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David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/27/18 2:17 p.m.


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Story by David S. Wallens • Photos Courtesy of their Respective Manufacturers

Sports cars are the backbone of our motorsports scene, but which ones propelled us from one automotive epoch to another? We have 12 game changers that helped revolutionize our world. Use whatever tired cliche you'd like: Each car on this list raised the bar, upped the ante, or simply blazed new trails.

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Wizard_Of_Maz
Wizard_Of_Maz New Reader
6/27/18 3:50 p.m.

Glad to see the E36 M3 here. Though the internet hivemind (not this forum, but those less in the know) deems it the least M of all M3s, I'd argue that in some ways, it is the most M. The hoards of them you see at the track resonates more with the spirit of motorsport that the M brand originally aimed to capture. It is truly an enthusiast's car. 

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
6/27/18 4:51 p.m.

As the owner of an FR-S,  is it wrong that I almost want a GLHS more? 

Kreb
Kreb UberDork
6/27/18 6:27 p.m.

In reply to Appleseed :

I saw a roached out GLHS the other day. It was really terrible, which is a good thing, because I was able to restrain myself from buying it!

 

AnthonyGS
AnthonyGS New Reader
6/27/18 9:20 p.m.

Nice article and these 12 cars would make a nice collection.  I’d opt for the glhs Omni though.   And don’t ever forget without the 1990 ZR-1, there’d be no LS1 to make the C5 and later generations so great.  

Vigo
Vigo UltimaDork
6/27/18 9:30 p.m.

I've only owned 4 of these,  but i've driven 9 so that's good!  

That 8.7s 0-60 on the GLH would have been for a carbureted model. GLH could be had either carb or turbo.  If you find whatever the 0-60 is for a turbo GLH, go ahead and knock a few tenths off for modern tires. I would guess around 6.9-7.2 for stock turbo GLH in good running condition on modern 205/50/15s (factory size iirc). Then comes the $15 boost controller..

irish44j
irish44j UltimaDork
6/27/18 9:33 p.m.

I looooove old Z cars, but I'd have to argue the "cutting edge style" of the 240Z. It is a beautiful car, but most of the style features were essentially derivative of the (greatly inferior overall) Triumph GT6, which had existed for several years already....raised fenders and inset headlights, hood bulge, hump over the rear fender, and the general proportions. Granted the Z substantially modernized the overall look, but the design was more evolutionary than cutting edge, I'd say. YMMV.

Sadly, the GT6 was such a mediocre car in every category other than looks, most people pretty much just forgot about it lol...

Image result for 1970 triumph gt6

irish44j
irish44j UltimaDork
6/27/18 9:42 p.m.

And though I agree with the entire list pretty much as-is, I'm a bit surprised the Porsche 944 (or its various derivatives) aren't in there, as one of the first modern "mainstream" sportscars from a high-end marque that a middle-class person could afford and daily drive. 

And though I don't love them personally, the absence of the RX-7 is notable if only for it being the car that made rotary engines mainstream to some degree. 

I would argue that one of those two should probably replace the (admittedly cool) Omni GLH since the Rabbit GTI is already on the list and pretty much created that niche (and sold a lot more) .

 

irish44j
irish44j UltimaDork
6/27/18 9:56 p.m.

One other thing - I love this kind of clickbait "top 10" list kind of article, but this whole article (aside from the BR-Z) is giving me major deja vu. I feel like 7 or 8 years ago GRM basically published the exact same article with the exact same cars and even pretty much the same pictures. Or am I just morphing together other articles I've read in GRM?

Kreb
Kreb UberDork
6/27/18 10:04 p.m.

In reply to irish44j :

Agreed abut the RX-7. The car scene was a wasteland in 1978. The RX-7 and the 5.0 Fox body Mustangs were promises that there might be decent times ahead in the post-smog world. The 924 was cool too, but the engine was uninspiring. 

pinchvalve
pinchvalve MegaDork
6/28/18 8:38 a.m.

