The 200mph Club

As an evolutionary species, man has always strived to go further, longer and faster than those who have come before.

In the late 19th century when the first sub-10mph petrol-powered, internal combustion engined cars were coming out of the factories of Karl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, our collective ‘need for speed’ immediately became more acute.

It turned into an obsession that shows no sign of, ahem, slowing down…

When we refer to the 200mph Club, we’re talking about street-legal production cars rather than Formula 1 cars, NASCAR monsters and a whole host of highly-modified jet and concept cars including the 750mph+ bullets specifically built for attempts on the land speed record like the Spirit of America and the Thrust SSC.

Just by the way, at time of writing the most recent land speed record is a jaw-dropping, eye-watering and unbelievably fast supersonic 763mph (1,228km/h) – or Mach 1.02 – measured over one mile in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, USA, in October 1997. The car was driven by Wing Commander Andy Green OBE BA RAF and his call sign was ‘Dead Dog’.

The Thrust SSC was powered by two afterburning Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines (the same engines used in the F-4 Phantom II jet fighter) and the stats are staggering. It boasted 110,000 bhp and burnt approximately 18 litres of fuel per second. Translated into standard fuel consumption figures for road cars, this equates to something like 0.05 mpg!

Anyway, back to the road.

Two-hundred miles per hour has always been seen as a benchmark for both speed freaks and manufacturers of very expensive, high end sports cars. But today, any list of cars which top the double century is in the dozens. The usual suspects are on the list – Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bentley, Bugatti, Maserati, Pagani, McLaren, Porsche and Jaguar, as well as our American cousins Chevrolet and Dodge– but there has emerged over the last 15-20 years a series of small, independent manufacturers that are producing some quite phenomenal speed, including Ascari, Caparo, Fisker, Gumpert, Saleen, Hennessey and Ultima.

Ever since the first Benz overtook the first Daimler on the cobbled streets of a small German town (we don’t know if this actually happened but it’s an evocative mental image) we have made the pursuit of speed of paramount importance.

The first car to unofficially break 100mph was a 90 bhp Napier in 1905 but complying with today’s rules, it wasn’t until after the second world war that the official race was well and truly on.

The Europeans led the automobile world (and still do) in terms of design, mechanics, aerodynamics and of course speed. Up until the late 1960s, it was the big boys who traded supremacy and kudos as the makers of the fastest cars in the world. The honour was progressively held by:

timeline-table

 

Rather surprisingly, we then had to wait 16 years for the next major breakthrough, but by then (the mid-80s) manufacturers were embracing the available technology and producing some seriously fast cars. In 1984, a Ferrari 288 GTO hit 188mph (302.5 km/h) and then two years later the Porsche 959 Touring topped out at 195mph (313.8 km/h).

Then, in 1987, we hit the big one.

The last car personally approved for production by motoring demi-god Enzo Ferrari, the F40, broke the 200mph barrier, reaching 202.687 mph (326 km/h). There aren’t many cars before or since that are worshipped and revered as much as the F40 and although 202mph today seems decidedly average (if it’s possible to call that type of pace ‘average’), because it was the first production car to reach the holy grail, it holds a special place in the hearts of all true petrolheads.

Ferrari-F40

 

Intended to be a car produced in very limited numbers (final production numbers topped 1,300), the F40 was a 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V8 supercar churning out 478 bhp and with a 0-62 time of a shade under four seconds, it was the world’s fastest, most powerful and most expensive car (approx. $400,000 in 1987) and it’s only rivals were the Porsche 959 and the Lamborghini Countach, neither of which could attain the 200mph mark.

After the benchmark was reached, it became open season to see who could go even faster.

Over the next five years we saw small increases. The Bugatti EB110 GT hit 209mph (336.3 km/h) and then the Jaguar XJ220 got to 212.3 mph (341.6 km/h) but by 1993, there was a new kid on the block.

Utilising large elements of Formula 1 technology as well as advanced understanding of aerodynamics, mechanics, braking and suspension, the McLaren F1 tore through the record books by reaching a previously unimaginable 240.1 mph (386.4 km/h) without the rev limiter at the world-famous, Porsche-owned Nardò Ring in Italy.

There was then a further gap of 12 years until 2005 when arguably the greatest car ever made showed up and obliterated the competition.

The original 987 bhp Bugatti Veyron 16.4 roared to a top speed of 253.81 mph (408.46 km/h) with its 8.0-litre, W16, quad-turbocharged engine at the Volkswagen-owned Ehra-Lessien test track in north-eastern Germany on 19th April 2005.

