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Hennessey’s top 10 cars of all-time, celebrating 30 years of high-performance vehicle builds

From a tweaked Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4 to the 1,817-horsepower Venom F5

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It was back in 1991 that John Hennessey got married and modified his daily driver, a Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4 so he could enter the Nevada Open Road Challenge (finished fourth) and the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, and make speed runs on the Bonneville Salt Flats (setting a class record 177 mph) and the Silver State Challenge (overall winner, again averaging 177 for the 90-mile distance).

Even with all that, Hennessey and his newlywed, Hope, found time that year to start a new business (he had been in the environmental remediation business), and 30 years later, Hennessey Performance of Sealy, Texas, has produced more than 10,000 high-performance vehicles for customers.

As part of its 30th anniversary celebration, Hennessey Performance shared its “top 10 cars of all time:”

Hennessey, Hennessey’s top 10 cars of all-time, celebrating 30 years of high-performance vehicle builds, ClassicCars.com Journal
1991 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4, entered Pikes Peak, two open-road races in Nevada and set class record at Bonneville
Hennessey, Hennessey’s top 10 cars of all-time, celebrating 30 years of high-performance vehicle builds, ClassicCars.com Journal
“Fly Navy” Venom 1000 Twin Turbo, based on 2005 Dodge Viper, won Road & Track supercar shootout that included a Bugatti Veyron.
Hennessey, Hennessey’s top 10 cars of all-time, celebrating 30 years of high-performance vehicle builds, ClassicCars.com Journal
VR1200, based on 2012 Cadillac CTS-V, ran 221 mph on Texas Toll Road.
Hennessey, Hennessey’s top 10 cars of all-time, celebrating 30 years of high-performance vehicle builds, ClassicCars.com Journal
HPE600 Corvette C7, 2013 model was first Corvette C7 to exceed 200 mph.
Hennessey, Hennessey’s top 10 cars of all-time, celebrating 30 years of high-performance vehicle builds, ClassicCars.com Journal
Hennessey Venom GT, 2010 Hennessey-built supercar that set Guinness World Record of 270.49 mph and reigned as world’s fastest production car from 2014-2017.
Hennessey, Hennessey’s top 10 cars of all-time, celebrating 30 years of high-performance vehicle builds, ClassicCars.com Journal
VelociRaptor 600, based on 2012 Ford Raptor pickup truck, but with 600 horsepower and capable of a 0-60 mph sprint in 4.2 seconds
Hennessey, Hennessey’s top 10 cars of all-time, celebrating 30 years of high-performance vehicle builds, ClassicCars.com Journal
The Exorcist, based on 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 but with 1,000 horsepower and 883 pound-feet of torque, 0-60 in 2.1 seconds, top speed of 217 mph
Hennessey, Hennessey’s top 10 cars of all-time, celebrating 30 years of high-performance vehicle builds, ClassicCars.com Journal
VelociRaptor 6×6, 2017 intro of a $350,000, 6-wheel, 600-horsepower pickup truck
Hennessey, Hennessey’s top 10 cars of all-time, celebrating 30 years of high-performance vehicle builds, ClassicCars.com Journal
Hennessey Heritage Edition Mustang, 2018 intro, based on Ford Mustang GT350R but with 808 horsepower
Hennessey, Hennessey’s top 10 cars of all-time, celebrating 30 years of high-performance vehicle builds, ClassicCars.com Journal
Hennessey Venom F5, to be introduced in 2021 with 1,817 horsepower V8 and capable of 311 mph, 0-to-186 mph in 8.4 seconds

At the end of 1991, looking back at that year of motorsport, I realized I’d learned the first rule of auto racing – if you want to make a small fortune in racing, start with a larger one!” Hennessey said in his company’s anniversary news release.

“To continue my passion, I knew I’d have to find a way to pay for it. So, I thought, if Carroll Shelby and Alois Ruf could make a living by building and modifying cars then maybe I could, too – that’s how our company began.”

In the beginning, working out of a rented garage with one other employee, Hennessey modified turbochargers and intake and exhaust systems for the 3000 GT, its cousin, the Dodge Stealth, and the Toyota Supra and Mazda RX-7.

Two years later, he created the 500-horsepower Dodge Viper Venom 550 for a customer and also produced an aftermarket hardtop for Dodge’s exotic V10-powered roadster. Hennessey helped found the Viper Club of America, and his shop rolled out the Venom 600, and then the 650, which in 1997 posted a top speed of 203 mph.

By the turn of the century, the Venom 800 and 1000 models were ready, the shop staff grew to 5 employees, and the Hennesseys had 5 children, at which point John Hennessey retired from racing.

But while he left racing, he didn’t leave race tracks and in 2004 bought the Lonestar Motorsports complex, a drag strip with return roads that he turned into a test track with a 30,000-square-foot production facility (staffed in 2021 by 50 employees and by students at the Hennessey Tuner School). 

A Venom 800 won a 16-car supercar challenge staged by Car and Driver magazine, a Hennessey-tweaked Ford GT hit 234 mph, and in 2009 development was under way on the purpose-built Hennessey Venom GT, which a Chevrolet LS9 V8 would propel to more than 270 mph.

In 2012, Hennessey headlines continued with the Texas Toll Road SH130 being christened with the Hennessey Cadillac VR1200 hitting 221 mph and the Hennessey Camaro ZL1 running 204.

At The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering in 2018, Hennessey unveiled his own 1,600-horsepower F5 engine, which was designed for a new Venom supercar scheduled to launch during 2021.

Hennessey has shared an hour-long anniversary video podcast:

Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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