Close, but you forgot one of the most significant sports cars of the last 25 years: 

 

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
6/28/18 9:20 a.m.

In reply to irish44j :

This was an older article.   We've been posting past editorial up on the website.  We have over 30 years of material to choose from, so you'll be getting deja-vu occasionally.  

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH MegaDork
6/28/18 9:43 a.m.
irish44j said:

And though I agree with the entire list pretty much as-is, I'm a bit surprised the Porsche 944 (or its various derivatives) aren't in there, as one of the first modern "mainstream" sportscars from a high-end marque that a middle-class person could afford and daily drive. 

That segment hasn't really taken off though, in fact it's debatable whether it's gone extinct - today the cheapest sports cars from high-end manufacturers are the Porsche Boxster and the Lotus Elise, and I would argue that they're priced clean out of reach of the middle class when new.

racerdave600
racerdave600 UltraDork
6/28/18 11:23 a.m.

I like most of the list, except the GLH probably doesn't belong.  I don't remember it having much of an impact the way the GTI had.  It's just an extension of the same segment.  What's missing is the MG-TC that started it all in the US.  I would through out the Dodge and add the MG.  In the case of the Mustang, I might get rid of the 2005 model and add back the 1982 GT.  It had far more of an impact the 2005 redesign.  

irish44j
irish44j UltimaDork
6/28/18 1:14 p.m.
GameboyRMH said:
irish44j said:

And though I agree with the entire list pretty much as-is, I'm a bit surprised the Porsche 944 (or its various derivatives) aren't in there, as one of the first modern "mainstream" sportscars from a high-end marque that a middle-class person could afford and daily drive. 

That segment hasn't really taken off though, in fact it's debatable whether it's gone extinct - today the cheapest sports cars from high-end manufacturers are the Porsche Boxster and the Lotus Elise, and I would argue that they're priced clean out of reach of the middle class when new.

True, but one could use the same argument against the 240Z. After all, the 2-seat (or 2+2) fastback has almost completely disappeared from existence these days. I mean, the only one I can really even think of is the long-in-the-tooth 370Z, I'd actually argue that the "relatively affordable" luxury marque entry-level car segment is far stronger than the "sport fastback" segment these days - look at the entry-level offerings from BMW (1-series), Benz, Audi, etc. None of them technically "sports cars" - but then again, this list includes Neon, Rabbit, and Omni - none of which are "sports cars" by many definitions

mikell17
mikell17 New Reader
6/28/18 1:30 p.m.

Too bad the BRZ and FR-S are selling horribly.  I thought more people would've jumped on these.  I bet they would if they had a decent amount of horsepower.  They're great taking turns but not so much light to light. 

jj
jj HalfDork
6/28/18 2:23 p.m.
mikell17 said:

Too bad the BRZ and FR-S are selling horribly.  I thought more people would've jumped on these.  I bet they would if they had a decent amount of horsepower.  They're great taking turns but not so much light to light. 

I agree with you.  I test drove them twice when I was in the market.  The midrange was absolutely dead, and I couldn't live with it day to day.  

racerdave600
racerdave600 UltraDork
6/28/18 2:40 p.m.
jj said:
mikell17 said:

Too bad the BRZ and FR-S are selling horribly.  I thought more people would've jumped on these.  I bet they would if they had a decent amount of horsepower.  They're great taking turns but not so much light to light. 

I agree with you.  I test drove them twice when I was in the market.  The midrange was absolutely dead, and I couldn't live with it day to day.  

I bought one new, this was exactly my issue, along with a few others.  Every mom in her minivan could leave you dead at a light.  I'm sure on track or at an autocross it was a joy, but day to day living I really didn't enjoy it.  If I were back in my 20's again, I'm sure I would have had a different opinion however.

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH MegaDork
6/28/18 2:55 p.m.

