Summer is firing on all cylinders, and there’s no better way to beat the heat than by outrunning it on the open road. In honor of sports car season, our experts at Caliber are taking a road trip through time to showcase the fastest cars to roll off the production line in the last century. This week, we’re flying through the first half of the century – where speed got its first real start.
1900s | Mercedes-Simplex 60HP | 73 mph
Our first stop takes us to the very beginning of the 20th century – quite a time before the mainstream auto industry would gain traction. The 60HP was one of the earliest Mercedes-branded production cars, and maxed out at a more-than-brisk 73 mph. Its magneto electric spark ignition system went above and far beyond other contemporary cars, cementing Mercedes’ high-performing legacy that’s still alive and well more than 100 years later.
1910s | Austro-Daimler Prince Henry | 85 mph
Like the Mercedes-Simplex, the Austro-Daimler was originally built for racing. Ferdinand Porsche himself developed the engine, and shortly after the Prince Henry rolled off the production line and into the history books. Due to the manufacturing strains of the first World War, Austro-Daimler soon collapsed financially, but the Prince Henry remains the epitome of luxury and technological prowess of the time.
1920s | Duesenberg Model J | 119 mph
If you’re wondering where the phrase “It’s a Deusy” got its start, look no further. The Duesenber Model J rolled off production lines in 1928 as an embodiment of American speed, and pride. Although smaller than other engines of the time, it generated a whopping 265 hp, which is more than some cars can even today. The Model J reached speeds of up to 119 mph, and put the United States on the map in the auto world.
1930s | Duesenberg Model SJ | 140 mph
Since Duesenberg dominated the market in the 20s, the automaker decided to soup up the speedster even more in the following decade to retain their supremacy. The baseline Model SJ maxed out at 140 mph, and even held the record for highest average speed over a 24-hour period, until finally giving up the record in 1990. Boasting 320 hp, an inline eight-cylinder engine, centrifugal supercharger and a literal hoodfull of other bells and whistles – the Model SJ is proof that oldies can certainly still be goodies.
1940s | Jaguar XK120 | 132 mph
No one could out-speed the Duesenberg for years after its production, but Jaguar quickly climbed the ranks after WWII to contend for the title in 1940s. Their success took the form of the aptly named XK120, a roadster equipped with a then-state-of-the-art straight six engine that could top 120 mph, and would carry the Jaguar name to fame in the coming decades. At a time when family cars would struggle to top 70 mph, the XK120 took to the road like a speeding bullet, becoming a classic in no time flat.
1950s | Aston Martin DB4 GT | 153 mph
The Aston Martin DB4 GT rolled into the latter half of the century as the epitome of both high speed and high class. A lighter, higher-performance version of the DB4 introduced in September 1959, the DB4 GT reached a top speed of 153 mph and 302 hp thanks to a 3.7 L engine and three twin-choke Weber carburetors and a lighter aluminum body. Only 75 were originally produced, driving the car’s value into the millions today. From speed to sex appeal, the DB4 GT had it all, and it’s no surprise the model’s later iteration caught the attention of even James Bond himself.
In a era before electronics and automation, cars were able to more-than double their speed in only 50 years. Next week, we’re putting the petal to the metal as we cross into the modern era to see a few more familiar rides at their finest, and fastest.
As much as we all share a need for speed, everyone also needs a partner they can trust when it comes to collision repair. That’s why our collision repair experts are always revved up to restore the rhythm of your life and get you back on the road.