While Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche battled for production-car top speed records, this yellow guy put them all to shame. Built by specialty manufacturer RUF, the narrow-bodied CTR had smoothed, lightweight aerodynamics. Oh, and a 469-horsepower twin-turbo engine. Result? Two hundred eleven miles per hour.Wikimedia Commons
The average BMW front-end is now a mess of squashed kidney grilles and creepy LED swathes. Once, though, it was far easier to spot Bavaria's apex predator: look for the sloped forward prow. The M6 was the one to have in the mid-Eighties, with a big-hearted six and a taste for blood.Wikimedia Commons
Porsche’s 917/20 race car returned from French aerodynamics expert SERA much longer and wider, and some critics took to calling it a pig. We think of Germans as a humorless lot, all “efficiency” and “dynamism,” but Porsche ran with it and painted the car up like a butcher's diagram. They dubbed it Der Truffeljäger von Zuffenhausen. We just call it the Pink Pig.
Possibly the happiest car in the world, the “Frog Eye” or “Bug Eye” Austin-Healey Sprite is a scrappy little English sports car. It also looks like a character from Wallace and Gromit. The Sprite’s little, but it dearly loves to be flung down some windy, little leaf-strewn backroad. Happy times.Wikimedia Commons
The pioneering days of NASCAR were all about outlaws, and the machines they ran were no exception. Black-and-white 1957 Chevys took national wins and became national heroes… until the government blacklisted them. Congress pressured major manufacturer to stop endorsing auto racing; GM founded an “outside firm,” called SEDCO, and built racing ’57 Chevys there.ISC Archives via Getty Images
The ’32 Ford: Cheap, readily available, and ready to have some big-cubes stuffed under the hood. The Duece was immortalized by the Beach Boys (“I get pushed out of shape and it's hard to steer, when I get rubber in all four gears.”) and remains the quintessential hot rod.Rolland/The Enthusiast Network/Getty Images
The British get racing green, the French get an azure blue. Germany's motorsport efforts were silver. With state funding and a mandate to win, the racing Mercedes-Benzes became legend. Rumor has it the color choice was actually accidental: looking to drop weight, the cars were left in unpainted metal, polished for sheen.GP Library/UIG via Getty Images
You could drive anything you wanted if you worked at M-division, but everybody fought over the keys for this little oddly-shaped, straight-six terrier. Laugh if you'd like, but it's on the books: The hunchy little M Coupe was the most signed-out car at BMW skunkworks.Wikimedia Commons
Perhaps the best-known nickname for a car, the humble little German people's car with the carapace-like shape got its name almost immediately. If you lived in Germany, you called it the käfer, if you lived in the states, it was the Bug or Beetle.National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Big hat, big moustache, big Burt, big bird. The Pontiac Trans-Am's hood decal is an icon for the ages, but both fans and detractors like to rib the car a little. Big-screen hijinks or no, later cars were a bit strangled by emissions controls. No worries. A bit of tuning would make 'em scream again.
These days, AMG is an official flavor in the Mercedes lineup, a fully integrated part of the manufacturing process. Once, though, they were just a band of lunatics, turning mega-engine behemoths into unlikely race cars. This one, the 300SEL 6.3, showed up with a 300-hp V-8, and promptly rubbed its feet all over lighter sportscar rivals.Wikimedia Commons
When the supercharged Mustang SVT Cobra showed up in 2003, it offered both huge out-of-the-box power and excellent tunability. Add: sticky tires, exhaust, supercharger pulley and a tune. Hasta la vista, Camaro SS.
The ugliest Cadillac ever, and one of the fastest. American racing impresario Briggs Cunningham cobbled together this slab-sided, streamlined racing special for the Le Mans in 1950. The French crowd, who admired its roaring massive presence but not the looks, dubbed it Le Montstre.Klemantaski Collection/Getty Images
James Dean died crashing this Porsche 550 Spyder on Sept. 30, 1955. The “Little Bastard” moniker came from Bill Hickman, a stunt driver at Warner Bros; after Dean’s wreck, several other Porsches that received spare parts from the 550 were mysteriously involved in fatalities and crashes. Hence, the curse of the Little Bastard.Wikimedia Commons