In the 1950s the concept of a small light sporty car was pretty foreign to American car buyers. Despite this, US car makers have put out a diverse collection of 2 seaters over the last six decades. Take a trip through time and check out all the dual passenger automobiles from the US of A.
Note: Many of these cars aren’t performance cars, but they are all two seaters. This list starts after 1945, too many pre-war two seaters. This list was many intended to be for street legal production cars, but I’ve made a handful of exceptions for coolness sake. I’m sure I’ve missed some, chime in with what you’ve got.
Kurtis Kraft - In the late 1940s Frank Kurtis was building race cars some of which were semi-streetable. 1949-52 Crosley Hotshot - America’s first sports car, and it certainly nails the whole “lightweight” concept. They only made 26.5hp, but then they only weighed as much as a can of beans. 1951-54 Nash-Healey - The Nash-Healey arrived to the three years before the Corvette. It was an early example of a global car, with an American engine, British chassis, and Italian body. 1953-55 Cunningham C3,4,5,6 - Briggs Cunningham was a race car driver who built is own sports car with big American engines. He was like Carol Shelby, 10 years before Carol Shelby. Not only that but he made his own car bodies, and was quite successful in the 24 hrs of Le Mans. 1953-62 Chevrolet Corvette 1st gen - The Corvette is easily America’s most prolific sports car. It almost didn’t survive beyond the first few years. 1954 Kaiser Darrin 435 made 90hp - The Darrin was a wild car from frumpy old Kaiser, it was also one of the last cars from Kaiser. 1955-57 Ford Thunderbird - The Thunderbird came around to steal the Corvette’s thunder, and it was good at it. It was so good that Ford cashed in on it’s success and transformed the car into a giant luxury barge, leaving the first 3 model years as the only 2 seat years. 1957-61 Bocar - The Bocar was a handbuilt sports car from Colorado that used Chevy engines. 1962-67 Shelby Cobra - The infamous Cobra was arguably the fastest scariest car of it’s day. In 1965 Shelby created the Cobra coupe to take on the Ferrari GTO. 1963-67 Chevrolet Corvette - Chevy followed up the first gen Corvette with the timeless Stingray body style. 1963-66 Cheetah about 20 made - GM’s unofficial answer to the Cobra was the ultra low and ultra light Cheetah. 1963-70 Chaparral 2 - GM’s unofficial answer to the Ford GT40 was Chaparral’s sports cars, known for wild wings and downforce inducing fans. 1964-69 Ford GT40 - Ford build one of the most famous and successful sports car racers of all time with the GT40. A handful of road cars were built, it could be argued that they are more British than American. 1965-86 Excalibur - Excalibur started building kit cars of Mercedes SSKs in the 1960s. 1968-70 AMC AMX - The AMX was the only regular production muscle car to shed it’s back seats, which effectively made it a bit of a sports car. 1968-82 Corvette 3rd gen - The C3 Corvette debuted a long low curvy look that would set the tone for future Corvettes. 1978-88 Zimmer - Much like Excaliber, Zimmer made old-timey replicar, their best known cars might be those based on Fieros like this Quicksilver. 1982-88 Ford EXP/Mercury LN7 - In the 1980s Ford experimented with a niche for small sporty economy cars with two seats. 1984-95 Chevrolet Corvette 4th gen - The C4 Corvette skipped the 1983 model year but otherwise kept the flame of American sports car alive. 1984-88 Pontiac Fiero - Like Ford, GM experimented with a 2 seater economy car, unlike Ford they put the engine behind the driver. Unfortunately like many GM cars it got axed just as they were figuring out how to make it not suck. 1987-93 Cadillac Allante - The Allante, Reatta, and (4 seater) Chrysler TC were an odd niche of American luxury soft-core sports cars. Perhaps if they were rwd they may have found more success. 1990-92 Vector W8 - Vectors were pretty much vaporware, but damned if they weren’t cool vaporware.
Early 90s Geo Metro Convertible - I couldn’t be bothered to find a pic.
1992-10, 12- Dodge Viper - The Viper has muscled it’s way into our hearts to become America’s other sports car. 1992-99 Panoz Roadster - I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one of these in the wild. 1997-02 Plymouth Prowler - A concept car brought to life by concept-car-crazy 90s Chrysler. Oddly around the same time as the also open wheeled Panoz. 1997-99 GM EV1 - The EV1 was pretty far from being a sports car, but it was indeed a 2 seater. 1997-05 Chevrolet Corvette 5th gen - The C5 celebrated 50 years of Corvette, and by extension 50 years of American sports cars. 1999-05 Shelby Series 1 - Shelby’s attempt to introduce a new Oldsmobile sports car. Unfortunately it was plagued by several issues and never really took off. 2000-14 Panoz Esperante - This has been Panoz’s made model. I’m not totally sure it’s successor. the Abruzzi. really exists so it’s not on the list. 2000-06 Saleen S7 - With the S7 Saleen made the jump from tuner car company, to car maker. Unfortunately the company has fallen on hard times recently. 2001-11 Mosler MT900 - Moslers made supercars with Corvette engines in Florida. 2001-05 Ford Thunderbird - The 2000s gave us a number of stylized American 2 seaters. Ford’s entry was the retro styled Thunderbird. 2004-09 Cadillac XLR - After 50 years the Corvette finally got a platform mate with the Cadillac XLR. 2004-08 Chrysler Crossfire - Chrysler tried bringing another popular concept car to the streets with the Mercedes SLK-based Crossfire. 2005-06 Ford GT - Ford did a awfully good job transferring the GT40's styling into a modern car. 2005-13 Chevrolet Corvette C6 2006-10 Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky - GM took a crack at building a better Miata, unfortunately the both Saturn and Pontiac died shortly after their introduction. 2006-13 SSC Ultimate Aero - SSC is known for making a car that could beat the Bugatti Veyron’s top speed, and not much else. 2008-12 Tesla Roadster - Today the Model S is synonyms with Tesla, it’s their roadster however who started everything. 2011 Hennessey Venom GT - In a number of metrics it’s the fastest car in the world, and the latest American 2 seater. (well if you don’t count the fact that it registers as a Lotus).
There’s dozens of great concept cars that could have been the next great American sports car. Here’s a few that readily come to mind.
GM; Oldsmobile F88, Corvair Monza SS/GT, Aerovettes, Pontiac Banshees
Ford: Mustang II, GN34, GT90, Cobra, GR1
Chrysler: Dodge Copperhead, Razor, Demon, Plymoth Spyder, Chrysler ME12, Firepower