Can You Identify the Fastest Cars From the 1940s?

AUTO

55 PLAYS

By: Ian Fortey

7 Min Quiz

Which car is often considered the fastest ever produced in the entire decade?

Word is this was not the only car that could actually reach 120 miles per hour, but it was certainly the most well known. In fact, the Jaguar XK120 got the "120" part of its name from that top speed. At least one test got it to 126 miles per hour and rumor was, with the windshield folded down you could crack 130.

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This racer from Modena, Italy could hit 112 mph. What is it?

Vittorio Stanguellini had a history of tuning other cars from Alfa Romeo, Fiat, and Maserati for racing before he decided to take a crack at making cars himself. The results included the sleek 1948 Stanguellini 750 Sport Internazionale.

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Which car was the first ever to be fully designed and built by Enzo Ferrari?

Usually known as the AAC Tipo 815, the Auto Avio Costruzioni 815 goes down in history as Enzo Ferrari's first production vehicle. If you haven't heard of it that's to be expected, they only made two of them. The reason it's not called a Ferrari? Fiat wouldn't allow it and it was made with mostly their parts.

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Do you know which of these is known as the Golden Arrow?

This one was a gimme if you know Italian as "Freccio D’Oro" means "golden arrow." Alfa Romeo started designing this just after the war and kept them in production until 1951. Only 680 were built and they topped out just under 100 miles per hour.

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In 1945, which of these could get from 0 to 60 in 22.7 seconds?

The first car MG made after the war was the TC Midget. That 0 to 60 in 22.7 seconds might sound silly by today's standards, but this is the car that's credited with starting the American love affair with sports cars.

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A famous Belarusian cabinet maker living in France designed which of these?

Jaques Saoutchik was the man behind the Cadillac Series 62 Saoutchik Cabriolet. Saoutchik, and later his son, ran a business in France designing unique and often dramatic and eye-catching bodies for famous carmakers including Bugatti, Delahaye, and others.

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From 1937 until 1940, which of these was meant to rival the Mercedes-Benz Spezial Roadster?

German automaker Horch produced the Horch 853A Speedroadster to be a luxury roadster that would rival Mercedes. The company name may not be familiar to you but it led directly into the creation of Audi when it merged with two other organizations.

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Production of which of these cars began in 1941 and then was suspended until the war ended?

The Maserati A6 1500 didn't officially roll out until 1947, having to wait six years through the war to fully get into production. Only 61 of them were produced between 1947 and 1950 and they buried the needle at 96 miles per hour.

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Do you know which of these cars was produced from 1938 until 1993?

The first production run of the Cadillac Sixty Special lasted from 1938 until 1976. After a break, it returned from 1987 until 1993. With a 331 cu. in. OHV V8 engine, the 1948 model could get from 0-60 in 16.8 seconds and hit a top speed of about 85 mph.

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Only five of which of these were ever built. What is it?

Bugatti is known for making some of the fastest cars in the world today, like the Veyron and the Chiron, and they didn't do too badly in the 1940s either. The 73C was one of 5 made in the 73 series, this one clearly for racing. Production never got underway for these cars in any serious way because designer Ettore Bugatti died just after creating them.

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This was one of the first cars to be designed using a wind tunnel. What is it?

Lancia used wind tunnel technology to make the car aerodynamic and they achieved a drag coefficient of 0.47 which was stunningly low for the time. The car had a top speed of just under 80 miles per hour at the beginning of the 1940s.

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Designed in 1946, which of these cars was designed to compete with Jaguar?

The Triumph 1800 Roadster, also known as the TR18, was designed at the tail end of World War II as competition for Jaguar. While it looked great, it didn't manage to beat Jaguar for speed, topping out around 75 miles per hour.

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In 1948 which of these was a relatively unique pillarless hardtop?

The Buick Roadmaster Riviera came as a hardtop coupe, which was extremely rare at the time and only shared with a couple of other cars, like the Cadillac Coupe Deville and the Oldsmobile 88. It also featured portholes along the sides because why not?

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Only 151 of which of these V8-powered cars were ever made?

Allard Motor Company only existed from 1946 until about 1958 and in that time one of their most memorable cars was the 1946 K1 model. With a V8 engine and 3-speed transmission, it reached an impressive 90 miles per hour.

