A dying breed
A dying breed
They've never had much practical use for anything besides bragging rights, but they were as American as a quarter pounder with cheese. Now they ought to be listed with other endangered species like the Eastern cougar and Kemp's Ridley turtle.

I'm talking about fast high-horsepower cars. Really fast cars, like in three times the legal speed limit. The kind you loved in Smokey and the Bandit and Two-Lane Blacktop. Traditional Detroit iron.

The handwriting is on the wall for these V-8-powered monsters. Gas prices are getting scarily high, the climate is getting scarily warm, and the nanny state wants to take all our fun away. Truck owners are already making the switch. Ford is selling more F-150s with sixes than V-8s.

Any day now, you expect to hear rumblings about bringing back the 55 mile-per-hour speed limit. Signed into law in 1974, the so-called "Double Nickel" was widely reviled and widely ignored before it was finally repealed in 1993. As Homer Simpson observed about the 55 mph limit: "Sure, it'll save a few lives, but millions will be late." It helped make the 1970s perhaps the worst decade ever for cars. Remember those speedometers with the big "55" that maxed out at 85 mph?

Herewith, America's fastest cars and a few sensible alternatives. R.I.P.

Last updated June 09 2011: 9:22 AM ET