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In pictures: Speed incarnate – 10 of the world's fastest cars

Building an ultra-fast car makes no sense. But neither does writing poetry or traveling to the moon. Globe Drive columnist Peter Cheney takes a look at nine of the fastest cars that money can buy – and one that you can’t have for any price.

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The Bloodhound SSC is a one-off project, designed to shatter the world land-speed record. Currently under development by a British team, the SSC is designed to hit 1,689 km/h. The SSC has three motors: A jet engine accelerates the car to 300 km/h, where a rocket motor takes over and accelerates the car through the speed of sound. The third motor is a Cosworth V-8 (normally installed in F1 cars) that is used as a high-capacity fuel pump for the rocket engine. The wheels are machined from solid aluminum, and there are no production plans for the car.

Flow Images

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The Tuatara is the latest offering from Shelby Supercars, a tiny U.S. manufacturer that has dedicated itself to the task of building the world’s fastest production cars. The Tuatara is designed to do 444 km/h. (Its predecessor, the SSC Ultimate Aero, hit 411 km/h.) The Tuatara is powered by a 6.9-liter V-8 with twin turbos. It produces 1,350 horsepower.

Shelby Supercars

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Built with a lightweight carbon-fibre chassis, the One-77 is powered by a 750-horsepower, 7.3-litre V-12 motor. The car was designed to reach a top speed of 320 km/h, but hit 357 km/h in testing.

Vivek Prakash/REUTERS

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Resembling an angry wasp with a swollen thorax, the Venom GT uses a proven speed formula: small car, big engine. Built by a Texas-based specialty firm, the Venom uses the cabin and front end of a Lotus Exige, but replaces the Lotus’s four-cylinder Toyota motor with a twin-turbo 427-cubic inch V-8 that produces 1,244 horsepower. The Venom’s projected top speed is 445 km/h, and pricing starts at $1.1 million. Owners include Aerosmith frontman Steve Tyler.

Hennessy

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The 458 has been acclaimed as one of the best-handling cars Ferrari has ever made. Although absolute top speed wasn’t the primary design focus, the 458 is no slouch; it tops out at 330 km/h. The key to its speed is an aerodynamic body shape and lots of thrust. The 4.5-litre V-8 engine produces 590 horsepower.

Michael Probst/AP Photo

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You’d expect a car built by a legendary Formula One maker to be fast, and the McLaren MP4-12C doesn’t disappoint. It accelerates to a top speed of 333 km/h.

McLaren

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Built by a small-volume English manufacturer, the M600 is a unique car. The manufacturer claims a top speed of 363 km/h. (Independent tests have produced a peak of 345 km/h.)

Nobel

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The Bugatti Veyron Supersport Veyron has the highest verified top speed of any car in current production: 431 km/h. The Veyron achieves its spectacular speed with an 8-litre, 16-cylinder engine. At top speed, the Veyron burns 78 litres of fuel per 100 km (3.6 mpg imperial).

AP Photo

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First shown as a concept car in 2010, the 918 Spyder can hit 330 km/h. It uses a hybrid power system that combines a gasoline-powered 580-horsepower V-8 with a pair of electric motors that add an additional 280 horsepower.

Porsche

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Lamborghini has a long tradition of making angular sports cars with outrageous power and license-losing speed. The Aventador keeps the faith, with 700 horsepower and a 349 km/h top end.

Anja Niedringhaus/AP Photo

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