What exactly is the definition for sports cars? I think it varies depending on who you talk to but my definition goes something like this:
A small, lightweight, two-passenger car with high performance capabilities that was designed and built with one concept in mind – to provide maximum driving pleasure.
The classic sports car was a minimalistic foreign two-seater, usually with a tiny four cylinder engine, four-speed transmission, manual everything and not much else to hold it back on the road. The original post-war sports car poster boy was the MG as seen below.
The MG held true to its origins over the years, hardly growing in size (or scope) but id did gain creature comforts over the years – including roll-up windows!
Most Americans think Porsche when they think sports cars, and the original Porsche 356 was a gem. In many ways a heavily modified Volkswagen Beetle, the 356 was a true sports car in the classic sense. Small, very light with a tiny opposed-four cylinder engine out back, the 356 thrilled the world for over a decade.
But the sports car the Americans have come to know and love is the Chevrolet Corvette.
The Corvette was built in response to the wave of sports cars coming across the ocean – the MG and the Porsche were major factors – and introduced in 1953.
Truth be told, the original Corvette of 1953 wasn’t an immediate hit with the car-buying public. For starters, it was big – much bigger than the tiny sports cars it would compete with. It was underpowered. It came with a 150 horsepower version of Chevrolet’s stodgy “Blue Flame” six cylinder passenger engine, coupled to a two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission – hardly the dream of sports car buyers’ dreams. The Corvette had side curtains in place of roll-up windows. But it was a real production model – there for the public to see and buy.
The Corvette was manufactured in a radically different way – its body was made of fiberglass vs. the traditional stamped steel construction of its competition.
But the corvette was continually improved over the years and it did become a major player in the sports car field by the close of the 1950’s.
There are plenty of vintage sports cars that helped cement the sports car’s popularity in the United States. They are (in no particular order):
- Austin Healey 100-4
- Austin Healey Sprite
- Mazda Miata
- Porsche 911