Hot Wheels, Indeed

Here to Eternity: The 50 Most Iconic Cars in Motoring History

December 2, 2011 Cars By Photo by GP
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Acura NSX

When the NSX was introduced to the public in 1990, it was one of the most technologically advanced supercars ever made. The first production vehicle to use an all-aluminum monocoque chassis, it was made even more rigid after consultation by the famous F1 driver, Ayrton Senna. The lightness of the engine, frame and body aided in top-notch performance numbers which did not go unrecognized. The NSX garnered major automotive awards and redefined the supercar for the 21st century. When we see this rarity on the street today, it still makes us want one. So it’s sometimes referred it as the ‘poor man’s Ferrari’, it stands on its own as one of the greats.

DeLorean DMC-12

Despite what you remember about the DeLorean from the Back to the Future movies, it was only fast if you dropped it off a cliff, but it is certainly hard to forget. Stainless steel body, gullwing doors and a body flat enough to grill on, the DMC-12 is one seriously beautiful failure. Its founder and creator was a crook, but he put his stamp on the automotive world by bringing us a vehicle that was like nothing else. Flux capacitor optional.

Jaguar E-Type

Any top 10 most iconic cars list will have this beauty near the top. The gloriously long hood and the elegant power the XKE communicates will turn heads anywhere you go. The burbling V12 power and the ridiculously low slung body made it that much more desirable. Though we prefer it in roadster form, the coupe will do us just fine. Just don’t do it up Austin Powers-style and emblazon the car with the Union Jack. This car actually makes driving gloves look cool, not like the fool wearing them in his Trans Am.

Lamborghini Countach

Practical was the farthest thing from its vocabulary, the Countach was the truly excessive supercar. With a mailslot of a rear window, it was impossible to park, but who cares. The wedge shape, scissor doors, massive engine vents and the pronounced angles made it instantly recognizable. Sporting a monster Lambo V12 engine, it was hellaciously fast, as well. The bespoilered LP500S is easily the most remembered. Big bank roll required. Gold chain and chest hair not included.

Mazda Miata

Make no mistake. This tiny roadster single-handedly revived the type for the world. Mazda produced this car back when everything about tiny convertibles pointed to the crusher. Light and rear-wheel drive, the precision and the “snikt” sound of the shifter along with nimble and taut dynamics were driving heaven. Even now, after four generations, the Miata (MX-5) still brings the kind of pure driving pleasure that no amount of automotive technology can replace.

Volvo P1800

And you thought Volvo started out making shipping crates for ovens. Let the P1800 prove you wrong. It was built-in 1957 as a much-needed answer for a Swedish sports car. It was, however, the car that nearly didn’t happen due to conflicts with automaker Karmann, who had previously agreed to produce the car for Volvo. Jensen motors took on the job and the P1800 came to life with a Volvo B18 engine that could take the svelte body up to 120 mph. Who said Volvos of old are boring?

1967 Pontiac GTO

Otherwise known as the “Judge”, the GTO was actually named after Ferrari’s 250 GTO (Gran Turismo Omologato), despite the dissimilarities. The split grille design and the monster 335 hp, 441 lb ft V8 engine, along with the optional Hurst shifter made it a true American classic and the sales figures proved its popularity. Today, a pristine model is worth a pretty penny. The modern version of it was basically a rebadged Holden Monaro from GM Australia, and though it was quick, it didn’t even come close to the presence of the original.

Maserati 3500 GT Vignale Spyder

In the late 1950’s Maserati decided to capitalize on the improved roads in Europe by creating a true roadgoing GT car and hence the 3500 GT Vignale Spyder was born. Having pulled back from its dedicated racing roots, Maserati succeeded in producing a car that rivaled the best from Ferrari and Aston Martin by providing prodigious straight six power and luxurious amenities. It was both a performer and a looker by all measures and ended its production run with 2,200 cars, more than all other previous Maseratis made. It was the car that essentially put Maserati on the GT map. One look at this car, and you’ll be won over by its elegance. Just don’t wear an ascot if you own one.

Audi Quattro

We all know the term ‘Quattro’ to stand for Audi’s four-wheel drive system, but the term arose from the early 80’s when Audi brought the original Audi Quattro stateside. It was born from the original rally car that was the first to mate 4-wheel drive with turbocharging. With straight, hard-edged design, the Quattro was angry and sophisticated at the same time. The 2.1 liter high-revving inline-5 cylinder churned out 197 hp and could propel the car to 60 in 7 seconds with a top speed of nearly 140 mph. Every Audi with the Quattro system on the road today can thank its predecessor for the rugged and rapid heritage passed on by the original. It looks like Audi may try to repeat that same success by coming out with a re-imagined version. Let’s hope.

Datsun 240Z-280Z

The poor man’s Jaguar E-Type, the Datsun S30 series, named the 240Z, 260Z and 280Z marked the birth of the Z car and are true classics. Produced in the 1970’s the cars were low cost and highly successful here in the U.S., as a result of both their price and appealing sports car design. These bargain sports cars could do sixty in under 8 seconds and top out at over 120 mph. Eventually Nissan even refurbished a handful of them for sale several years ago and what we wouldn’t do now to get our mitts on one of those.

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Amos Kwon

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