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They're called "supercars" for their top-level performance, and, generally speaking, because "super" is how wealthy you need to be to afford one.
At different times over the past century, the following three models have lived up to that distinction — but which one has appreciated the most?
The 1913 Mercer Raceabout is among the most classic American-made cars. Basic and stripped down, one of its defining features was a small, monocle windshield that was good for the driver, but useless for the passenger. Another interesting feature was the Mercer's gas-lamp lights, which were used even though electric lights were available. That's because they could be removed at race time, helping to minimize the car's weight. The car, considered fairly advanced at the time, originally sold for $2,250.
More than 60 years later, in 1977, the Porsche Carrera Turbo had its moment in the supercar sun. In fact, it was so fast that there was talk about banning it from U.S. roads. As the name implies, its distinctive performance feature was the turbocharger engine, which provided 240 horsepower. But those ponies weren't cheap. Forty years ago, this supercar sold for $30,630.
Finally, in what many consider the ultimate car of the 20th century, we have a 1994 McLaren F1. This was a true driver's car: no antilock brakes, no traction control, no assists. Just you, sitting behind a center-justified steering wheel, doing it all. Oddly enough, this unique seat configuration did allow for three total passengers — one on either side of the driver — which was distinctive, especially for a sports car. The price was a whopping $970,000.
So which one of these three cars appreciated best? Jay Leno met with automotive valuation expert Donald Osborne to find out.
Each week, Jay Leno shares his thoughts about hot topics in the auto industry. Tune in to "Jay Leno's Garage " Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CNBC.