Are you a car nostalgic? Do you miss the days when you could tell one company’s car apart from another without looking at the hood ornament? Ever find yourself wandering car shows and picking which ones you’d want to take out for a spin?
This list is for you. Scroll down now to get your fix of classic car flair — shots of 18 of the most iconic automobiles in history from the U.S., Europe, and Japan.
1. Cadillac Eldorado
The Cadillac Eldorado is one of the road’s longest-running luxury legends. With an astoundingly long history, spanning 12 generations from 1952 to 2002, the Eldorado is synonymous with American luxury cars — and represents Detroit’s first serious challenge to England, Germany, and Italy. Its chrome rims and shark fins are the very definitions of iconic.
2. Ford Model T
Henry Ford wrote in his autobiography that in 1909, he said his customers “can have a car painted any color that he wants, so long as it is black.” Whether or not he really said that at the time, it remains impressive that Ford managed to flood the market with a car that only came in one color. Ford’s efficient assembly lines meant that Model Ts could be sold at an affordable price, making car tools for the whole world instead of just toys of the rich.
3. Jaguar E-Type
The ’61 and ’62 E-Types are almost single-handedly responsible for Jaguar’s worldwide reputation. It was, and is, the Platonic ideal of a British sports car. When Enzo Ferrari and The Daily Telegraph agree a car is the most beautiful of all-time, we’re not going to doubt their judgment.
4. Datsun 240Z
In the United States, the Datsun 240Z was to import cars what the Model T was to cars in general: the trailblazer that opened up a whole market to the middle class. First appearing in 1970, the 240Z was nearly the spitting image of a Jaguar E-Type, for a much more economical price. It’s no exaggeration to say it’s the reason you can find so many high-quality Hondas, Toyotas, and Nissans in the West today.
5. Ford Boss 429 Mustang
The “Boss 9” or just “the Boss” is spoken of with a special reverence among muscle-car fanatics. Ford’s engineers stripped out basically everything but the engine in order to pack in as much power as possible, resulting in a car that’s barely street-legal but could be able to churn out 500 horsepower. There are less than 1,500 in existence, so if you ever get a chance to drive the Boss, do not pass it up.
6. U.S. Army Jeep
“The Jeep, the Dakota airplane, and the landing craft were the three tools that won the war,” said General and President Dwight Eisenhower, who should know. From launching sneak attacks on Erwin Rommel in North Africa to ferrying French Resistance fighters under the noses of the Nazis, Jeeps made by Ford and Willis were used by every branch of every Allied military in World War II. Cadillacs and Corvettes might look cooler, but have they ever saved the world?
7. Dodge Charger
The Dodge Charger, now strong in its seventh generation, has both muscle car cred and iconic style. A Charger Daytona was the first car to break the 200 mph barrier on a NASCAR track. While the 1969 model is famous as the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard, we prefer the 1970 Charger R/T driven by Vin Diesel in The Fast and the Furious, back when those movies were about street racing.
8. Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
The second generation of Corvettes, known as the Stingray line, could have made America dominant in the 60s auto market all on their own. In addition to being a classic muscle car, the Stingray is a great entry point to classic car collecting, with plenty still floating around at affordable prices.
9. Lamborghini Miura
When it first came out in 1966, the Miura was a shot across Ferrari’s bow, letting the world know there was more going on in Italy. With a V12 engine and six carburetors, a Miura could probably launch into orbit off a big enough ramp.
10. Volkswagen Beetle
The VW Bug won the audition for the title role in The Love Bug because Disney employees couldn’t resist petting it. We know the feeling. In an era when cars are losing their individual flavors, the Beetle stands out with its iconoclastically adorable design. We hope it never changes.
11. Plymouth Road Runner Hemi
Named for the “meep-meep” cartoon character, the Plymouth Road Runner is a lean muscle car without the frippery, letting its 7-liter V8 Hemi engine do the talking.
12. Porsche 911
The car that helped make Porsche represents the best of all the classic car worlds. It looks beautiful, tears up the racetrack, and has massive value as a collector’s item. But our favorite thing about the Porsche 911 is that you can still drive it. Like, every day. Porsche doesn’t want any of their cars to be museum pieces, and the 911 proves it.
13. Aston Martin DB5
Is it even possible to read those words without the 007 theme starting to play in your head? Sean Connery’s James Bond and his tricked-out Aston Martin are one of the 20th century’s finest star-car partnerships, so much that it’s easy to forget the DB5 is a real car. But it is the pinnacle of British luxury, even without the oil slick or the ejector seats.
14. Toyota 2000GT
Speaking of Bond, he didn’t only give English autos a boost. On his visit to Japan to battle Ernst Stavro Blofeld in You Only Live Twice, 007 rode in a 1967 GT, giving American audiences a taste of what the Datsun 240Z would bring to fruition three years later.
15. Pontiac GTO
Any discussion of 60s muscle cars has to start with the Pontiac GTO series. From the 1964 GTO whose oversized engine was powerful enough to violate GM’s policies, to 1965’s Catalina 2+2 which managed 0 to 60 in 3.8 seconds, Pontiac formed the backbone of the muscle car era.
16. Chevrolet Camaro
Chevy rushed to work on the Camaro after the smash-hit Ford Mustang convinced them that powerful, compact ponycars were the wave of the future. Together, the Camaro and Mustang defined the last years of the muscle car boom before the downturn in the 1970s.
17. 1957 Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing
Think John DeLorean invented gullwing doors? Think again. If Marty McFly had traveled back in time to 1957 instead of 1955, that farmer outside Hill Valley might have thought he was a German rather than a space alien. Other than those signature doors, the Mercedes 300 SL is a fantastic car in its own right, with a pioneering fuel injection system that could get it up to 160 miles per hour.
18. Ford Mustang Shelby GT350
Rounding out the list is the tightest design ever created by Carroll Shelby, the renowned engineer played by Matt Damon in last year’s Ford vs. Ferrari. With a more economical design than the GT500 Road Kings that followed it, the GT350 represents the perfect Mustang.
Featured Image Credit: Rex Gray, Flickr
- 1. Cadillac Eldorado
- 2. Ford Model T
- 3. Jaguar E-Type
- 4. Datsun 240Z
- 5. Ford Boss 429 Mustang
- 6. U.S. Army Jeep
- 7. Dodge Charger
- 8. Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
- 9. Lamborghini Miura
- 10. Volkswagen Beetle
- 11. Plymouth Road Runner Hemi
- 12. Porsche 911
- 13. Aston Martin DB5
- 14. Toyota 2000GT
- 15. Pontiac GTO
- 16. Chevrolet Camaro
- 17. 1957 Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing
- 18. Ford Mustang Shelby GT350