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Production vehicle

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Title: Production vehicle  
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Subject: Concept car, Pre-production car, MTT Turbine Superbike, Barrett-Jackson, Dodge Viper
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Production vehicle

The characteristics of a production vehicle or production car are mass-produced identical models, offered for sale to the public, and able to be legally driven on public roads (street legal). Legislation and other rules further define the production vehicle within particular countries or uses. There is no single fixed global definition of the term.

A Volkswagen assembly line in 1960 at Wolfsburg


  • Origin 1
  • Definitions 2
    • Motorsports 2.1
    • Land Speed Records 2.2
    • Legislation 2.3
    • Modified cars 2.4
    • Limited production cars 2.5
  • Statistics 3
  • From concept car to production model 4
  • See also 5
  • WorldHeritage 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


In 1897 the term production car was used to describe a railway carriage that carried the scenery for an opera company.[1] The earliest use of the term production car being applied to motor cars, found to date, was in a June 1914 American advertisement for a Regal motor car.[2] The phrase was a shortened form of mass-produced or quantity-produced car.[3][4] The phrase was also used in terms of the car to be made in production, as opposed to the prototype.[5]

Early production car - 1912 Ford Model T Touring

At that time production cars referred to cheaper vehicles such as Model T's that were made in relatively large numbers on production lines, as opposed to the more expensive coach built models. Now the term has broadened to include vehicles that are hand assembled, or assembled on a production or assembly line. The main criteria being that there are a number of the same model with the same specifications.

There is no fixed definition of the number of vehicles or the amount of modification allowed outside of motorsports or national regulations or laws that determine what is or is not a production vehicle. For example, Guinness recognises a modified 2-seat Jaguar XK120 as the world's fastest production car in 1949.[6]

By 2011, the Guinness Book of Records listed the Bugatti Veyron as the world's fastest production car, but only five of this version were said to have been made. In 2013 their decision was appealed on the ground that the Bugatti was a modified version - the limiter was turned off. Guinness upheld the appeal and initiated a review of their production car definition.[7] The outcome of the review was that turning off the limiter was not a fundamental modification and the Bugatti record was reinstated.[8] Guinness were also reported in some sources as saying that at least 50 identical vehicles were needed to be made to constitute a production car.[9] In February 2014, Road and Track wrote that Guinness required 30 identical vehicles.[10]



1956 Chrysler 300-B Stock car

There have been numerous disputes over what constituted production and modified cars when used in motorsports. Even under Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), the exact definition of what was (or was not) a production car was unclear and controversial, which led to rules written in 1955.[11] Although the term is defined for particular types of vehicles, and that a certain number of a model must be produced in order to qualify as "production", it is another matter to enforce the rules.[11] For example, the 1968 FIA rules state that "production" for sports cars need to have at least 25 identical cars produced within a 12-month period and they were meant for normal sale to individual purchasers.[12] However, FIA rules tend to allow a degree of modification from the original.

Another example is the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association, which is concerned solely with the speed of a vehicle, uses its own definition of a production vehicle.[13] The Association allows quite a high level of modification over the original. In 2006 a Pontiac TransAm was classified as being the fastest production model with a top speed in excess of 297 mph.[14] Road tests of the same type of car available from the production line were incapable of anything like this speed and Popular Mechanics referred to the car as production based, which was probably a more accurate description.

Land Speed Records

The FIA Land Speed Records Commission has regulations governing series-production cars attempting land speed records under its 2014 Appendix D - Regulations for Land Speed Record Attempts. Series-production cars fall under rule D2.3.2 and state that they must be:

Category B: Series-production Automobiles in production at the time of the application for the Record Attempt and either homologated by the FIA, or for which an application for homologation has been made to the FIA or recognised by the ASN of the country in which they are manufactured for National Records.[15]

The high level of modification allowed under these FIA's rules would tend to indicate that the cars are production based, rather than straight from an assembly line.[16] For example Category B Group III had a Dodge Dakota with a top speed of 217.395 mph.[15] Forum's citing the Dakota's top speed indicate a standard production Dakota R/T would only reach about 125 mph.[17]


Various countries have laws that define production vehicles. For example, in the United States Briggs Cunningham's business was classified as a hobby by tax officials because he did not manufacture enough of each model for the Cunningham automobile to be considered a production vehicle, but rather the IRS classified them as high-performance prototype automobiles built as racecars.[18] Legislative definitions tend to revolve around issues of safety or revenue (taxation).[19]

2009 Alpina B7 limousine

Modified cars

Some performance specialists, such as Alpina who modify BMW's, are recognized as vehicle manufacturers by government bodies. This brings them within the definition of a production vehicle in their country. Not all performance specialists are officially recognised and their cars are not usually referred to as production vehicles.

