For Top Gear magazine’s 300th issue, we celebrated the best 50 cars over 299 issues: here’s our pick of the best hypercars
Legendary automotive writer LJK Setright – who once filed a column in Latin – is the man credited with coining the term “supercar”. He was writing about the Lamborghini Miura in 1966, the first road car to go mid-engined, prompting Enzo Those numbers have been firmly eclipsed by plenty of others since, but if that bothers you, you’re looking in the wrong place: the F1 weighs 1,138kg, and if the last 23 years and 300 issues of TG have taught us anything, it’s that our priorities have become confused. There’s nothing confusing about the F1’s power-to-weight ratio of 550bhp-per-tonne.
The F1 was never meant to race, but it won Le Mans, very convincingly, in 1995. It also stood for so much more than its top speed, but in 1998 racing driver Andy Wallace set a new production-car world record of 240mph. I spent two unforgettable days with Wallace and an F1 last year, courtesy of owner Simon Kidston, solidifying my opinion that this isn’t just the greatest hypercar of all, it’s the best car full-stop, the one I’d sell my kidneys and maybe even my family to own. Why? Because, as much as it pains me Ferrari’s famous barb: “The ox pulls the cart, it doesn’t push it.” Il Commendatore would change his mind soon enough.
At what point did the “supercar” make the species jump to “hypercar”? When the McLaren F1 arrived. It’s said that Gordon Murray and Ron Dennis began hatching plans for their road car in the departure lounge of Milan’s Linate airport following the 1988 Italian Grand Prix – ironically, the only race McLaren didn’t win that season. It arrived four years later, in May 1992, but the media wouldn’t drive it until 1994. If Gordon Murray is the greatest racing and automotive engineer of the modern era, then this is what the inside of his head looks like. Only not in the ways you might automatically assume: yes, Murray was – still is – obsessive about weight, but he also appreciated the usability of Honda’s then-new NSX, he loved music (big Bob Dylan fan) so the audio system was a corker, and the driver sat centrally (so no pedal offset to worry about or visibility issues), passengers set back either side, in a car that had a compact footprint. Only Alec Issigonis’s original Mini is more cleverly packaged. Of course, the F1 also had a carbon-fibre chassis. The engine, designed by BMW Motorsport’s Paul Rosche, remains one of the very greatest ever made: a 6.1-litre, quad-cam, 48-valve, 60° V12, that produced 627bhp at 7,400rpm, and 479 torques between 4,000–7,000rpm.to say it, this is Peak Automobile. We’ve been in reverse ever since.