10 Best American Sports Cars

While European and Japanese brands are renowned for their sports cars, America too has produced some equally competent rides over the decades

Everyone knows what an SUV or a luxury sedan is, but defining a sports car is surprisingly difficult. Even the experts can’t agree on what constitutes a proper sports car, but generally speaking, it’s a small vehicle designed for performance. Maybe it’s a two-seater, but definitely, it will only seat two adults somewhat comfortably. It used to be that sports cars didn’t have fixed roofs, but now they can cage in the driver.

Maybe the easiest way to categorize a sports car is by defining what it is not. Sports cars are not work vehicles, family rides, or even basic transportation. They aren’t designed for cargo space, fuel efficiency, or affordability. Simply put, sports cars serve no practical purpose other than pure driving enjoyment. A sports car is a toy for people who want the thrill of ripping through the twists and turns of winding country roads. It’s a vehicle that’s all about experience over function.

European automakers are known, especially the British, Germans, and Italians, for making great sports cars, while Americans are historically the producers of big luxury vehicles, muscle cars, and trucks. The thing is however, the U.S. has been in on the sports car scene from the beginning and has made some of the greatest examples. People probably think of MGs, Porsches, and Ferraris when it comes to sports cars, but America too has made some of the best high-performance, pure enjoyment rides ever, and here are some of the best sports cars that fit that narrative.

10 Pontiac Fiero

Literally A Hot Car

Red 1988 Pontiac Fiero GT
Bring A Trailer 

Produced from 1984 to 1989, the Pontiac Fiero was a cool little two-seater that kind of looked like a Ferrari that got hit with a shrink ray. It unfortunately had a shrunken version of Ferrari performance with low-horsepower I-4 and V-6 engine options. Engineers had hoped to drop a small block V-8 into them, but GM didn’t want a two-seat competitor for the Chevrolet Corvette.

Power and Performance (1985 Fiero SE Coupe)

Engine2.4-liter V-6
Engine Output140 horsepower, 170 pound-feet of torque
TransmissionThree-speed automatic
0-60 Time8.4 seconds
Quarter-mile16.5 seconds
Top Speed110 mph

(Performance specs sourced from Automobile Catalog)

Instead of being marketed as a performance car, the Fiero hit dealerships as a fuel-efficient lightweight “commuter car,” which thankfully never became a real vehicle class. The other issue with Fieros was that they tended to catch fire, with one out of fifty bursting into flames. Despite the issues with the Fiero, it has gained a cult following with modders beefing them up with power, making them the sports cars they should have been all along.


American A-Lister

Big Bad Green 1969 AMX California 500 Special
CZmarlin/Wikimedia Commons

Many consider the AMC AMX a muscle car or even a pony car, but with only two seats and performance from bumper to bumper, it’s a sports car all the way. As a more compact version of AMC’s popular Javelin model, the AMX was made for three years from 1968 to 1970 and offered an affordable high-powered sporty ride. With a base price of under $3,500, it was easily a thousand bucks cheaper than a Corvette and just as fast.

Power and Performance (1968 AMX Go-Package)

Engine390ci V-8
Engine Output315 horsepower, 425 pound-feet of torque
TransmissionFour-speed manual
0-60 Time5.7 seconds
Quarter-mile14.4 seconds
Top Speed106 mph

(Performance specs sourced from Automobile Catalog)

Despite having a serious 390ci V-8 under the hood, sporty styling, and affordability, the AMX never really caught on with the public, selling less than 20,000 units in three years. Like many cars that weren’t fully appreciated in their day, the AMX has gained a following and, according to Hemmings, collectors are, “now snapping them up left and right.”

8 Buick Reatta

Slept-On Sport

Blue 1991 Buick Reatta

There are sleeper cars that are unassuming rides with hidden power and then there are slept-on cars like the Buick Reatta that could blow doors off if anyone bothered to buy one. Buick intended for the Reatta to be its “halo car,” meaning a flagship model that would bring attention and prestige to the brand, but it was a flop.

