TVR Tuscan Speed Six

15 Tragically Misunderstood Sports Cars

Sports cars provide some of the most excitement of any vehicle. The segment has brought us names such as the Lotus Elise, the Aston Martin DB9, and many more.

However, some are misunderstood because of poor marketing, a lukewarm consumer reception, or several other reasons.

This list will contain some of the best in misunderstood sports cars from various eras. All of them, however, are excellent in their own right.

Audi TT

2014 Audi TT
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

For whatever reason, the Audi TT sometimes earns the label of “a hairdresser’s car.” That seems an unfair label for hairdressers and the car itself. This sporty Audi, now leaving production, is a true driver’s car.

The TT has grown over the years. It has been in production for decades and spawned some excellent special editions, such as the TT RS 40 Years of Quattro. You can make an excellent argument for the first-generation being the best, thanks to its turbocharged inline-four and VR6 engine options, excellent automatic transmission, and Quattro four-wheel drive option.

Jensen Interceptor

1974 Jensen Interceptor III USA Model
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The iconic Jensen Interceptor is one of the best names in sports car history. But it must be better understood, often compared to more expensive cars in a different league, such as the Jaguar E-Type.

This hides the fact that the Interceptor is a potent sports car. A range of V8 engines was available for the sports car, including the 5.9-liter small block LA V8 from Chrysler. The simple C-V8 chassis allowed the Interceptor to have superb handling, providing a massive uptick in sales for the British company. The Interceptor is now seen as one of Britain’s best-ever sports cars.

Lancia Thema 8.32

Lancia Thema 8.32 Estate
Image Credit: Lebubu93/WikiCommons.

The Thema 8.32 was a sports sedan, yet its performance was on par with some sports cars of the era, mainly because it had a 3.0-liter Ferrari F105L V8 under the hood. It was the sportier version of the regular Thema 8.32. It was Lancia’s answer to the BMW M5.

Lancia modified the Ferrari V8. It had a cross-plane to change the firing order of the smaller valves. This would make it better suited for long-distance driving. Because of its high asking price of $40,000, sales were slow. Yet now, people will tell you that it was worth every cent and one of the best performance cars of the 1980s.

Porsche 914

Porsche 914
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Many view the 914 as a failed experiment by Porsche and a departure from the 911 that is too radical. Yet the 914 is an excellent mid-engine sports car and a perfect entry-level vehicle for the segment.

The boxy and angular car had minimal straight lines. It was small, low-slung to the ground, yet also quite wide, creating a modern and refreshing appearance. But it was also practical thanks to its relatively large trunk. Under the hood, the range-topping 914/6 had a 2.0-liter Porsche 901/3 flat-six with 109 hp. The standard 914/4 engine was a 1.7-liter Beetle-derived Type 4 with 79 hp.

BMW Z8

BMW Z8 Alpina
Image Credit: Thesupermat/WikiCommons.

Despite its appearance in a James Bond film, people need clarification on the BMW Z8. Is it a sports car, or is it a GT car? Well, it is a sports car. The Z8 was a retro-inspired tribute to the gorgeous BMW 507, with BMW previously pursuing the idea with the Z07 concept.

Under the hood was the vast 395 hp 4.9-liter V8 engine from the E34 M5, giving the Z8 all the power of a sports car. It was also quick, with 0-62 mph taking just 4.7 seconds, providing speed that could easily rival the M5. It is a bold and brilliant-looking sports car that needs some reflection to understand its greatness. It is one of the very best BMWs ever manufactured.

Alfa Romeo 4C

Alfa Romeo 4C
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Alfa Romeo took the covers off the 4C at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show. The sports car was initially available as a coupe before a Spider version came in 2015. Yet this gorgeous car has always been misunderstood. Is it just a sports car to look fabulous in, or is it a true driver’s car?

The lack of a manual transmission hasn’t helped its reputation. But the Alfa Romeo 4C has plenty of power thanks to its 1.75-liter 1750 TBi turbocharged inline-four that produces 240 hp. The 4C is light, weighing just 2,315 lbs dry weight and up to 2,337 lbs dry weight for the Spider. It is a blast in the corners, and its punchy characteristics mean it can accelerate rapidly out of those corners. 

Mazda RX-8

Mazda RX-8
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The last (so far) rotary-powered Mazda sports car was the RX-8. Yet it has always had the reputation of being unreliable, slow, and a big letdown compared to its predecessor, the RX-7.

In reality, the only major issue with the RX-8 was the failure of the ignition coils. This caused Mazda to throw away good engines, which were in otherwise excellent condition, needlessly. Yet the RX-8 produced 277 hp thanks to its 1.3-liter Renesis twin-rotor engine, had a top speed of 149 mph, and cost just $26,645 when it was new. Careful nurturing of the RX-8’s engine can ensure reliable performance for years to come.

TVR Tuscan Speed Six

TVR Tuscan Speed Six
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

TVR forged a reputation in the UK for doing things very differently. Wild dashboards, no airbags, and controls in unusual places were all traits of their cars. Why? Because TVR. Yet, away from all that, they could produce some remarkable machines.

