Manufacturers nowadays sell sports cars that have more power than any one person needs, so some enthusiasts often turn their noses up at anything built before the financial crisis hit. Well, that’s their loss.
Models from the early 2000s might not have as much grunt as we’ve come to expect from performance cars in recent years, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less awesome. In fact, they’re arguably even cooler, solely because they’re very much a product of their time.
At the start of the new millennium, automakers were beginning to make their cars a bit more refined than they used to, though not as much as they do now. However, their products still had a whiff of the 1990s about them that began to fade away after 2005.
These five American sports cars from the early 2000s might not have the performance of their successors, but they’re extremely cool because of when they were made.
Ford Mustang Cobra R
Photo via Flickr/Ford Europe
The Shelby GT350R might be top dog among modern Mustangs, but in its day the Mustang Cobra R was the fastest pony car that came with a Ford factory warranty. A product of Ford’s SVT divsion — which has since been combined with Team RS to form Ford Perfromance — the Cobra R was a stripped out track-ready Mustang with 385 horsepower that could hit 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. But our favorite things about it are the massive rear wing, front splitter and side pipes; you can’t find that type of outlandish styling on a Ford anymore.
Photo via Flickr/Kristian20
The GTO essentially was the Chevrolet SS of its day, a rear-drive V-8-powered car built by Holden that General Motors rebadged for the U.S. market. Unlike the GTO from the 1960s, however, the fourth-generation model was a very capable sports car, rather than a muscle car. Likely aided by the popularity of its name, the GTO was more popular stateside than GM anticipated, despite sharing the same formula as the discontinued SS sans two doors.
Chevrolet Corvette Z06
Photo via Chevrolet
The C5 Corvette Z06’s design was clearly influenced by the 1990s, most notably with the inclusion of pop-up headlights. That might not be the most attractive feature at night, but during the day it does make the front end appear less cluttered. The other thing that makes the C5 Z06 cool is, unlike the extremely modern C7, it was still a working-class hero.
Chevrolet Camaro Z28
Photo via Chevrolet
This is the most 1990s-looking of any car on this list, thanks to massive amounts of overhang at both ends. But anybody who bought one wouldn’t have cared about that, as they’d have been too busy enjoying its T-top. Our only complaint about the fourth-generation Camaro is its period design means it bares almost no resemblance to any of the iterations that came before or after it.
Dodge Viper GTS
Photo via Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
The now deceased Viper’s appearance didn’t change much throughout its life time, though that’s because it was always ahead of its time. However, Dodge did introduce one new feature to the exterior for the GTS variant of the second-generation Viper that we love: a double-bubble roof. This design element is found on other cars, such as the BMW M6, but unlike other manufacturers, Dodge didn’t include it solely for aerodynamic reasons. It did so to give passengers on both sides of the car enough head room to fit their helmets.
Thumbnail photo via Flickr/Ford Europe