Power and Performance (1991 Reatta)

Engine3.8-liter V-6
Engine Output170 horsepower, 220 pound-feet of torque
TransmissionFour-speed automatic
0-60 Time9.9 seconds
Quarter-mile17.4 seconds
Top Speed130 mph

(Performance specs sourced from Automobile Catalog)

The Reatta was slated for a production of 20,000 cars per year but ended up only moving a total of 21,751 in four years. It’s a shame it never caught on because it was a great two-seat sports car. Not only was it sharp looking and peppy, it was loaded with features including a touchscreen command module that controlled interior functions and provided vehicle diagnostics, which was wild at the time.

7 Dodge Stealth

Stealth Bomber

Red Dodge Stealth

The Dodge Stealth is another American sports car that deserved more love than it got. The joint venture between Mitsubishi and Dodge produced not only one of the coolest-looking rides of the 1990s but also a high-performance sports car that was years ahead of its time. Things like anti-lock breaks and all-wheel drive are commonplace now, but in 1990 they were radical standard equipment on the Stealth.

Power and Performance (1992 Stealth R/T Turbo)

Engine3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6
Engine Output300 horsepower, 307 pound-feet of torque
TransmissionFive-speed manual
0-60 Time5.2 seconds
Quarter-mile14.0 seconds
Top Speed152 mph

(Performance specs sourced from Automobile Catalog)

The Stealth wasn’t just an awesome-looking car with cool features, it was a legitimate performer with a 300-horsepower twin-turbo V-6. This was the kind of power Detroit hadn’t produced since the classic muscle car era, and it was available in an early 90s sports car. The Stealth led TopSpeed’s Cheap Sports Cars Anyone Can Afford list because the beauties are still underappreciated and there are some killer low-mileage deals out there.

6 Studebaker Avanti


Red 1962 Studebaker Avanti R2

The name Studebaker sounds like a fuddy-duddy brand, but the truth is, the now-defunct automaker has been on the cutting edge and ahead of the curve since the beginning. They made an all-electric car in 1902 and were cranking out muscle cars in the 1950s. Then, in 1962, they came out with a radical space-age speedster the Avanti, which was also a proto-pony car before the Mustang.

Power and Performance (1962 Avanti R2)

Engine289ci turbocharged V-8
Engine Output289 horsepower, 332 pound-feet of torque
TransmissionFour-speed manual
0-60 Time7.0 seconds
Quarter-mile15.2 seconds
Top Speed121 mph

(Performance specs sourced from Automobile Catalog)

Classic Motorsports tells us that the Avanti was marketed as “America’s fastest production car,” and backed that claim up by recording 29 new stock car speed records. Only around 5,800 were ever produced, but it wasn’t a case of the car bombing. The Avanti had a 129-piece fiberglass body that took forever to assemble and fit. The Avanti was discontinued in 1963 but has been revived by other companies until as recently as 1999.

5 Saturn Sky

Summer Solstice

Red 2007 Saturn Sky Red Line
Bring a Trailer

The Saturn Sky is the same thing as the Pontiac Solstice, but the Sky makes the list because Saturns hardly ever rank and this was a kickass two-seat roadster. Every bit as sporty and fast as similar European and Asian sub-compact sports cars, some people are still struggling to wrap their heads around the fact that this was a GM vehicle.

Power and Performance (2007 Sky Red Line)

Engine2.0-liter turbocharged I-4
Engine Output260 horsepower, 260 pound-feet of torque
TransmissionFive-speed manual
0-60 Time5.5 seconds
Quarter-mile14.0 seconds
Top Speed155 mph

(Performance specs sourced from Automobile Catalog)

The Sky and its sister car, the Solstice, were well-received for being stylish performance cars without shocking window stickers, but they were both done in by the deaths of their parent companies. Both Saturn and Pontiac ceased operations in 2010 and sadly GM didn’t shift the Sky/Solstice to another division. People would have still bought a Chevy Sky or a GMC Soltice.

