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Last Updated Feb. 6, 2003

Throughout the years, high-performance sports cars have remained popular for automotive enthusiasts with the need for speed.

These cars offer so much horsepower at a relatively attainable price that they lure young men like moths to a flame. Like those moths, some of the young sports car drivers don’t survive the experience.

Consumers Union, the non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports, has ranked what it claims are the four “deadliest” cars of all time:

The four “deadliest” cars of all time:

Chevrolet Camaro
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Chevrolet Corvette
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Ford Mustang
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Pontiac Firebird
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Photos courtesy of MotorCities. Copyright, MotorCities.com Inc.

“The Camaro, the Corvette, the Firebird, and the Mustang, all have large engines, appeal to a young demographic, and are relatively cheap for the performance you get,” says David Champion, director of the Automotive Testing Division for Consumers Union.

When the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) began looking at occupant death rates (tracking started in 1984), sports cars had nearly twice the occupant death rates of the “average” car. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the death rates in all cars, including sports cars, have been steadily declining as manufacturers make adjustments and incorporate new safety features. The IIHS points out; however, the death rates in sports cars by comparison to all other vehicles have remained relatively stable.

“You have to remember that today’s Nissan Sentra would have been considered an exotic Italian sports car measured up against early Corvettes and Mustangs,” says Champion.

None of the muscle cars of the 1950s and 1960s had air bags, antilock brakes, crumple zones, electronic traction control, three-point seat belts, or any of the other safety features of today’s high-performance cars.

“They are vehicles that encourage risk.”

So what separates the sports cars of any era from their more modest brethren? A combination of power, price, and a style of driving that isn’t much changed from the day the first Corvettes rolled off of the assembly line in 1953, according to Kim Hazelbaker, a senior vice president of the IIHS.

“The bodies and engines have been redesigned, but the fundamental tenets of how they are designed and what they do hasn’t changed,” says Hazelbaker.

“It’s the question of ‘what makes a Mustang a Mustang,'” says Hazelbaker. “They were the classic ‘pony cars’ with a lot of horsepower and a reasonably low price.”

Continue to page 2: Restraint and training, older models

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Michelle Megna
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Michelle, the former editorial director, insurance, at QuinStreet, is a writer, editor and expert on car insurance and personal finance. Prior to joining QuinStreet, she reported and edited articles on technology, lifestyle, education and government for magazines, websites and major newspapers, including the New York Daily News.

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