The Tuscan Speed Six is a perfect example. Its range of Speed Six inline-six engines could produce up to 380 hp. It had a bold and dramatic exterior to match and a radical interior. The rear indicators were also at the top of the rear window! It was a sleek, stylish, and potent sports car, sadly overlooked because of TVR’s reputation and the alternatives offered by rivals like Lotus. 

Mitsubishi 3000GT/GTO

1990 Mitsubishi 3000GT
Image Credit: Charles Dawson/Flickr.

The 3000GT was a sleek, smooth, clean sports car that would also become the Dodge Stealth. But it was in its Mitsubishi guise where it earned the most fame. The Mitsubishi 3000GT had the unfortunate timing of appearing just as the Mazda RX-7 really hit its peak. Yet the 3000GT was a comfortable and potent sports car with all the prowess of a fully-fledged GT racer. 

Its comfort led it to earn a “heavy” reputation, which is where the 3000GT was severely misunderstood. The 3000GT was about fast, long-distance driving and not being a track monster. However, if asked to, it could hold its own against its opponents. 

Porsche 928

Porsche 928
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The Porsche 928 was the first Porsche to build a sports car from a clean sheet in years. But even Porsche looked confused about it. They saw it as more of a GT car than a sports car, yet everyone else viewed it as a bonafide sports car.

In the end, the misunderstanding didn’t matter. The 928 came dangerously close to replacing the 911 as Porsche’s flagship model, providing comfort, performance, and practicality rarely found in a sports car package. Its range of V8s, from the 4.5-liter to the 5.4-liter, helped the 928 achieve remarkable top speeds, putting it in supercar territory.  

Volvo P1800 Cyan 

Volvo P1800 Cyan 
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Some view the P1800 Cyan as a modern version of one of Volvo’s best models. Yet Cyan Racing has done more than that. The Cyan P1800 is a track-focused, modern restomod of the classic P1800 from the 1960s, all coming from the works of the legendary Swedish touring car team, Cyan Racing.

What started as a 1964 Volvo P1800 now has a reinforced high-strength steel and carbon fiber body, a wider track, bigger wheels, and a repositioned greenhouse. Under the hood, Cyan opted for a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. That same engine is in their Volvo S60 TC1 race car that won the 2017 World Touring Car Championship. That engine produces 414 hp and 336 lb-ft of torque, redlining at 7,700 rpm. So, this is more than just a slightly updated Volvo P1800. Cyan has recently revealed the more practical and calming P1800 Cyan GT if you want more comfort.

Plymouth Prowler

1999 Plymouth Prowler
Image Credit: Greg Gjerdingen/WikiCommons.

Thanks to the 3.5-liter EGG V6 engine under the hood, it is easy to see why many view the Plymouth Prowler as a dud. Chief designer Chip Foose had intended to have a big V8 under the hood of his retro-styled modern hot rod.

However, that EGG V6 still provided 214 hp, and the four-speed 42LE automatic transmission wasn’t as fun as a manual, but it was still good enough. There is no denying that the Prowler looks utterly insane, yet that was the whole point of the car. Plymouth and Foose nailed it, and the Prowler deserves way more attention than it gets.

Ford Mustang SVO

1986 Ford Mustang SVO
Image Credit: Jimnva/WikiCommons.

When Ford’s Special Vehicle Operations team got their hands on the Mustang GT in the early 1980s, they created one of the best all-American sports cars. They replaced the V8 under the hood with a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder, which shaved 150 lbs off the car’s weight.

The V6 also improved the car’s weight distribution, while Koni dampers and sticky Goodyear Eagle NCT tires massively improved the car in the corners. This created the 1984 1/2 Mustang SVO, a vehicle much closer to European sports cars than the all-American muscle car. Road & Track said of the SVO, “This may be the best all-around car for the enthusiast driver ever produced by the US industry.” You can’t get any higher praise than that.

Ferrari 612 Scaglietti

Ferrari 612 Scaglietti
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Many needed help understanding what the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti was. Was it a grand tourer or an executive car? It had enough seating for four people, but was it still about going as fast as possible, not being as practical as possible?

It doesn’t matter. The 612 Scalgietti had a screaming 5.7-liter Ferrari F133 F/H V12 under the hood, producing 533 hp and matched up to a six-speed manual transmission. It would form the basis of the 599 GTB, which had a top speed of 198.8 mph and was the star of one of Top Gear’s epic long-distance races. Need we say more than that?

2024 Nissan Z

Nissan GT-R Nismo
Image Credit: Wiki Commons

The 2024 Nissan Z is officially a sports car, of course. But the ingredients create the recipe for both that and a superb GT car. Under the hood, a 400 hp 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged Infiniti V6 sits, and it has a very smooth and satisfying six-speed manual transmission.

But it is also comfortable inside. It is full of technology, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It has a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, climate control, gorgeous retro touches, and comfortable seats—the perfect ingredients for a GT car. Yet throw the car around a race track and let that V6 and handling shine, and you then realize this is one of the best sports cars of the modern era.

Henry Kelsall

Author: Henry Kelsall

Title: Writer

Bio:

Henry has freelanced for over eight years now, mostly in automotive matters, but he has also dabbled in other forms of writing too. He has a lot of love for Japanese classics and American muscle cars, in particular the Honda NSX and first-generation Ford Mustang. When not writing, Henry is often found at classic car events or watching motorsports at home, but he also has a curious passion for steam trains.

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