Speedsters to take your breath away

Graham Hope

01 Nov 2021

Open-cockpit motoring is not for the faint-hearted – as these cars testify

If you’re after a drive that really makes the senses come alive, an open cockpit speedster is the way to go. Stripped of everything bar the basics, these lightweight sports cars are focused on delivering an experience behind the wheel that you’ll never forget. Understandably, the market for such extreme cars is somewhat limited, but there have been some excellent examples over the years (if you have very deep pockets). Here’s our pick of the crop – and for the purposes of this piece, we’ve concentrated on models that dialled the fun factor up to 11 by doing without a windscreen as well as a roof…


Aston Martin V12 Speedster


The British company has serious form when it comes to producing unlikely limited-run models, and the V12 Speedster is a proud addition to the ranks. The 691bhp two-seater, of which only 88 will be made, is pared back to the absolute minimum, although in this case less really is more – because with a price tag of nearly £800,000 with the DBR1 racer livery pictured, it is significantly more expensive than Aston’s ‘conventional’ convertible offerings. For Aston fans who want an uncompromising driving experience and exclusivity, though, it fits the bill perfectly.


Lamborghini Aventador J


First seen in 2012 at the Geneva Motor Show, the stunning Aventador J, regrettably, proved to be a one-off – but despite its rarity, it understandably made a big impact at the Swiss spectacular. Its backstory was quite astonishing – the car was commissioned, conceived and put together in little more than six weeks at the behest of then Lambo boss Stephen Winkelmann; quite a feat when you consider that despite bearing the Aventador name, most of the panels were brand new. The model was predictably snapped up for nearly £2 million by a wealthy fan before its official unveil. And the J? That’s a nod to the Jota, Lambo’s iconic Miura-based racer.


Mazda MX-5 Speedster


Sadly, this was another Speedster that wasn’t made available to the general public. The minimalist version of the MX-5 was unveiled at Las Vegas’ SEMA aftermarket and tuning show in 2015, with a clear focus on weight reduction – at 943kg it was around 100kg lighter than the standard MX-5. Encouraged by the positive reaction, Mazda went a step further at 2016’s SEMA show and introduced the Speedster Evolution, which shed a further 45kg from its predecessor. Despite gorgeous looks and the promise of a thrilling drive, it would be hard to make any kind of business case for a production Speedster, so it remained a much lusted after concept.


Mercedes McLaren SLR Stirling Moss


Bearing the name of the legendary British racer, this 2009 speedster version of the breathtaking supercar produced by the German and British companies was an unforgettable presence. The model was inspired by the 300 SLR that Moss won the 1955 Mille Miglia in, and with its prominent nose, massive bonnet, butterfly doors and open cockpit, there was literally nothing else like it on the road. It’s the numbers, though, that convey the real magic of this car. A 5.4-litre AMG V8 put out 641bhp and 605 lb ft of torque to deliver 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds and a mind-boggling top speed of 217mph. The cost for this excess was around £700,000 when new and only 75 were built. Find one now, though, and you can expect to pay way more.


Dallara Stradale


The name of Dallara may be less familiar than some of the others on this list, but the Italian company has undoubted pedigree as a constructor of chassis for elite level motorsport. The Stradale was its first production car, and an undeniably interesting effort, available in various forms with the addition of optional body parts (such as a roof or windscreen). In its most basic, screen-less speedster guise it provided an exhilarating driving experience courtesy of its low weight – thanks to a carbon fibre body – and a 2.3-litre engine used in the Ford Focus RS. Prices started at around the £130,000 mark.



Ferrari Monza SP1 and SP2

Revealed in 2018, the Monza SP1 and SP2 were limited-edition models inspired by the company’s open-top racing cars of the 1950s and came with gorgeous retro styling. Despite the nod to the past, Ferrai was determined the single-seat SP1 and dual-seat SP2 would not simply be a nostalgia trip, and endowed them with cutting-edge tech including the V12 engine from the 812 Superfast tuned to 799bhp – delivering 0-62mph in 2.9 seconds – and a carbon fibre body. As you might expect, such dedication to deliver a thrilling, pure drive sparked plenty of interest in the rarefied world of Ferrari owners, and buyers for the 499 models were not hard to come by, despite a £1.6 million price tag.

Renault Spider


You have probably noticed that most of the cars in our list feature exotic badges, but look closely at this one and you’ll see it’s a Renault. Yes, this bonkers creation, from 1995, was brought to you by the sporting arm of the same company that makes the Clio. Eschewing power-steering, ABS or heating – and, if you so desired, a radio or windscreen – the Spider was the very definition of minimal and a radical statement from a mainstream manufacturer. The 930kg aluminium bodied 150bhp Spider delivered a memorable drive, reaching 130mph, but it was only for the brave and production stopped in 1999.


McLaren Elva


As an example of the extreme nature of these cars, the Elva takes some beating. The mid-engined speedster was conceived as a tribute to company founder Bruce McLaren’s open-topped sports cars of the 1960s and is claimed to be the lightest road car McLaren has ever produced, although no official weight has ever been confirmed. What we do know is that its 4.0-litre turbocharged V8 engine can propel it from 0-62mph in 2.8 seconds while the 0-124mph time is said to be 6.7 seconds, which would make it faster than the company’s Senna hypercar. Maybe, though, the £1,425,000 Elva is just too extreme – the number McLaren has said it will produce has been gradually reduced from 399 to 149 over the past couple of years, suggesting buyers have been harder to find than expected.


Vermot Veritas


And here’s one that never saw the light of day, sadly. Despite appearances at various motor shows and a press release being issued announcing a production version in 2010, the astonishing Veritas, from German company Veritas, was never made. What a shame, as that wild shark-like styling was unforgettable.






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Graham Hope

01 Nov 2021