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What Determines Whether A Car Is A Sports Car

Aug 17, 2007
Ask anyone what a sports car is and they will probably invent an answer. Ask a dozen different people the same question and they will probably provide a dozen different answers. There are a variety of ways to define what constitutes an actual sports car. With no standardized definition available within the industry, the term "sports car" is without certain meaning.

Originally, it was easy to differentiate between a sports car and a regular production automobile. If a regular person could buy it, it wasn't a sports car. Sports cars were toys for the extremely rich and automobile-obsessed. They are also used primarily in situations that represented a radical departure from conventional driving. Road races, rallies and other competitions were the home of the sports car as manufacturers and designers went head to head, testing their newest technological advances and inventive ideas.

These sports cars were almost always designed for a single driver and no additional passengers. Occasionally a "co-pilots" seat might have been added. The notion of a backseat made little sense considering the purposes for which the cars were being used. They tended to be extremely small and exceptionally faster than most regularly produced cars.

This historical moment gave birth to a notion of the sports car that survives today among many automotive enthusiasts. These traditionalists will consider a car a sports car only if it is a two-seater and designed for racing.

This perspective was antiquated somewhat by the post-war experience in the United States and elsewhere. Cars based upon the test car technologies began to make their way into the garages of the public. With a more mainstream audience, some changes were made to the traditional sports car, including the frequent addition of a small back seat.

As time passed, sports cars slowly grew and the technologies pioneered by sports cars found their way into vehicles, which were not undersized or built for racing.

In the 1960s, John Delorean decided to drop a large V8 into a Pontiac Tempest. His new invention, the GTO, ushered in the muscle car era. Purists might argue the American muscle cars were not sports cars, but simply cars making use of sports car refinements. The distinction however, began to become lost in regular conversation and "sports car" began to refer to any fast or high-performance vehicle.

The line becomes increasingly blurred with every year. Traditional sports cars are becoming increasingly rare as automakers recognize a need to maintain some level of functionality if they are to entice buyers. The innovations spurred by traditional sports cars are being adopted into vehicles of every size and shape. While traditional racing style sports cars are maintained in many product lines and though some boutique manufacturers still focus their efforts on small high-speed cars, it is impossible to ignore the "crossover" appeal of many traditional sports car features.

Some may say there are sports cars, sporty cars and sporting cars and that they are all different things. To the average person, however, they blend into one.

Which cars are sports cars? Today, it's hard to tell. You can be a hardliner and say only the racing-based two-seaters qualify, or you can be liberal in your interpretation and proclaim all high-performance vehicles sports cars. Either way, you'd probably be right.
About the Author
Gregg Hall is a business consultant and author for many online and offline businesses and lives in Navarre Florida with his 16 year old son. Get quality car care products from http://www.5starshine.com
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