A car is more than the sum of its parts. That’s proven by the fact that they evoke strong feelings, cement identities, and sometimes go so far as to define an era. But oftentimes, it is the little details that make an otherwise good car iconic, elevating it to an object of worship or altogether changing the perception of the model itself. What would the Jaguar E-Type be without the long and shapely bonnet that’s accented with a perfect hood bulge, the flanking rectangular vents and the deep set headlights? Would we find the Rolls-Royce Ghost as desirable without one of its most notable amenities — of all things, a full-sized umbrella deployed from the door?
These details can be subtle as the Mona Lisa’s smile or bold as the LED spire on the new Freedom Tower, or, more often, somewhere in between. We’ve assembled a list of some of the best automotive features — both innovative and artistic, groundbreaking and evolutionary — to ever see the light of day. Hopefully they serve as inspirations and challenges to fruits of human imagination.
Alfa Romeo Grille
Never has a silver and red triangle looked so damned iconic. Ferrari wishes it had something this good.
Chevy Corvette C4 Flip-Up Headlights
Do they need to rotate 1.5 times? Who cares? It’s the most excellent eighties excess.
Ferrari 275 GTB/4 Nardi Steering Wheel
No buttons here. Just three beautiful spokes, a black horse in a yellow circle and a sexy wooden hoop.
Jaguar E-Type Hood
The long bonnet on the iconic Jag tilted forward for frequent servicing, but we didn’t mind; its long and slender shape looks like body armor custom-tailored for Kiera Knightley.
It’s a reminder that Porsche cares a little bit about time and a lot about lap times. Don’t stare at it. You’re moving way too fast.
Ferrari Superamerica Electrochromic Roof
Dial the pivoting roof down for translucence and up for privacy. Fold it back to hear the V12 roar like the most beautiful beast you ever heard.
Jaguar F-Type R Exhaust Note
Just a blip of the throttle gets your pulse racing. Full on pedal mash takes you to the heavens.
Volvo Waterfall Center Stack
Volvo and elegance are no longer oxymorons. The floating center stack makes a Swedish bikini model look a little bit boring.
Audi A7 Roofline
Never has a four-door German sedan looked so desirable. It slopes down into the depths of your heart’s desires. Claudia Schiffer’s sweat would roll down it quite nicely.
Ferrari F40 Rear Spoiler
One of the most perfect supercars to ever leave its rubber on the earth also had one of the most iconic spoilers, monstrous and with the beautiful F40 name embossed onto its side.
Infiniti Q45 Gatling Gun Headlight
So what if the 2002 Infiniti flagship bombed like a B-29? The gatling gun headlight, with its seven beams, looked like it came off an Apache gunship.
Honda CRX Translucent Tail
The iconic Japanese pocket rocket still holds the trophy for our favorite old school hatchback, and the dark, translucent tail treatment gave the tiny car a sweet air of mystery.
Pagani Huyara Side Mirrors
Never before have bean sprouts served as inspiration for a supercar accessory. See? We can like vegetarians.
Maybach Rear Roof Gauge Cluster
Though the uber-pricey Mercedes limo series couldn’t hang on, the clock, speedometer, and outside temperature gauges in the roof were damned ingenious. They also meant that you could holler at Jeeves to speed up, slow down or get your bathing suit ready.
Audi R8 Coupe CF Side Blade
As tasty as the R8 Spider is, it’s the coupe’s side blade that makes the R8 the visual pleaser that it is. Pay the extra cash for the carbon fiber version, and you’ll be kinda like Batman. Kinda.