The term "supercar" may have appeared nearly 100 years ago when the Ensign 6, a high-performance car powered by a 6.7-liter straight-six engine, was launched in Britain, but it wasn’t until 1966 when it became associated to the description we’re familiar with today. The Lamborghini Miura was introduced that year, the car that started the whole two-seater, mid-engined trend we love so much nowadays.
Many such vehicles followed, especially from Europe, and the tendency grew even larger by the mid-1980. Ferrari , Lamborghini and even Porsche came up with awesome machines in the 1980s, when output figures began to climb above 400 horsepower. The brilliantly-engineered Porsche 959 , for instance, had no less than 575 ponies at its disposal. But while Europe was brimming with supercars, ’Murica had nothing coming out of its factories.
As Ford , GM and Chrysler were still struggling to rebound after the Malaise Era, a small venture based in Wilmington, California embarked on the stressful mission of creating the first American-built supercar. That company was Vector Motors , a manufacturer established in the 1970s and known only for its W2 concept car. An evolution of the W2, the W8 made it into production in 1989, with only 17 units sold to the public.
The W8 delivered staggering numbers for the early 1990s, outperforming the fastest Ferraris and Lamborghinis of the era. In 1992 it was declared the fastest production car in the world by Road & Track, but its laurels were quickly stolen by the McLaren F1, which arrived for the 1993 model year. Despite its short-lived success, the Vector W8 remains the first American-built supercar and already benefits from classic status, with some examples fetching enormous amounts of cash.
Updated 06/04/2014: A very rare Vector W8 will be put on auction this August at RM Auctions’ event in Monterey. (RM Auctions)
Click past the jump to read more about the 1992 Vector W8.
Largely based on the W2 concept, the Vector W8 wowed the crowds with its sharp and unique appearance. Although the wedge design was beginning to fade by the end of the 1980s, the W8’s styling was surprisingly fresh, blending classic cues that made the Lamborghini Countach famous and never-before-seen approaches, such as the narrow front end or the very short rear overhang.
If we wouldn’t know it, we’d say this car can fly!
The vehicle’s front fascia is highlighted by the narrow nose fitted with a pair of large, retractable headlamps. Down below, the turn signals and the daytime running lamps occupy most of the bumper. Around back, twin linear taillights cut through the rear fascia, while the bumper hosts an exhaust system that ends with a pair of rectangular pipes. The long and sharp wing perks up to interrupt the hood’s flat profile. If we wouldn’t know it, we’d say this car can fly!
The side mirrors are oriented downwards so the vehicle’s well-engineered beltline remains unaltered
When viewed from the side, the Vector W8 reveals its aerodynamic drag-reducing tricks and one of the reasons it was able to reach top speeds in excess of 220 mph. An interesting aspect lies in the conformation of the side mirrors, which are oriented downwards so the vehicle’s well-engineered beltline remains unaltered.
The awe-inspiring looks are complemented by a lightweight, yet strong body made out of carbon fiber and Kevlar bolted to a semi-aluminum monocoque chassis that featured 5,000 aircraft specification rivets. The fit and finish were beyond reproach, which pretty much explained why it took Vector several months to complete one.
|Track Front/Rear||63.0/65.0 in.|
|Ground Clearance||5.5 in.|
The electroluminescent display monitoring the car’s vital signs and the enormous amount of buttons and switches turned the supercar’s interior into an airplane-like cockpit
The interior might look dated to 2014 standards, but it was considered state-of-art back in 1992. The leather-wrapped seats came with some serious bolsters and had all the necessary controls mounted directly on them, a feat facilitated by the cabin’s lack of a center console. The electroluminescent display monitoring the car’s vital signs and the enormous amount of buttons and switches turned the supercar’s interior into an airplane-like cockpit.
Sure, the steering wheel is damn ugly even for 1990s standards, but everything else placed the W8 ahead of its Italian and German competitors. Adding to the cabin’s odd factor is the humongous gear shifter placed on the driver’s left side, a configuration mainly seen on Le Mans-spec race cars from the 1960s. The Vector W8 was also equipped with a 10-disc CD changer and a stereo system.