The 4UGSE/FA20's dead spot can be fixed with as little as an ECU tune, it's a shame the manufacturers won't do that for some reason.

NOHOME
NOHOME UltimaDork
6/28/18 3:04 p.m.

As my definition of "sports car" only includes two seat cars ( or ones with vestigial non usable rear seats) it is interesting that I pretty much cover the bases with having owned a  1970 240Z, a 1990 Miata and a 2013 FRS. Note that all three were first(ish) year models. 

The entire British car sports car industry had a spike driven through it's collective  Zombie heart the day the 240Z was unleashed upon the world. 

 

I await the next Messiah. 

But not patiently.

 

Pete

parker
parker Reader
6/28/18 5:18 p.m.
racerdave600 said:
jj said:
mikell17 said:

Too bad the BRZ and FR-S are selling horribly.  I thought more people would've jumped on these.  I bet they would if they had a decent amount of horsepower.  They're great taking turns but not so much light to light. 

I agree with you.  I test drove them twice when I was in the market.  The midrange was absolutely dead, and I couldn't live with it day to day.  

I bought one new, this was exactly my issue, along with a few others.  Every mom in her minivan could leave you dead at a light.  I'm sure on track or at an autocross it was a joy, but day to day living I really didn't enjoy it.  If I were back in my 20's again, I'm sure I would have had a different opinion however.

You do know they rev to over 7k RPM right?  I have never had a mom in a minivan leave me at a light.  The twins are as fast as an MR2 turbo or an old school musclecar.  You just have wind them out.  

 

livinon2wheels
livinon2wheels New Reader
6/28/18 5:18 p.m.

In reply to Vigo :

You are correct...8.7 for the GLH because its heavier brother the Shelby Charger 83-84 vintage had the same engine and was a tick slower at about 9.0 seconds 0-60. Still decent for the day. The NA Chargers had 195/50-15 tires and I think the Omnis did too. You had to have a turbo to get the 205/50 tires. The wheels were the same size so a tire upgrade was a no brainer and everyone I knew that had one upsized their tires to the 205 size for the added grip in spite of the gearing disadvantage. By the time I was done done with mine, I was in the low 7 second range 0-60 thanks to a froggy engine rebuild and DCOE Webers...boy that thing sounded good at 7 grand! :)

irish44j
irish44j UltimaDork
6/28/18 5:22 p.m.
jj said:
mikell17 said:

Too bad the BRZ and FR-S are selling horribly.  I thought more people would've jumped on these.  I bet they would if they had a decent amount of horsepower.  They're great taking turns but not so much light to light. 

I agree with you.  I test drove them twice when I was in the market.  The midrange was absolutely dead, and I couldn't live with it day to day.  

ditto, I drove one and didn't like it as much as I thought I would. A Miata is a better driver, hands-down (except I don't want a vert at all), so I really really wanted to like the BRZ. Doesn't help that a non-turbo car with a 2.0L engine, that's lightweight and low c/d.....STILL gets pretty mediocre fuel mileage. I mean....24/32??? A four-door GTI with more power, more weight, more luxury, and more drag beats that. Hell, that's only a few MPGs better than an AWD WRX with way more power. The BRZ/FRS have all the disadvantages of low power (compared to most modern cars) without the upside.......

Also, I would love the Twins far more if they were, again, a full fastback rather than a little notchback. Hatchback = more space.

parker
parker Reader
6/28/18 5:29 p.m.

Hatchback = more weight.  I've never gotten less than 30mpg in mixed driving.  32-33 when mostly highway driving at 75-80 mph.

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
6/28/18 5:40 p.m.
Joe Gearin said:

In reply to irish44j :

This was an older article.   We've been posting past editorial up on the website.  We have over 30 years of material to choose from, so you'll be getting deja-vu occasionally.  

Which begs the question - would you change anything if you published it today? For example, were the FRS/BRZ twins as influential as you hoped they'd be at the time of publication?

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