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Do you know which of these cars had to end production due to the war but started right back up again in 1946?

The Cadillac Series 62 was available as a Club Coupe, Convertible Coupe or Sedan. They were manufactured with Cadillac’s L-head V8 which was capable of producing up to 150 hp, making it a pretty powerful vehicle at the time.

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The company that made this car was originally a manufacturer of airplanes. What is it?

The Bristol 401 was made by Bristol Cars, a division of the Bristol Aeroplane Company. The car could go from 0 to 60 in about 15 seconds which, are the time, was some top-shelf speed. It also pulled an impressive top speed of around 97 miles per hour.

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Which model was discontinued after only 205 units were sold?

The Mercury Sportsman holds a place in history for being a woody and a convertible, not a typical mix in any era. Even in 1946 when it was introduced it didn't impress too many people with its price tag, which was $500 higher than a regular version. Hence the discontinuation.

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Edsel Ford personally owned which of these cars?

The Ford 40 Special Speedster dated back to 1934 originally when it was in the personal collection of Edsel Ford, the son of Henry Ford. Due to poor storage, the engine block cracked in the cold in 1940 so the car was overhauled and a new Mercury V8 engine was installed essentially making it a new car.

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A Californian mechanical engineer fabricated most of this car himself. What is it?

The Norman E. Timbs Buick Streamliner was a car legend. Timbs had been a designer for Indy cars and this beast was designed for speed as well with a Buick V8 that got it up to 120 miles per hour. In 2018, the one-of-a-kind Timbs Special was destroyed in the California fires.

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Which of these vehicles came with double wooden doors in the back?

The Chrysler Town & Country ‘Barrelback’ Wagon looked like a down-home country sort of vehicle, a point that was driven home, so to speak, by the center-opening, double wooden doors in back. With a top speed of about 95 miles per hour, it was one of the nicest-looking and fastest woodies ever made.

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Do you know which car was made by amateur driver and businessman Piero Dusio?

Piero Dusio started his own company called Compagnia Industriale Sportiva Italia or Consorzio Industriale Sportive Italia depending on your source. Regardless, they both abbreviate to Cisitalia. Their 202 model could hit a top speed of about 100 miles per hour.

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This car debuted at the Mille Miglia race. What is it?

The Fiat 1100S made its debut at the 1947 Mille Miglia, or Thousand Miles, race and managed to place second, third, and fourth overall. It was decked out with a 1100 cc engine that produced 50 hp and managed a top speed of around 94 miles per hour.

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Which of these cars was made mostly from BMW parts?

Veritas was a sports car company based in West Germany after the war. The founders of the company got their start tuning pre-War BMWs so they started making their own out of BMW parts. BMW objected to having their name included on the cars they made so they went with Veritas.

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Only 12 of which of these legendary racers were ever made?

Ferrari's 166 S was said to have a top speed between 106 and 137 miles per hour, depending on the model. All that power came from a 1.5L V12 engine. The MM version was even more powerful and could hit the 137 mph mark.

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To make this car more aerodynamic they hid the headlights behind the grille. What is it?

Produced from 1949 to 1950, the Healey Silverstone was an open two-seater with a 2.5 liter Riley I-4 engine hat produced about 104 horsepower. That allowed the Silverstone to go from 0 to 60 in 11 seconds and hit a top speed of 110 miles per hour.

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Which car is also called the 2-Litre Sports?

Aston Martin introduced the DB1 in 1948 and today it's one of the most coveted cars of the '40s. A good condition DB1 can go for upwards of $2 million at auction. Brand new, the car had a top speed of around 93 miles per hour.

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This convertible hit speeds of 92 miles per hour. Do you know what it is?

The Delahaye 135 was made by Delahaye Automotive based in Tours, France. Under the hood was a straight-six engine fitted with an 84R high lift camshaft. Prior to the war it had been a famous racer and continued to impress when construction resumed in the '40s.

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Despite the name, which of these was an Aston Martin?

The Lagonda 2.6 liter was named for the Lagonda Straight-6 engine inside of it, which was a 2.6 liter, of course, and was used in most Aston Martins of the era as well. Aston Martin has owned the name Lagonda since 1947 when they purchased the company.

