At the farthest, most extreme outer edges of the known automotive universe, such mundane and practical features like “a roof” and “a windshield” have no place. Out here is where only very brave or very foolish drivers dare to tread – but it’s also where you will find the most visceral and exotic machines.
Windshield-less cars are called speedsters, unless you’re Italian, in which case they’re called barchettas, which means “little speed boat.” That’s an apt description for cars that leave the driver and passenger completely exposed to the elements and the rush of air. While not strictly mandatory, we’d strongly advice wearing a good racing helmet if you’re going to pilot these machines at anything above parking lot speeds.
The beauty of cars like these is that they provide the sort of heart-bounding, adrenaline-pumping thrill that can usually only be found but jumping out of an airplane or by strapping yourself to a rocket. And for that, we love these most exotic automotive oddities.
Ferrari SP1 and SP2
If there is a more pure, more beautiful supercar made since the turn of the millennium, we’ve yet to see it. The Ferrari SP1 and SP2 are the first in a series of extremely limited-edition “Icona” series cars that are meant to evoke the greatest cars in the brand’s long history. The SP1 and SP2 (a single seater and a two-seater respectively) are patterned on the first ever barchetta, the 1948 Ferrari 166 MM. When that car hit the stage at the Turin Motor show, Gianni Agnelli – the Italian industrialist and head of FIAT – said it was less like a car and more like a “barchetta,” referring to the Italian for a small speed boat. The SP1/2 are powered by a version of the 6.5-litre V12 from the 812 Superfast, but in this case the motor puts around 800 ponies. It is rumoured to cost around $4.0 million, but for that price Ferrari does throw in a helmet customized by Berluti, which you will definitely need.
Aston Martin V12 Speedster
Aston Martin has been keeping the crazy limited-edition cars coming thick and fast: the One77, the various Zagatos, the Valkyrie, the Lagonda Taraf, the Valhalla, the Victor and this: the V12 Speedster. The company says it is a car for its most “demanding” customers. Like Ferrari, Aston also has a long history with open-top cars, dating back to the 1959 Le Mans-winning DBR1 (one of which recently sold for around $30 million). The influence of the company’s even-more- skeletal 2013 CC100 concept is evident here too. The body is entirely carbon-fibre. “It’s also inspired by fighter jets as much as it is by our history, and it has been created to deliver an incredibly visceral experience, hence why it is a V12, rather than a V8,” said Miles Nurnberger, Aston’s director of design.
You don’t get to become the world’s most successful Formula 1 racing team without having a powerhouse R&D department full of world-class engineering talent. Recently, McLaren put its considerable resources into solving a unique problem with cars like this: in the absence of a proper windshield, your face (or helmet) takes the brunt of a 200 km/h breeze. In the open-top Elva, McLaren invented a series of aero-channels that create a bubble of calm air around the occupants. An active carbon-fibre wind deflector rises into the air stream as the car’s speed rises, and retracts when it’s not needed. The Elva can go from 0-200 km/h in just 6.7 seconds, at which speed you’ll be very grateful for such clever engineering.
Lamborghini Aventador J
Of course the company with the raging bull emblem would make an outlandish roofless supercar. We’d only be shocked if they didn’t. But, the Aventador J almost didn’t happen. It was developed in just few months, at the behest of the company’s CEO, so Lamborghini could have something wild to show off at the Geneva Motor Show in 2012. So, the designer, Filippo Perini sketched the Aventador J in a single day. Hardly any of the original Aventador remains, save for the big V12 motor. The one-off was sold, even before it hit the show floor, to one of Lambo’s best customers for roughly $3 million.
Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Stirling Moss
Back in the early ‘00s, McLaren and Mercedes got together to build a rare piece of automotive exotica with an awkward name: the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. The ungainly moniker was made up for the by its F1-car nose job, side-exit exhaust pipes, a chassis that utilized every exotic material known to man, and an immense supercharged V8 engine that produced 650 hp. The roofless Stirling Moss edition was built in 2009, in a limited run of just 75 cars, to commemorate Moss’s heroic victories in deadly races throughout the 1950s, including the Mille Miglia and Targa Florio. Moss’s car of choice back then? The Mercedes 300 SL. Look at it side by side with this SLR and the lineage is obvious. Each Stirling Moss SLR carried a price of EUR$750,000 when new, but they’re worth a whole lot more now.