The car is so fast that you can’t simply turn it on and get up to full chat. There is a ‘top speed mode’ which must be enabled when the car is at rest and then the driver has to use a special key in the seat which initiates a checklist to ensure the car (and driver) is ready to go that quickly. If everyone’s happy, the rear spoiler detracts, the air diffusers at the front close and the car hunkers down by 6cm. It’s fast. Very fast…

Buggatti

…but not as fast as its younger cousin, the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport. Anything called ‘Super Sport’ and coming hot on the heels of a 250mph+ beast was bound to make the automotive world stand up and pay attention.

At the time of writing, the Veyron Super Sport is officially recognised by Guinness World Records as the world’s fastest production car. Limited to 30 models with a price tag of about two million Euros, it was, unbelievably, faster and more powerful than the 16.4. Horsepower was upped to 1,200 bhp using the same 8.0-litre, W16, quad-turbocharged engine and it reached a teeth-rattling 267.857 mph (431.07 km/h).

To understand just how fast the Super Sport is, if from a standing start it set off a full 10 seconds after a McLaren F1 (by which time the F1 would be nudging 130 mph), they will both hit 200 mph at the same time.

There are strong rumours that Bugatti are planning a 1,500 bhp, 290 mph (466.7 km/h) hypercar using a heavily modified version of their now classic 8.0-litre block but the final numbers will no doubt be a closely guarded secret and it’s testament to our collective will that surely in years rather than decades we’ll see a 300 mph car on the roads. What it will look like, what it will cost and how much you’ll have to fork out to insure it is anyone’s guess, but we’re excited for the future of speed!

Episodes Season 13

Mercedes 560SL 1987

Episode 1

Mike and Edd return to Discovery Channel for another all-new series. In this episode, Mike ...

Read More

Volvo PV544

Episode 2

Mike has been challenged to find a classic endurance sports car, and the Volvo PV544 ...

Read More

Honda CVCC

Episode 3

The guys want to tackle something eco-friendly, and get their wish when Mike chooses the ...

Read More

Chevy LUV

Episode 4

When Edd sets Mike the task of finding him a classic American truck, Mike heads ...

Read More

Ford Mustang

Episode 5

In this episode, Mike and Edd decide that an '80s classic - the Ford ...

Read More

Chevy Corvair

Episode 6

Mike and Edd decide to create an eye-catching, inexpensive beach cruiser, and the Corvair is ...

Read More

Land Rover IIA

Episode 7

Edd and Mike set the challenge to find the ultimate bug-out vehicle that would ceaselessly ...

Read More

Chevy Corvette

Episode 8

Mike and Edd go back and forth about the definition of a real sports car. ...

Read More

Best Of

Episode 9

Edd and Mike look back on the memories of the last eight cars. Which were ...

Read More

Ford Bronco

Episode 10

Mike seeks a classic adventure, and finds it in a 1970 Ford Bronco.  First impressions can ...

Read More

Mercedes 500 SEC

Episode 11

Mike's looking for luxury, and finds it in the most expensive car Mercedes had to ...

Read More

Porsche 912E

Episode 12

Mike and Edd renovate a classic Porsche.

Read More

Chevrolet Camaro

Episode 13

A classic Camaro gets the Mike and Edd treatment in this all-new episode.

Read More

Sunbeam Alpine

Episode 14

A classic two-seater sports coupé gets some elbow grease and a bit of spit and ...

Read More

Humvee

Episode 15

Mike is on a hunt for the military-grade off-roader, the Humvee.  He’s met with ...

Read More

Maserati Bi-Turbo

Episode 16

Whilst looking for a 1985 Maserati Bi-Turbo, Mike discovers a truly unique example: a Bi-Turbo without ...

Read More

Cadillac V8

Episode 17

Is there anything cooler than a Caddy? In this episode, Mike and Edd get their ...

Read More

Best Of

Episode 18

Take a look back at some classic Mike and Edd moments with this best-of compilation.

Read More

Explore More

The 5 Second Hand Cars you’ll need to build a Space Shuttle

You’d be surprised what you can do with a second hand car. Ambitious? We think not.

Read More

The Ultimate Movie Car Chases

Many films boast a solid car chase but few have a truly great, mind-blowing automotive pursuit. When it happens, it’s movie magic.

Read More

The Future of Supercars

Supercars are game-changers by their very nature. So what does the super-future look like and how will it shape our own lives?

Read More