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In 1946, which of these was called the fastest closed production car in the world?

The Healey Elliot was taken on a run in Belgium specifically to prove that British fuel was just as good as Italian fuel at a time when British motorists believed they were getting an inferior product. The Elliot was timed at 110 miles per hour.

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Which of these cars had a top speed of 124 miles per hour?

In 1948 the Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport had an impressive top speed of 124 miles per hour and produced around 240 horsepower. It was a contender at the 24 Hours of LeMans when the race started up again, after the war.

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Only two of which of these cars were made in 1940?

The BMW 328 Mille Miglia Roadster could hit 124 miles per hour in 1940, which was pretty impressive but only two of them had actually been built, and those were built strictly for racing purposes. Part of the problem was that the cars began assembly in Germany and then had to be shipped to Italy to have the body fitted on the chassis.

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The engine and other parts from which of these were taken from Ford cars?

In 1949 a man by the name of Wally Parks, famous for founding the National Hot Rod Association as well as Hot Rod Magazine, managed to get a custom modified Kurtis Sports car up to 142.515 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

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Despite its stately looks, this car could hit 100 mph. What is it?

Made from 1946 until 1952, the Bentley Mark VI looks like a serious, old-timey luxury car, but it could haul. Weirdly enough, back in the day, the manufacturer refused to supply information about how much horsepower the engine produced.

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76,000 of these cars were produced in their lifetime, but only 50 in 1948. What is it?

The Porsche 356 was a two-seater roadster that was also available as a coupe and a convertible. The first prototype was labeled "No. 1" and thus this is generally considered to be the very first Porsche ever made.

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In 1947 the body of which of these cars cost $44,000?

The Rolls Royce Phantom III was the last model to be worked on by company founder Henry Royce before he passed away. In 1947, one was re-bodied into the Labourdette Vutotal Cabriolet by coachbuilder Labourdette at the cost of what would today be nearly $400,000.

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Which of these cars were favored by high-ranking Nazis during the war?

Many ranking officials from the Nazi party in Germany were known to favor the Mercedes-Benz 770. The Canadian War Museum has one of the seven surviving, heavily armored cars used by Adolf Hitler on display in Ottawa.

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Do you know which car goes by the nickname Torpedo?

The Tucker 48 was often better known as the Tucker Torpedo and was one of the most revolutionary cars of the age. Not only could it hit 120 miles per hour, it was cheaper, safer, and more innovative than nearly every other car on the road.

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Which four-seat convertible had a top speed of 90 miles per hour?

The Austin Atlantic was produced from 1949 until 1952. Nearly 8,000 Atlantics were produced but only 350 of them managed to find their way across the ocean to the United States. Despite its impressive abilities, it just wasn't as impressive as the American V8s of the time.

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Actress Lana Turner owned which of these?

The Chrysler Newport Phaeton was produced from 1940 until 1941. Only six were ever made and five are known to still exist. Lana Turn had one, as did William Chrysler, who used it as his personal mode of transport.

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Which car that was never actually driven was assumed to have been one of the fastest cars of all time?

At a cost of 600,000 Reichsmarks, which we can assume was expensive, but that currency no longer exists, the Mercedes-Benz T80 was designed to break land speed records. The six-wheeled car was expected to hit was 466 mile per hour. The Second World War prevented the test from ever being conducted.

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Image: Thomas Vogt via WikiCommons

About This Quiz

If you look at car making like learning to swim, the Model T was just when people discovered water and were getting their feet wet. By the 1940s they were experimenting with the deep water and taking some fancy dives to impress their friends. The early days of boxy, awkward designs were beginning to fade away. All those hard corners and squares attached to more squares were being replaced by sleek curves and smooth lines. This was truly the era when automakers began to get comfortable with the idea of speed.  This was when design became an art form and utility was not the only concern behind making a vehicle. 

Just look at the futuristic form of the Chrysler Thunderbolt, or the racer form of the Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS ‘Torpedino Brescia’ and you'll have no doubt that cars of the '40s were as much art as they were machine. And along with that came speed. Cars that could routinely crack 100 miles per hour, something that a decade earlier would have blown the mind of the common driver on the street.

If you appreciate speed in the present you need to know about how we got here. Let's see how many of these old school speed demons you can ID!

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