When naming the greatest American cars of all time, most gearheads would only include cars built by Detroit’s Big Three — GM, Ford, and Chrysler — and their subsidiaries. They’d mention sports cars like the iconic Chevy Corvette, which is considered America’s sports car, the Mustang, which demonstrates the might of the American V8, or the Le Mans-winning Ford GT40, to name a few.
However, the big names in the Motor City aren’t the only ones designing, building, and selling amazing cars in the US. There are many little-known American manufacturers that have been producing fantastic but obscure cars, some even for decades. This list looks at ten of the best American cars that most gearheads have never heard of.
10 Saleen S7
Saleen Automotive is a California-based company best known for producing high-performance automotive parts and sports cars. Saleen’s first fully proprietary car was the S7, a hand-built high-performance mid-engined sports car that quickly showed gearheads that the automaker meant business.
The S7 was powered by a 7.0-liter all-aluminum Ford Windsor V8 producing 550 hp, making it pretty fast. Nine years after the S7’s introduction, Saleen unveiled a more powerful twin-turbocharged version, dubbed the S7 Twin Turbo. Thanks to an increased power output of 750 hp, the S7 Twin Turbo could reach a top speed of 248 mph, making it one of the fastest cars of the 2000s.
9 Falcon F7
American gearheads always complain that the country doesn’t produce enough supercars, yet they let cars like the incredible Falcon F7 fly under the radar. Built out of carbon fiber and capable of producing over 1,000 hp, the Falcon F7 is probably the fastest car that most gearheads have not heard of.
The F7 is powered by a twin-turbo Lingenfelter V8 engine pumping out 1,100 horses. This car will accelerate to 60 mph in a blisteringly quick 2.7 seconds and will go on to reach a top speed of 200 mph.
8th Panoz Esperante GTR-1
Introduced in the late ’90s, the Esperante GTR-1 is a race car developed by Georgia-based Panoz for grand tourer endurance racing. Panoz had to make two road-legal Esperante GTR-1s for homologation, and even though they bore no mechanical relation to the race cars, they were excellent pieces of machinery.
The Esperante GTR-1 has many cool features, but the thing that people talk about most about it is its design. Some have named it on the ugliest sports cars of all time list, but we actually think it looks great. The low stance, long nose, and bulging air intake make it look like a Batmobile. The Esperante GTR-1 is also extremely fast, thanks to a 600-hp 6.0-liter V8 built by Roush Racing.
7 Drakan Spyder
If you’re a fan of open-top sports cars like the BAC Mono or the Ariel Atom, you’ll love the Drakan Spyder. Introduced in 2016, the Spyder is an ultralight sports car built for one thing — to have fun on the track.
The Spyder is powered by a 6.2-liter LS3 V8 engine blurting out 450 hp, enough to give the 2000 lb car a 0-60 mph time of just 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 165 mph. The Spyder is tons of fun, but it’s not cheap — a turnkey car costs $125,000 while a rolling chassis is available for $100,000.
6 Equus Throwback
Equus Automotive is a Michigan-based tuning specialist that aims to become the American equivalent of European companies like Brabus and Alpina. Equus Automotive’s latest creation — the Throwback — is a fantastic car that shows that they mean business.
Looking at the Throwback, most gearheads will notice many similarities with the legendary Chevy Corvette. That’s not by accident, as Equus Automotive based the Throwback’s design on America’s beloved sports car. Under the hood, the Throwback packs a monstrous V8 with 1,000 hp and 822 lb-ft of torque, making it one of the fastest American sports cars ever.
5 VLF Force 1
After departing from Fisker Automotive in 2013, the renowned Henrik Fisker teamed up with the renowned Bob Lutz — who had served as a top executive in all of Detroit’s Big Three in the past — and entrepreneur Gilbert Villarreal to form VLF Automotive. One of VLF Automotive’s first cars was the Force 1.
Introduced in 2016, the Force 1 is a sports car based on the Dodge Viper. It is powered by the same 8.4-liter V10 engine in the Viper but tuned to produce 105 hp more than the Viper’s 640 hp.
4 Rezvani Beast Alpha
If you love off-road pickup trucks, you’ve probably heard of Rezvani Motors. The California-based company builds mean-looking military-inspired off-roading vehicles, such as the monstrous Hercules 6×6 Pickup Truck or the Tank SUV. Rezvani also builds a superb hardtop sports car that is surprisingly well-equipped.
Dubbed the Beast Alpha, this sports car is based on the Ariel Atom and draws its power from a Cosworth-tuned turbocharged four-cylinder engine developing 500 hp. Interestingly, the Beast Alpha comes with what Rezvani Motors calls ‘Sidewinder’ doors — to allow for easier entry, they pop outside and then slide forward.
3 Lucra LC470
The Lucra LC470 is impossible to ignore — just feast your eyes upon it. This gorgeous hand-built roadster combines retro looks with modern performance, creating a package that gearheads absolutely love. The LC40 was created by American entrepreneur Luke Richards, who wanted to combine American muscle with European driving dynamics.
Buyers can choose between two engines — a 6.3-liter LS3 V8 with 430 hp on tap or a massive 7.0-liter LS7 V8 producing 505 hp. Both engines send power to the rear wheels via a five-speed manual, making the LC470 a joy to drive.
2 Rossion Q1
In 2006, British automaker Noble introduced the M600, earning widespread praise from automotive journalists, including Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson. Unfortunately, the M400 project didn’t quite work out, and Noble ended up selling the rights to its chassis to Florida-based automaker Rossion. Rossion’s goal was to transfer the M400’s excellent driving dynamics to a better-equipped and more luxurious supercar — the result was the Q1.
The Q1 is arguably better-looking than the M400 and comes with a twin-turbocharged Ford Duratec V6 engine developing 508 hp and 521 lb-ft of torque, giving it a 0-60 of 2.8 seconds.
Introduced in 2009, the Anteros is a two-seater sports car that combines unique styling and raw power. Looking at the Anteros’ smooth lines and leather interior, one could easily mistake it for a European supercar. However, this car is as American as it gets, as it’s sitting on a C6 Corvette chassis.
The Anteros also uses a Chevrolet-sourced engine — a twin-turbo LS3 V8 cranking out up to 600 hp. Since it has a full carbon fiber body, the lightweight Anteros is superfast and can give any American sports car a run for its money.