8 sports cars that saved their builders from ruin

When car manufacturers start sports cars, the idea is always, as with any car, to be a hit. While some sports cars go on to become legends, some turn out to be duds or even lemons. They’re not always bad sports cars, sometimes just launched at the wrong time or with the wrong kind of expectations.



We’re not talking about the sports cars that missed the mark today, but rather the ones that turned out so good that they firmly anchored the brand in the minds of buyers. Some of these sports cars even turned the tide for their struggling manufacturers, becoming such huge sellers that their legacy lives on in new cars from the same automakers today. Here are eight such sports cars that were released at the right time, with the right technology, and changed the history of their automakers.

8 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL

Mercedes has been making glamorous cars for the crème de la crème of society for donkey years. However, it has had some issues in the past, especially in the midst of World War II. By the end of World War II, many if not all of Germany’s automakers were virtually destroyed, but they were slowly getting back on their feet.

Enter the Mercedes-Benz 300SL butterfly in 1954 which was initially only offered as a coupé until 1957. In 1957, the butterfly coupés were abandoned to make way for the roadster version until Mercedes pulled the plug in 1963 Mercedes had already sold more than 3000 copies of the 300 SL and is back to winning ways. This car remains a much-vaunted sports car classic today.

seven 1994 Aston Martin DB7

In the late 80s, Aston Martin was facing the costly failure of the wedge-shaped Lagonda, so they desperately needed a winner to survive. Ford owned Aston Martin from 1988 to 2007 as well as Jaguar from 1990 to 2008, so the Aston Martin DB7 launched in 1994 was the first product based on the redesigned and improved Jaguar XJS platform.

The first iteration of the DB7 featured a supercharged 3.2-liter inline-6 ​​engine that produced 335 horsepower and 361 lb-ft of torque. It could easily waltz for 5.7 seconds at 60 MPH on its way to a top speed of 165 MPH. It was never driven by Bond but it sold 7000 copies. It was more than all the other DB cars that came before it, combined, and enough to bring Aston Martin back into the sports car business.

RELATED: Best Features Of The 1994 Aston Martin DB7

6 Lamborghini Gallardo 2003

By the mid-1990s, Lamborghini had already had several new owners who tried but failed to turn the company’s fortunes around. However, things changed when it was acquired by Volkswagen and placed under the Audi group in 1999. Under this new ownership, the first to be launched was the Lamborghini Murciélago, in 2001. The change of fortune for Lamborghini came with the 2003 launch of the Gallardo.

Being a smaller, more affordable supercar, this V10 machine stole the hearts of every gearhead. Lamborghinis sold around 14,000 Gallardos, more than all other Lamborghinis sold in the past combined. It remained the company’s best-selling model for a very long time.

5 1996 Porsche Boxster

When the Stuttgart automaker’s future was in the doldrums due to declining sales in the early 1990s, the Porsche Boxster was tasked with saving the company. The car debuted in 1996 as an affordable mid-engined roadster with Porsche’s impeccable performance, handling and build quality.

It was Porsche’s first volume product that was inspired by the 550 Spyder of the 1950s. The car became a runaway success and remained Porsche’s best-selling model between 1996 and 2003. This achievement brought Porsche on the map and earned him enough moolah to later develop his most successful model, the Cayenne.

RELATED: What You Need to Know Before Buying Porsche’s Cheapest Model, the Boxster

4 2003 Bentley Continental GT

Today, the Continental GT may be a familiar sight on American roads, but very few people know that it was the car that saved Bentley from the downfall in the mid-2000s. Things were going badly when Volkswagen acquired Bentley in 1998. Even in 2003, five years after switching to Volkswagen, Bentley was producing an average of around 1,000 cars a year. It needed a real savior and the newly launched 2003 Continental GT was Bentley’s best bet at the time.

Under the hood, it carried a twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter 12-cylinder engine developing 552 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque. It was way more power than any Bentley could ever boast. In 2004 Bentley sold 6,896 cars resulting in a sevenfold growth and the rest is history.

RELATED: These Features Make The Bentley Continental GT The Coolest Grand Tourer On Sale

3 1968 Jaguar XJ6 Series 1

The company’s co-founder and member of the Motoring Hall of Fame, Sir William Lyons, played a major role in the success of the Jaguar XJ series of cars. Also known as Mr. Jaguar, for his undying love for his cars, the original XJ model was his last masterpiece, so it had everything to be a successful car. The XJ6 series debuted in 1968 when Jaguar was part of a newly formed British Leyland.

This new company is the result of the merger between Leyland Motors and British Motor Holdings; however, it was never a success. The company struggled financially due to poor management, but the XJ6 held the company together. The XJ6 Series 1 lasted until 1972, selling around 78,000 units worldwide. It was the car that kept Jaguar afloat when it needed support the most.

2 1996 Lotus Elise

This British brand was on the rocks in the late 80s after the death of its founder, Colin Chapman in 1982. Lotus Cars traded many hands to stay afloat before it was on the verge of bankruptcy. In 1982 General Motors bought Lotus and resurrected the old nameplate, the Elan, as a cheaper, better looking and more entertaining roadster, but the more successful Mazda Mx-5 Miata won out in no time.

General Motors pulled out and sold the company to an Italian entrepreneur, Romano Artioli, who did what Lotus had done before. He created an extremely lightweight, technically innovative and back to basics sports car that became a legend in no time. The Lotus Elise sold more copies in a single year than it had ever sold before.

RELATED: Why The Lotus Elise Should Be On Every Gearhead’s Bucket List

1 1959 BMW 700 Coupe

Today, the “BMW” name is synonymous with fireball performance and class-leading capability, but there was a time when it was on the verge of bankruptcy. BMW was floundering in the 1950s and needed cars that could save its fortune. The Isetta bubble car is fitted with the BMW R25/3 motorcycle engine and is one of those wonders that helped save BMW from trouble. That said, there was another luxury nameplate that brought salvation in these trying times.

It was the new 700 Coupé which was also the first BMW with a monocoque body. Powered by a rear-mounted 697cc flat-twin borrowed from BMW’s motorcycle engine, the 700 quickly became BMW’s cash cow for years. It was so successful in motorsport that BMW launched its racing special called 700 RS to raise the bar.

Sources: Classic and Sports Cars, BMW

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