Exotic Sports Cars Made in America

Exotic sports cars made in America
The expression "American supercar" was little more than an oxymoron 20 years ago. Back then, even the Chevrolet Corvette and Dodge Viper couldn't match the craftsmanship and exclusivity of European exotics such as the McLaren F1. But those days are gone. The latest Corvette ZR1 and Viper have taken the fight to a new level, although they are mere newcomers among a wide range of cars that includes the 1,300-horsepower SSC Ultimate Aero XT and the million-dollar Hennessey Venom GT. There are muscle cars, too, only now they're getting pricey makeovers by performance shops. Click through and feast your eyes on 10 vehicles that define the American supercar each in its own way.

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Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

Price: $111,600
Engine: 6.2-liter LS9 supercharged V8
Power: 638 horsepower; 604 lb-ft of torque
Performance: Zero to 60 mph: 3.4 seconds; top speed: 205 mph

The new 2014 Corvette Stingray might be all the rage, but it's not the king of Corvettes yet; that title goes to the mighty ZR1. It borrows technology straight from the C6.R race car that has dominated the American Le Mans racing series' GT class for years. Carbon-fiber body panels help keep the weight down to take advantage of every drop of power from the supercharged LS9 V8 engine. Although its price is about half that of a Ferrari 458 Italia or McLaren MP4-12C, the Corvette ZR1 easily keeps pace with them.

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Falcon Motorsports F7

Price: $195,000 to $250,000
Engine: 7.0-liter V8
Power: 620 horsepower; 585 lb-ft of torque
Performance: Zero to 60 mph: 3.3 to 3.6 seconds; top speed: 190 to 200 mph

The Falcon Motorsports F7 is a midengine, rear-wheel-drive supercar that debuted at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It has an aluminum and carbon-fiber chassis. Beneath its aggressively styled carbon-fiber body panels lurk a hand-built V8 engine and a 6-speed transaxle. The car weighs only 2,785 pounds, which is pretty light. Falcon Motorsports, a startup based in Holly, Mich., is taking orders for the initial production run of 10 vehicles. The goal is to eventually ramp up to 25 cars a year.

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Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

Price: $54,200
Engine: 5.8-liter supercharged V8
Power: 662 horsepower; 631 lb-ft of torque
Performance: Zero to 60 mph: 3.5 seconds; top speed: 202 mph

The Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 is easily the bargain of this bunch. Some might argue that with Mustang underpinnings and an interior that is coarse and unrefined, it doesn't achieve true supercar status. But the performance figures speak for themselves. Granted, the suspension is crude when compared with a car such as the Corvette ZR1, but it can keep up with some of the best sports cars in the world, thanks to its excellent weight distribution and precise steering.

Exotic Sports Cars Made in America

Hennessey Venom GT

Price: $600,000 to $1 million
Engine: 7.0-liter LS9 twin-turbocharged V8
Power: 1,244 horsepower; 852 lb-ft of torque
Performance: Zero to 60 mph: 2.7 seconds; top speed: 272 to 278 mph

The Hennessey Venom GT is one of the most extreme American exotic cars, though it does possess some British traits. In simple terms, the Venom GT is a tuned General Motors LS9 V8 engine stuffed into a heavily modified Lotus Elise chassis. A version with 750 horsepower starts at $600,000; if you want the full 1,244 horses, the price of entry is $1 million. It weighs only 2,743 pounds and has one of the best power-to-weight ratios of any production car ever. Hennessey Performance Tuning is based in Houston.

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Mosler MT900S

Price: $164,000 (estimated)
Engine: 7.0-liter LS7 V8
Power: 530 horsepower; 515 lb-ft of torque
Performance: Zero to 60 mph: 3.5 seconds; top speed: 179 mph (estimated)

Mosler Automotive, based in Riviera Beach, Fla., has been building race cars and road cars since 1993. The MT900s is its current road warrior, boasting an LS7 V8 engine sourced from GM. The car's chassis and body panels are made of carbon fiber, but also have Kevlar the same stuff used in bulletproof vests woven in for added strength. "Star Wars" creator and director George Lucas reportedly was the first person to take delivery of an MT900s.

