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What better way to celebrate our birthday than with our most valuable photoshoot ever, gathering together 100 years of Britain’s fastest cars?
In the pantheon of motoring endeavour, a sporting vehicle’s maximum speed has arguably held greater sway in manufacturers’ marketing departments than any other performance metric. It may be less relevant now, when even the lowliest city car can comfortably exceed the national speed limit, but for most performance-car makers a high top speed remains a badge of honour – even if experiencing it properly nowadays means a visit to a German autobahn or Australia’s Northern Territory (or your local prison cell, if you’re particularly foolhardy).
The 10 road cars described on the following pages, decade by decade, have been the fastest of their kind officially sold in the UK across the past 100 years. They’re important because their envelope-pushing Vmaxes have been achieved despite all the compromises wrought by having to make a car compliant for everyday use on the public road. Yes, top speed has been their collective stock-in-trade, but in each case it has also meant the cars were safer, stronger, aerodynamically more efficient and stopped/handled with greater aplomb than less ambitious machines. In other words, they are pinnacle cars that improved the breed overall.
That this will be the last time we can put together such a set of cars is poignant, too. It’s unlikely that any production car this decade and beyond will exceed our final entry’s 300mph capability, due to mandated electrification looming ever closer. Which means that this is also a final celebration of the mighty internal-combustion engine, in all its myriad guises, from four to 16 cylinders. It has powered the automotive world for the past 130 years, so it’s only right and proper that we showcase its meteoric rise in power, durability and efficiency before it’s outlawed from new cars completely. So for now, fasten your seatbelts as we accelerate through 200 miles per hour in 100 years.
Thanks to Everyman Racing for the use of its Prestwold test track (everymanracing.co.uk)
KORDA Poles – and 200mph – apart, the Vauxhall 30-98 and Bugatti Chiron bookend our journey. Below: behind the scenes of a memorable dayL/MAX EDLESTON