Throughout the history of race cars, there are many winners and they all represent bridges between the automotive industry and true fans of race cars.
Cars from different areas, circumstances, and backgrounds fought with many famous brands in the automotive world, for a chance at glory and recognition, bringing with them the legendary victories, stories, and upsets, that have become synonymous with the sport.
In the 20th century, the greatest minds in the American automotive came together to create a number of cars, which will be strong and durable, showing the world that North American drivers were a big force to be reckoned with.
In the following, we will present to you the most influential American race cars to ever grace the circuit. So, get ready for a fast and wild ride.
1. Chaparral 2E
The history of the American Can-Am Series can partly be attributed to the success of the Chaparral 2E, a soft ethanol-quenching roadster that elaborated on the storied Chevy Corvette GS-II.
It was designed and developed by Chaparral Cars, an innovative team that played a big role in utilizing new techniques to redefine the shape, look, and feel of the traditional racer.
Though the company was still in its infancy, this car is presented in 1966, and in it were incorporated the company’s most advanced aerodynamic theories, based on Chevrolet-designed aluminum 2C chassis.
The most striking detail about this vehicle was a pivoting, variable-incidence wing that towered above the car’s cockpit, which brought newfound respect for aerodynamic downforce to the circuit. Despite the great innovation in aerodynamics, this car garnered a single win at the Laguna Seca Raceway in 1966.
2. Chevrolet Corvette C5-R
The Chevrolet Corvette is definitely one of the most important cars to ever be produced. This vehicle to a big extent was accepted by American racing teams with a target to compete and of course to win in endurance races the world over.
This C5 platform, in the beginning, was developed by Pratt & Miller — in association with Chevy and was aimed toward specialized motorsport use, winning at the 12 Hours at Sebring, 24 Hours of Daytona, and 24 Hours of Le Mans, as well as obtaining some championships at the American Le Mans Series.
The C5-R is presented to the public in 1999, powered by a Katech LS1R that would produce 610 horsepower and 570 lb-ft of torque.
Just 11 of the modified chassis was produced by Pratt & Miller but with over 31 class victories at various podiums at Le Mans, ALMS, and a victory at Daytona the Corvette stands as one of the crowning achievements of American engineering.
3. Cunningham C4-R
Briggs Cunningham in 1951, announced that he would foster a winning American team in trying to secure a win at the world’s premier racing stage, Le Mans.
In order to help his team to rise to the occasion, he turned to the newly devised Chrysler-powered Cunningham C2-R, who will finish 18th in his first year of competition.
Cunningham’s resolve led to the idea of the C4-R, a car that would weigh 1,000 pounds less than the C-2 and will contribute to more horsepower than its predecessor.
In 1952, C4-R failed to win at Le Mans but would finish fourth overall. This racing car entered the history of America as one of the greatest attempts at the legendary endurance race to date, thereby proving that even an American could overtake the Le Man’s circuit.
4. Eagle Mk1
The Eagle Mk1 was a famous car, who redefine America’s participation in the F1 series. During the season of Formula 1 in 1966, more teams were created, all this made it difficult to come to the winning podium.
With a target to secure a place on the podium, Len Terry develops the first iteration of the Eagle, which was powered by a 2.7L Coventry Climax inline 4- cylinder engine for Dan Gurney’s Anglo-American Racers team.
After four races, the Eagle’s engineers decided that an upgrade to the 3.0L Gurney-Weslake V12 was in order, giving the vehicle a huge speed. In 1967, this car will take Gurney to the United States’ first Formula 1 victory at the Belgian Grand Prix.
The famous victory would solidify Gurney’s Mk1 in automotive history in North American. Today, the Eagle is regarded as one of the most beautiful cars to have ever participated in F1.
5. Dodge Viper GTS-R
Dodge’s winning history in the endurance races can deservedly be attributed to the manufacturer, Viper GTS-R.
Powered by a Viper 8.0-liter V10 engine, this front-engined car has shown the world that inserting a 10-cylinder powerplant was vital for long-distance endurance racing.
All that was presented to the public in 1995 at the Pebble Beach Concours, and after gradually climbing through the rankings over the next three years the Oreca team would obtain victories in nine of the 10 races at FIA GT, as well as a class victory at Le Mans.
In 1999 and 2000, the GTS-R triumphantly will appear two more times. Following overall wins at ALMS, Daytona, and Nürburgring, will be a victim of the new era of Ferrari as well to a phasing-out process that started in 2004.
