepared to pay at least $195,000, which is the base price.

Photo Credit: Riverside Autoplex

Ford GT (2016 to 2022)

We’ve already featured the Ford GT on our list, but we’ll discuss it again since the 2004 to 2006 model is a different beast than the current GT which debuted in 2016. First, these two cars only share the name and nothing else. While the previous generation was a superfast road car, the current model is a racing car for the streets full of competition parts, tricks, and active aerodynamics. Ford wanted a car that would give them triumph at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time after 1969. The new GT was a racing car from the start and a road car second. It competed in the 2016 Le Mans and won its class precisely 50 years after the first legendary GT40 win (via Ford).

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The engine of the new GT is exciting; it is a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 with 656 hp, which gives the car a 0 to 60 mph time of 2.8 seconds and a top speed of 216 mph. What is interesting about it is the fact that the GT’s engine is pretty much the same as the 3.5 EcoBoost V6 from the F-150 pickup truck. Of course, there are a lot of different details, but the basic architecture, block, displacement, and turbo technology are the same.

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Rossion Q1

Only a few people know about an American supercar manufacturer called Rossion. Established in 2006, Rossion Automotive bought the rights for the Noble M400 supercar from the British company Noble. The Rossion took the M400 to America, completely redesigned and re-engineered the car, and introduced it as the Q1 in 2008 (via Car and Driver).

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The heart of the Q1 is Ford’s 3.0-liter V6 engine with twin turbochargers. This combo is light and very powerful, and the Q1 has 508 HP sent to rear wheels over a six-speed manual transmission. The performance figures are equally interesting, and a 0 to 60 mph sprint is possible in just 2.9 seconds with a top speed of 195 mph.

Photo Credit: F5R

Factory Five GTM

Do you want an American supercar, but want it on a budget and to possibly assemble it yourself? No problem. Famous kit car company Factory Five Racing has just the car for you. It’s called the Factory Five GTM and is a very capable supercar. It is a car that you can build in your garage as a DIY project. The manual, thankfully, comes with the car (via Factory Five).

GTM Cars - Car
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The company made a move to the supercar market with the GTM in 2007. This modern car has a Kevlar body and aluminum chassis powered by Corvette’s V8 engine. Also, many components like the drivetrain and suspension are from the Corvette, making it cheap and easy to maintain. Due to its lightness and power, the GTM is fast, with 0 to 60 mph times of around only three seconds and a top speed of over 180 mph. Also, it is pretty affordable, and the basic GTM kit costs just $24,000. Remember that you must provide the Corvette engine and drivetrain to make the GTM roadworthy.

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Panoz Roadster

Younger enthusiasts don’t remember the name Panoz. But back in the ’90s, this company was one of the best-known limited-production American brands. Successful in racing, Panoz was one of those brands that offered racing technologies in street-legal vehicles. Which made them favorites with fans of performance driving. The Roadster model was introduced in the early ’90s and represented the modern-day version of the legendary Shelby Cobra (via Panoz).

Photo Credit: Rk Motors

It was a stripped-down open-top two-seater out of aluminum, which kept the weight down. Panoz used a lot of Ford Mustang components including the engine, drivetrain, and suspension. This meant the Roadster had 300 HP and brutal performance. Panoz received a lot of criticism for copying the layout of the legendary Shelby Cobra. However, its determination to make and sell this car to power-hungry clients remained unchanged.

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Shelby Lonestar

By the end of the ’60s, Shelby had decided to build the successor to the Cobra 289 and Cobra 427 models. But he didn’t settle for a restyled version or an improved old model. Rather than that, he constructed a new car with a mid-mounted V8 engine, racing suspension, and performance on a whole new level. Shelby took the modified GT40 platform along with the engine and transmission and designed a different body that was a bit lighter than the standard GT40. The car initially had the name Shelby Cobra III. Still, soon after Shelby declared that the prototype had been built in England, Ford executives reacted by stating that they owned the rights to the “Cobra” nameplate, forbidding Carroll to use it (via Gentleman Racer).

Photo Credit: SCD

Ford didn’t want to build another Cobra, so Shelby was on his own and renamed “Lonestar” after his home state of Texas. Only one Shelby Lonestar was ever completed in 1968. Due to name problems and financial problems when Ford didn’t want to support the project, a single Lonestar remains the sole example.

Photo Credit: GM

2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

You’re right if you think the Corvette C8 is a fantastic machine. But Chevrolet has only started producing models based on this innovative architecture. The first specialty version is the Z06, a genuinely ground-breaking machine. As always, the Z06 is a more performance-oriented model with a unique engine and features. The 2023 model year is all that and more. It’s the most potent naturally aspirated sports car you can buy at the moment. This proper beast boasts 670 HP from a screaming, flat-plane 5.5-liter V8 (via Chevrolet).

Photo Credit: GM

But the power and incredible noise coming from quad tailpipes are not all. The Corvette C8 Z06 has a particular dual-clutch transmission, specially tuned suspension, and brakes, making it insanely capable on the track and noticeably quicker than the standard C8. Of course, this model is also significantly more expensive and costs over $100,000.

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Bricklin SV-1

The SV-1 was the brainchild of automotive entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin. It was produced in Canada from 1974 to 1975 in less than 3000 examples. For a short while, the SV-1 was the best and most advanced American sports car. But as soon as the first cars started rolling from the assembly line, it was clear that the SV-1 was not as good as people expected (via BaT).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

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, an integrated roll cage, and many other things. But they all made it heavy and not very agile. The power came from a 360 AMC V8 engine, which could have been more powerful. Later, the company turned to a 351 Ford V8 but couldn’t deliver any actual performance.

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Equus Throwback

The brand new, sophisticated Equus Throwback is one of the most unique and exclusive American sports cars. You might remember the story about the Equus brand, which concentrates on producing resto-moded muscle cars with unbelievable power and performance. The company has decided to go further into the sports car market with the 2018 Throwback (via Road & Track).

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Under the highly stylized body lies the Corvette C7 chassis and components. But Equus decided to improve every aspect of the car, from suspension to brakes, engine, and gearbox. According to the press release, Throwback is available with an optional 1000 HP engine. The car boats a 0 to 60 mph time of just 2.5 seconds and a top speed of over 220 mph.

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Dodge Viper ACR (2016)

The last generation Viper was done in 2017 due to slow sales but a car like the Viper wouldn’t go without a fight. Dodge presented the 2016 Viper ACR, the best and one of the fastest track-ready cars in the world. ACR Vipers have always been the purist’s dream, and specially prepared road/track cars with immense possibilities, sublime handling, and performance (via Motor Trend).

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The 2016 version was all that and more. It featured a unique aerodynamic package that delivered tons of downforce. This allowed the Viper ACR to break several records for production cars, including the one on the famous Nürburgring track. In magazine testing, the ACR Viper beat almost all Ferraris, Porsches, or Lamborghinis. Enthusiasts claimed this was the ultimate American performance car. The secret of the ACR Viper was a slightly more powerful engine with 645 HP, significant weight loss, perfectly balanced chassis, race tires, and powerful Brembo brakes. Unfortunately, at $120,000, it wasn’t cheap by any means, but it was worth every penny.

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