Classic cars might not be as powerful, safe, or comfortable as modern cars, but there is something undeniably special about them. Take for instance a Ford Mustang. The old ’60s muscle car was beautifully designed, only focussed on producing heaps of power, and is one of the most incredible Mustangs ever built. The brand-new S650 Mustang might be faster and more technologically advanced, but it has lost some of the soul older ‘Stangs had.
Today we’ll be covering some of the coolest European sports cars ever created. They’re fun to drive, look drop-dead gorgeous, and more often than not, come with a mighty price tag attached to their lineage… but then again, many argue modern cars are just a waste of money. Let’s get into the most bucket list-worthy cars ever to come from Europe.
10 Porsche 356 Coupe
The Porsche 356 was built between 1948 and 1965. Throughout its lifespan, there were four different generations of the 356, most of them being hardtop coupes, but some were topless Speedsters too. While the rear-mounted powertrains in the different 356 models varied in power output and displacement, they all were all flat-four engines from Volkswagen.
These engines weren’t all that mighty since they only pumped out a maximum of 95 hp. However, that didn’t mean it was a slow car. Since the 356 weighed as much as a feather (about 1,700 lbs), had its engine tucked in the rear, was rear-wheel-drive, and came solely with a manual transmission, its performance was purely dependent on the driver. It might not have had much straight-line speed, but around the track, the Porsche 356 shone.
9 Audi Sport Quattro
The Audi Sport Quattro was never intended to exist. The only reason it saw the light of day was because of the FIA rules that Audi needed to adhere to compete in Group B Rally Racing. We’re ecstatic that the rule existed since now we have the priceless Audi Sport Quattro to awe upon.
Audi was one of the very first carmakers to fit a turbocharged engine into an all-wheel-drive, front-engined car – what a mighty engine this was. The first-generation Sport Quattro inhabited a 197-hp 2.1-liter turbocharged inline-five engine and later produced 217 hp.
8 Porsche 550 Spyder
The Porsche 550 Spyder will go down in history as one of the most beloved and feared cars ever built. After all, some even speculate James Dean’s Porsche 550 was to blame for his death. But that’s a story for another day.
The 550 was barely road legal. It tipped the scales at just over 1,200 lbs, had no roof, no safety measures in place, and its 1.5-liter flat-four engine sent all of its power to the rear tires. Dangerous? Yes. Fun? Absolutely.
7 BMW 3.0 CSL
The BMW 3.0 CSL is also called the Batmobile, and it doesn’t take much to see why it got its name. It had some daring body modifications done to it when equipped with the aerodynamics package. These upgrades included a monstrous rear wing, some subtle, yet intimidating front fins, and even a second spoiler mounted just above the rear window.
The 3.0 CSL was however not just something to strike fear into its rivals’ hearts, it could hold its own around the track too. Underneath its elongated hood nested a naturally-aspirated 3.2-liter straight-six that produced 203 hp and 211 lb-ft of torque.
6 Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR
Believe it or not, back in the day Mercedes-Benz used to build a wide variety of cars not exclusively focused on luxury. Here’s the perfect example thereof, the Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR. A road-going version of an actual track car. Much like the Audi Sport Quattro we spoke about, the CLK GTR was also a homologation special, but this was a tad more ludicrous.
Only about 25 road-legal examples of the CLK GTR were ever built, and they’re selling for unbelievable prices nowadays. Each one of them flaunted the same monstrous 6.9-liter V12 also found in the Pagani Zonda (except for the SuperSport). Its powertrain produced a whopping 631 hp and 539 lb-ft of torque. As a result, the Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR could reach 60 mph from a stop in just under 4 seconds and top out at 199 mph.
5 BMW 328 Roadster
From an untamed supercar, we’re transitioning to a classic sports car, the BMW 328 Roadster. The 328 Roadster was built between just 1936 and 1940, so only 464 units ever made production. Its design might be like nothing modern Bimmer fans we’re used to, but it still had the iconic kidney grille also found on modern BMWs and a traditional inline-six engine.
This 2.0-liter six-cylinder engine might have only put out 79 hp and 93 lb-ft of torque, but the Touring Coupe still managed to win the Mille Miglia back in 1940.
4 Opel GT
In the late ’60s and ’70s, muscle cars like the Pontiac Firebird drenched the automotive scene and a plethora of others built by brands that no longer exist. Italy on the hand used its expertise to craft some exotic sports cars built by brands like Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. The German manufacturers didn’t have much presence in this sector of the car world, but the Opel GT changed that.
The Opel GT was a lightweight, rear-wheel-drive sports car that made use of a front-engined layout to prioritize the driving experience over everything else. Sure, it was only powered by a teeny naturally-aspirated 100-hp four-banger, but the Opel GT combined everything to create what we can only call magic.
3 BMW E30 M3
There have been six generations of the BMW M3 thus far, and no matter how you slice the cake, the E30 M3 stands tall above the rest. Instead of using a six-cylinder engine or even an eight-cylinder one, the E30 M3 had a naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter four-pot underneath its hood.
The first few E30 M3s built managed to squeeze up to 197 hp out of its four-cylinder engine, while the Sport Evolution managed to churn out 235 hp. Today the E30 M3 is regarded as one of the best-handling cars to ever exist, and we’d highly recommend picking yourself one up. Be warned though, these are rather pricy today…
2 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing
The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL is as great a sports car as it is a work of art. It garners its “Gullwing” name because of its iconic gullwing doors that revealed the cockpit by reaching out to the sky. The powertrain that sat near the front axle was also exquisite.
This engine was a majestic 3.0-liter straight-six which produced up to 240 hp and 217 lb-ft of torque as was mated to a 4-speed manual transmission. We’d love to drive one of these since it’s so low to the ground, is as wide as a boat, and has such an esteemed memoir.
1 Porsche 930 Turbo
The new Porsche 911 GT3 RS is without a doubt the most volatile track weapon to ever leave Stuttgart’s factory, but there’s one Porsche that was just downright deadly… the Widowmaker. With a name like that, you already know you better be cautious with your heavy right foot. The Widowmaker was the nickname given to the Porsche 930 Turbo.
It was the first-ever 911 to come fitted with the Turbo badge, and since powerful turbocharged cars were still in their experimental stage, the 930 Turbo tended to slip out the rear end a little too often. In the rear of the 930 snuggled a turbocharged 3.3-liter flat-six that put out nearly 300 hp and more than 300 lb-ft of torque. The only way to conjure its power was via a 4-speed manual too. And you guessed it… the 930 Turbo was rear-wheel-drive, and traction and stability control were nowhere in sight.