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Rossion Automotive Q1

Price: $100,595
Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged Ford Duratec V6
Power: 450 horsepower; 390 lb-ft of torque
Performance: Zero to 60 mph: 3.1 seconds; top speed: 189 mph

The Rossion Q1 has the smallest engine by far of this remarkable group, but the 2,480-pound midengine devil gives up nothing in performance, thanks to its power-to-weight ratio and balance. The Q1 evolved from the Noble M12, an award-winning British supercar that Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Rossion Automotive bought the rights to produce in 2007. The suspension was reworked and the whole package was refined with attractive bodywork and a more luxurious interior. The Q1 is built by High Tech Automotive in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. With British roots and ties to South Africa, it perfectly represents the American mosaic.

Exotic Sports Cars Made in America

Saleen SMS 620 Camaro

Price: $60,000
Engine: 6.2-liter V8
Power: 575 to 715 horsepower; 600 to 700 lb-ft of torque
Performance: Zero to 60 mph: 4 seconds (estimated); top speed: 180 (estimated)

Steve Saleen is a veteran racer who has been building and selling high-performance parts for American muscle cars for decades. His company builds custom Chevrolet Camaros, Dodge Challengers and Ford Mustangs for those seeking testosterone-fueled fun. The SMS 620 Camaro adds a supercharger to Chevy's 6.2-liter V8 and boosts output to 575 horsepower. Further engine modifications can elevate the horses to a heady 715. Suspension, brakes, wheels and bodywork all get upgraded, too. Saleen Automotive is in Corona, Calif.

Exotic Cars Made in America

Shelby 1000

Price: $204,990
Engine: 5.8-liter supercharged V8
Power: 950 horsepower; 800 lb-ft of torque
Performance: Zero to 60 mph: less than 4 seconds; top speed: not available

Shelby American Inc. is a Las Vegas-based company founded by the late Carroll Shelby, an automotive legend who became famous for creating the Shelby Cobra. The Shelby 1000 is based on the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. Only 100 will be built, including a street version with about 950 horsepower and a track version, called the Shelby 1000 S/C, with more than 1,000 horsepower. The entire engine and drivetrain are reworked. Suspension and chassis components are also upgraded. All told, the modifications run $149,995 for the street version not including the price of the car.

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SRT Viper

Price: $97,395
Engine: 8.4-liter V10
Power: 640 horsepower; 600 lb-ft of torque
Performance: Zero to 60 mph: less than 3.5 seconds (estimated); top speed: 206 mph (estimated)

The Viper is back from extinction and better than ever. But it's no longer a Dodge. Now this beast is sold under a new SRT brand, which was formed after Fiat reorganized Chrysler. The good news is there's still a monster V10 engine under the long hood to provide plenty of venom. The big difference is that SRT has tamed the unruly reptile by giving it a better ride and an upscale interior. There's even a new GTS version with added amenities, so buyers can pick their poison.

Exotic Cars Made in America

SSC Ultimate Aero XT

Price: $800,000
Engine: 6.9-liter V8
Power: 1,300 horsepower; 1,004 lb-ft of torque
Performance: Zero to 60 mph: 2.5 seconds; top speed: 273 mph (estimated)

Only five of these bad boys will be built. This new XT version of the midengine, rear-wheel-drive Ultimate Aero marks the end of production for the series, which began in 2007. Tri-Cities, Wash.-based SSC was founded in 1999 by car enthusiast and entrepreneur Jarod Shelby, no relation to auto industry legend Carroll Shelby. The Ultimate Aero XT showcases a new V8 engine with a billet aluminum block, a 7-speed paddle-shift transmission and other systems that will be used on SSC's next mind bender, the Tuatara.

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