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.