Powering the Vector W8 is a 6.0-liter V-8 unit rated at 650 horsepower and 649 pound-feet of torque
Powering the Vector W8 is a 6.0-liter V-8 unit rated at 650 horsepower and 649 pound-feet of torque. The mill was actually a modified Chevrolet 5.7-liter V-8 that had its displacement increased before gaining a pair of Garrett turbochargers. In charge with guiding the power to the pavement was a custom, Oldsmobile-sourced three-speed automatic transmission connected to a Gleason-Torsen differential.
The combo enabled the W8 to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds and reach an official top speed of 218 mph. These figures made it faster than the iconic supercars of the era, including the Ferrari F40, the Bugatti EB110 GT, and the Jaguar XJ220, all previous speed record holders.
|Type||Aluminum alloy 90 degree V-8|
|Horsepower||600+ @ 5700 RPM|
|Torque||600+ ft./lbs. @ 4900 RPM|
|Block Construction||Blueprinted and balanced aluminum block with replaceable ductile iron cylinder liners, forged aluminum pistons, Carrillo rods, forged crankshaft|
|Cylinder Heads||aluminum, enlarged and polished ports, stainless steel valves, roller rocker arms|
|Cooling System||Water/ethylene glycol, forward high efficiency aluminum radiator, thermostatically controlled fan|
|Fuel System||electronic direct port fuel injection. Ignition System: electronic, direct fire|
|Turbo-chargers||Two Garrett AiResearch H3’s with water cooled housings. Intercooler: Air-to-air, dual pass high efficiency aluminum|
|Emission Control||Closed loop injection/catalytic converters, unleaded fuel|
|Top Speed||218 mph|
|0 to 60 mph||4.2 seconds|
The 1992 Vector W8 retailed for around $455,000, which translates into nearly $750,000 as of 6/10/2014. However, current pricing may vary depending on the car’s state and history. While units that need to go through a restoration process can be acquired for less than $200,000, mint examples such as the one going under the hammer with RM Auctions in Monterey in mid-August can fetch more than $1 million. That’s McLaren P1 and LaFerrari money right there!
The EB110 was THE Bugatti supercar long before the more powerful Veyron arrived. Built between 1991 and 1995 in just 139 examples, the EB110 introduced quad-turbo V-12 engines to the market and spawned several other limited edition models, such as the GT and the SS.
Although not as powerful as the Vector W8 with "only" 561 horsepower and 456 pound-feet of torque coming out of the 3.5-liter mill, the EB110 GT was actually quicker than its American counterpart, reaching 60 mph from a standing start in 3.4 seconds. Equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox, the GT was also capable of top speeds of 213 mph.
Unlike the Vector W8, the Bugatti EB110 was eventually modified into a race car and entered in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1994. Although it returned competitive laps during qualifying, the car failed to finish. The most powerful rendition of the EB110, built by Dauer Sportwagen, cranks 865 horsepower.
No other 1990s supercar sports a more iconic status than the McLaren F1. Conceived by Gordon Murray and built between 1992 and 1998, the McLaren F1 was fitted with a 6.1-liter V-12 engine developed by BMW ’s M division. Rated at 627 horsepower, the naturally aspirated mill enabled the British supercar to reach 60 mph from a standing start in only 3.2 seconds and a top speed of 240 mph. Not the fastest supercar out there nowadays, but bear in mind that these vehicles ruled the streets almost 20 years ago.
The McLaren F1 became the world’s fastest production car after reaching 240.1 mph in 1993 and retained its honours until 2005, when the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 smashed its record. However, the F1 still remains the world’s fastest naturally aspirated production car and that’s not likely to change with as turbocharging is gaining more momentum in the 21st century.
Only 64 standard street version of the F1 were built, which explains why some units can fetch as much as $10 million .
With supercars such as the McLaren F1 and the Ferrari F40 still alive and kicking through various racing and auction events and , I’m not at all surprised that the Vector W8 is getting much less attention. Sure, it lacks the splendor of a Ferrari badge, but people keep forgetting that the W8 kicked some serious supercar arse in the early 1990s. Not to mention that it’s one of the very few American products that climbed atop its European rivals in terms of fit and finish and, why not, in terms of technology too.
- Unique looks
- Aviation-inspired cockpit
- Advanced tech
- Amazing top speed
- Built in ’Murica
- Not that quick from 0 to 60 mph considering its output
- No manual transmission
- Awfully expensive in tip-top condition