4 Ford Thunderbird

The God Of Thunder

Black 1956 Ford Thunderbird

Ford marketed the Thunderbird as a personal luxury vehicle, but it was a top-off two-seater that was “fun, fun, fun” to drive, so it qualifies as a sports car. There was no room in it for kids or groceries, and it had a spunky V-8 under the hood, so by the process of elimination it was more sporty than luxury. Also, it was Ford’s response to the successful Chevrolet Corvette, so there’s no question that it intended to be a sports car.

Power and Performance (1956 Thunderbird)

Engine312ci V-8
Engine Output270 horsepower, 336 pound-feet of torque
TransmissionFour-speed manual
0-60 Time7.5 seconds
Quarter-mile15.8 seconds
Top Speed132 mph

(Performance specs sourced from Automobile Catalog)

Introduced in 1955, the car was instantly hot, not with the traditional luxury vehicle crowd, but with younger drivers. Ford chose to ignore the adage of, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and the first-gen only lasted a couple of years before the T-Bird was slowly morphed into a ridiculous land yacht by the late 1970s. After spending the 80s and 90s as an ugly Taurus knock-off, it briefly returned to a sports car in the 2000s, but nothing beats the original model.

3 Shelby Cobra

Track Jet

Blue 1967 Shelby 427 S/C Cobra Roadster

Technically, the Cobra is a British car, originally produced by U.K. company AC Cars, but it has also been produced in America, and more importantly, was made both famous and awesome on this side of the pond. Racing legend and car designer, Carol Shelby approached AC with the idea of putting a V-8 into their cars, and after Chevrolet declined to provide an engine, started packing the Cobras with Ford power. The Cobra was redesigned and manufactured in conjunction with the Ford Motor Co.

Power and Performance (Cobra 427)

Engine427ci V-8
Engine Output425 horsepower, 480 pound-feet of torque
TransmissionFour-speed manual
0-60 Time3.4 seconds
Quarter-mile11.8 seconds
Top Speed185 mph

(Performance specs sourced from Automobile Catalog)

After trying a few decent engines, Shelby finally settled in with a massive 427, creating the ultimate street machine at the time. For reasons that seem bizarre to collectors now, the Cobra 427 was a failure, causing Shelby and Ford to discontinue it in 1967. Only 998 Shelby Cobras were built, but it is such an amazing ride that a kit car industry was born, putting thousands of replicas on the street. This reworked British import is one of the most iconic American sports cars and is synonymous with U.S. track and street performance in the 1960s.

2 Dodge Viper

Serpent Strike

Blue 2017 Dodge SRT Viper GTS
Cjp24/Wikimedia Commons

The late 1970s and most of the 1980s were some dark times at Chrysler for designers who had to apply their creativity to awful K-cars and soulless minivans. As a reward for suffering through Aries and Caravan hell, the Dodge design team was allowed to come up with a modern version of the Cobra. It was never intended to go to production, just be an exercise in design skill, but the resulting Viper was so amazing it couldn’t be denied.

Power and Performance (2017 SRT Viper GTS)

Engine8.4-liter V-10
Engine Output640 horsepower, 600 pound-feet of torque
TransmissionSix-speed automatic
0-60 Time3.4 seconds
Quarter-mile11.7 seconds
Top Speed206 mph

(Performance specs sourced from Automobile Catalog)

Originally built on the cheap, the original 1991 Viper lacked modern safety equipment like anti-lock brakes and traction control, but also didn’t have side windows or cup holders. After making a huge splash, successive generations were better equipped, both in features and performance. The Dodge Viper was an instant classic and while it is the ultimate American performance car, it can’t quite claim the greatest sports car because of the ride that started it all.

1 Chevrolet Corvette

America’s Sports Car

1962 Chevy Corvette convertible
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray C2 1967
Red 1980 C3 Chevrolet Corvette
Red C4 Chevrolet Corvette
Chevrolet C5 Corvette Z06 profile shot