6. Ford GT40 Mk IV
Ford is the most popular American brand and has a very rich and important history in race cars. GT40 is a very cool race car, and though the Mk I, II, and III models were produced out of America, as offspring of the British Lola Mk6, the final iteration of the Mk IV was crafted at Ford’s Wixom, Michigan assembly plant.
The car was made of different, American-made V8 engines, and although the Mk IV’s proceeding platforms did a lot to increase the popularity of this GT40, the 1967 variant has a very important role in playing off the strengths of the first three generations.
GT40 has the same 7.0-liter engine as the Mk II and strengthened J chassis that was specific to a different J-4 race car, as well as a steel pipe cage in the style of NASCAR, and high maximum speed thanks to its newly adopted aerodynamic shape.
During his term, the Mk IV participated in only two races the 1967 24 Hours Of Le Mans, and the 1967 12 Hours of Sebring, winning both races. Only six cars were manufactured.
7. Howmet TX
Howmet TX is one of the most interesting race cars, that can be imagined and created. Тhe novelty of this car is jet-powered. This car with turbine-powered was produced in 1968 as a means of experimentation with a basic purpose use of aviation-oriented gas turbines in auto racing.
The creator and visionary of this vehicle are race car driver Ray Heppenstall. After the conclusion of the contract whit the Texas-based engineering firm, McKee, to build the car’s chassis, the Howmet was outfitted with a turbine engine leased from Continental Aviation & Engineering.
This car was transferred abroad in order to compete in the International Championship, but the Howmet was damaged, disabled, and unable to continue after which it was returned to America to compete in the SCCA National Championship.
Howmet has only two qualifying sprint victories, two overall victories at the SCCA, and remains a unique turbine-powered platform to ever win a race.
After withdrawing from the racing scene in 1968, the TX would set six Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) land speed records, thus strengthening its position, as one of the most successful, turbine-powered cars to ever be produced.
8. Hudson Hornet
In the early ’50s of the last century, stock car racing began to increase very fast, and it all contributed to the American racing league being full of platforms from every corner of the country.
The first carmaker who was fully involved in the race was the Hudson Motor Car Company. The company discovered and devised different models that will be dominant in the area of race cars. The Hudson has also become a favorite among race car fans due to its 5.0-liter inline-six, and 3,620-pound curb weight.
In 1952, the AAA season ended with a win, Marshall Teague who was the driver of Hudson Hornet. He had the advantage of 1,000-point over the competition.
After successfully winning 12 of 13 races, Hornet was received into the NASCAR circuit, where he continues his dominance by winning 27 of 34 Grand National races in 1952. This car legend to this day is considered one of the most luxurious cars to have ever entered the American racing scene.
9. Panoz LMP-1 Roadster
Panoz’s LMP cars are very unusual race cars because they have taken many things from the conventional engine and chassis designs of the late ‘90s. They have a sport 6L8 6.0-liter V8 engine and have made major changes in the architecture of race cars.
This vehicle was considered as the successor to the Esperante GTR-1, a Grand Tourer who competed in international races years prior to the introduction of the brand’s LMP07.
Following the discontinuation of the LMP07, the LMP-1 was modified by Panoz. In the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1999, he admitted two special platforms, in which race the cars will end in seventh and eleventh place.
The third platform will be specially created for J&P Motorsport, and after all, races which they have in one year, Panoz secured the LMP team championship with only two points advantage over the competitor, BMW.
The car was retired from racing in 2003 following a series of underperformances, but the unusual design of the engine and ALMS series will be enough for this car to enter the history of racing as one of America’s most influential race cars.
10. Shelby Daytona Coupe
Shelby’s Daytona Coupe was created for a single purpose to assume the position of dominant 250 GTO in GT class racing.
This race car comes from the AC Cobra company, and its design and chassis based on the classic model of the Cobra car. He has a 4.7-liter V8 engine, its total weight is under 2,300-pounds, and has a newly adopted aerodynamic enclosure.
All this gave him a great advantage over the vehicles that are overweight and they have not closed-shell aerodynamic properties.
After two fourth-place GT class wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and 12 Hours of Sebring in 1964, the Shelby would administer consecutive GT class wins during Italian Grand Prix, 24 Hours of Daytona, Nürburgring 1000km, 12 Hours of Sebring, and even the 1965 World Sportscar Championship following the 12 Hours of Reims.
The top of this sports car is the 25 different land speed records at Bonneville. With that, this car got its place in American history as one of the best race cars.