Limited production cars

These are usually vehicles where the production run is restricted to a specific number of vehicles. An example of this is the 1957 Rambler Rebel, a limited-production car where only 1,500 were produced.[20]


Motor vehicle production statistics are available for countries worldwide, by country, make, and model. Production statistics by country and by model, as far as announced, are available for each make as well.[21]

From concept car to production model

Pre-production cars come after prototypes or development mules, which themselves may be preceded by concept cars. Pre-production vehicles are followed by production vehicles in the mass production for distribution through car dealerships.

See also


Three lists within WorldHeritage illustrate the difficulty in defining what a production car is. These are:

The definition of a production car for the first two lists, arrived at after debate among interested WorldHeritagens, was vehicles

  • that are constructed principally for retail sale to consumers, for their personal use, and to transport people on public roads (no commercial or industrial vehicles are eligible);
  • that have had 20 or more instances made by the original vehicle manufacturer, and offered for commercial sale to the public in new condition (cars modified by either professional tuners or individuals are not eligible); and
  • that are street-legal in their intended markets, and capable of passing any official tests or inspections required to be granted this status.

The List of fastest production cars by acceleration only requires 2 instances of the vehicle. In this list a production car was described as:

  • constructed principally for retail sale to consumers, for their personal use, and to transport people on public roads (no commercial or industrial vehicles are eligible);
  • had 2 or more instances made by the original vehicle manufacturer, and offered for commercial sale to the public in new condition (cars modified by either professional tuners or individuals are not eligible); and
  • street-legal in their intended markets, and capable of passing any official tests or inspections required to be granted this status.

The talk pages for all these articles continue to have ongoing discussions about the definitions.


  1. ^ "Amusement notes". The Times. February 14, 1897. p. 18. Retrieved June 24, 2015 – via  
  2. ^ "Hanke Motor Car Company advertisement". The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette. June 28, 1914. p. 37. Retrieved June 24, 2015 – via  
  3. ^ "The Olympia Motor Show London". The Mercury (Hobart, Tasmania). 6 January 1920. p. 8. 
  4. ^ "Cartoon". Auckland Star 62 (302). 21 December 1926. p. 16. 
  5. ^ "The Speedy Car (display Advertisement)". The Times (42240) (London, England). 25 October 1919. p. 17. 
  6. ^ Hodges, David; Burgess-Wise, David; Davenport, John; Harding, Anthony (1994). The Guinness Book of Car Facts and Feats (Fourth ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 52.  
  7. ^ Larinc, Damon (11 April 2013). "How a Texas Tuner and a Technicality Took Down the World’s Fastest Car". Wired. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  8. ^ Wilkinson, Leo (15 April 2013). "Bugatti Veyron gets its 'fastest car' title reinstated". The Telegraph. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  9. ^ Lloyd, Alex (5 April 2013). "At 265.7 mph, Hennessey Venom GT claims "fastest production car" title — but is it really?". Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  10. ^ Nunez, Alex (24 February 2014). "The Hennessey Venom GT is the world's fastest carHits 270 mph on tarmac reserved for astronauts". Road and Track. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  11. ^ a b Charters, David Anderson (2007). The chequered past: sports car racing and rallying in Canada, 1951-1991. University of Toronto Press. p. 65.  
  12. ^ "Appendix J to the International Sporting Code" (PDF). FIA. 1969. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  13. ^ Editors@BRC (21 April 2012). "Find Your Car Classification for Bonneville". Bonneville Racing. Retrieved 27 February 2014. 
  14. ^ Barbee, Jr., Warren (1 October 2009). "10 Mega-Speed Cars @ Bonneville Speed". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Rogers, Kane. "Racing In America". Briggs Cunningham. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  19. ^ "Type Approval for Cars". VCA. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  20. ^ Foster, Patrick R. (2013). American Motors Corporation: the rise and fall of America's last independent automaker. Motorbooks. p. 40.  
  21. ^ "Market Reports". marklines. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 

External links

  • Chicago Auto Show
  • Detroit Auto Show
  • Dirty Diesel Customs
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