Ask any car enthusiast what their favorite performance car is and you're going to get a pretty typical answer. You'll hear Porsche 911s, Corvettes, Mustangs, Ferraris, and every other household sports car name. Occasionally, you'll get the snobby nerd who says something like an Iso Grifo, but you don't want to talk to those people. But what about the oddballs, the cars that few people outside of the hardcore car nerdom know about? What's your favorite forgotten performance car?
I want to be clear about this: this answer doesn't have to be a good one. Your favorite forgotten performance car can absolutely be a bad one. It probably is bad, hence why it's forgotten. So many performance cars are lovable even when they aren't very good, so this is the place to share your love for your favorite misfit toy.
My favorite forgotten sports car comes from my childhood, playing Gran Turismo. My pre-21-year-old memory is foggy at best, so I can't recall which Gran Turismo game it was, but I do remember one name—Panoz Esperante. Just that name brought me great joy. Not only was the car expensive in the game, which made me assume it was great, but it was fast and difficult for me to control. That made it badass. Also, since no one else at school had ever heard of it, I felt cool. I felt in the know. I wasn't, of course. But that didn't change how I felt about the Panoz Esperante. I can also say that name all day. Panoz Esperante. It's one of the all-time great car names.
Panoz popped up in countless racing games in the 1990s and early 2000s with various different cars. There were road cars and all sorts of race cars, including the Esperante GTLM that took a class win at Le Mans in 2006. The road car version of the Le Mans-winning GTLM is the forgotten performance car I'm talking about. With an aluminum and carbon fiber chassis, all-aluminum body, and even pushrod rear coilovers, the Esperante was ahead of its time when it debuted in 2000.
Under the hood was originally a 4.6-liter Modular V8 from the Ford SVT Mustang Cobra, with 350 horsepower, but GM LS engines were offered in its later years. A five-speed manual sent its power to just the rear wheels. Most Esperantes were two-seat convertible GT cars, but there were a handful of coupes built for homologation reasons.
The Panoz Esperante was such a unique, rare, and mostly unheard American sports car that was able to compete at Le Mans and even win, but only the nerdiest of nerds remember it. I've never driven one, because they're incredibly difficult to find, so I don't know if it's actually any good. But because of its impression on me as a kid and its impressive obscurity, it's definitely my favorite forgotten sports car. What's yours?
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