Hot Wheels, Indeed
Here to Eternity: The 50 Most Iconic Cars in Motoring History
Nissan Skyline GTR r34
The current Nissan GT-R is a monster, no doubt, but its origins date back to 1989 with what was dubbed “Godzilla” by the automotive press, the R32 Nissan Skyline GTR. The target was the Porsche 959 and what a lofty goal it was. The Skyline sported twin ceramic turbochargers, all-wheel steering, electronically controlled four-wheel drive, and 276 hp. It dominated 29 out of 29 races in Japan and went on to conquer circuits all over the world. Thankfully, its heritage lives on in the current version.
It was one of the first true supercars. Born out of Gruppe B racing, it had a steroidal 911 silhouette, an aluminum and kevlar body with enhanced aerodynamics, all-wheel drive, and a monster flat six engine with 444 horsepower, which propelled it to 60 mph in less than four seconds. Incredibly rare, the 959 is considered the father of the current 911 Turbo and still asks for and gets high prices at auction. The likelihood of ever seeing one in the flesh is infinitesimally small due to the fact that very few owners modified it for U.S. streets.
Ferrari 365GTB/4 Daytona Spyder
You don’t have to be Sonny Crockett to appreciate this car. Miami Vice made it popular but it has far more pedigree. Named for the famous racetrack, the Daytona’s design was nothing if not clean. From the smooth hood to the circular taillights, it was sleek and muscular at the same time and sadly was limited to only 122 versions. The Spider was so coveted that many coupe owners paid to have the tops lopped off. Sporting a sonorous V12, the Daytona maxed out at blistering 180 mph. Road and Track called it “world’s best sportscar.” It had both the looks and the performance. Many hairpieces were lost, no doubt.
The original British luxury car that started its run in 1925, the Rolls-Royce Phantom moniker and heritage spread over seven model generations. Owned by the likes of John Lennon and the Sultan of Brunei (what doesn’t he own?), the Phantom exuded class and wealth. Driving in it can be equated with sitting in an executive boardroom on wheels. Though it may have suffered from a bit of bloatedness in its fifth and sixth generations, the seventh and current iteration proves to be the right combination of power, performance and sophistication. Like it for its power and size. Love it for its ever-upright logo’d wheel hubs and its door retractable umbrella holders. Who needs Grey Poupon?
Crafted in the late 1960’s, the 2000GT was built out of a partnership between Toyotal and Yamaha. It is, essentially, Japan’s first supercar. With large headlights and taillights, a long hood and an elegant tapering tail, the 2000GT proved to the world that Japan could build an exotic sports car. It was so good, in fact, that some car enthusiasts ranked it up there with the Porsche 911. That’s nothing to laugh at. The car was even svelte enough to be used in the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice.
The tiny but capable father of the current BMW 3-Series, the 2002 is one of the most famous BMWs of all time. Short, quick and clean in design, the 2002 was launched back in 1967. Producing 108 horsepower and 130 in the 2002tii, this two-door sports coupe succeeded in the racing circuit and actually found victory in the 1970 Nurburgring 24 hour race. It has a huge cult following today. The super-rare tii commands high prices, but beware of base 2002s rebadged.
The original Mini is diminutive compared to the modern version, but it was no less wonderful. With its front wheel drive layout, the Mini enabled its owners to pack in people and cargo while maintaining a tiny footprint, making it endlessly practical. The UK subcompact grew into several different versions, including a wagon, a pickup truck and our personal favorite, the Mini Moke, a bizarre Jeep-like version. BMW did up its own successful reincarnation in 2000 but our hearts are still with the big (little) brother. If you can drive it like Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity, you have our utmost respect.
In 1998, engineer Gordon Murray set the world on fire by setting a new production car top speed record of 231 mph in the F1. In a few words, it was supercar domination. The McLaren F1 was an exercise in a no-holds-barred approach to automotive supremacy utilizing ultralight materials, a production first monocoque carbon fiber chassis, superb aerodynamics and a naturally aspirated BMW V12 with 618 horsepower. Uniquely for a production car, the center positioned driver’s seat echoed F1 design. But the car also stood out as an everyday supercar with its driveability and quality build. All other supercars are still measured against this one and its value and stature in the automotive world continue to rise.
Originally the Willys-Overland MB, it was commissioned for the U.S. military to fulfill the need for a light, rugged and versatile recon vehicle during World War II. And though there is dispute to this day over the origin of the ‘Jeep’ nomenclature, there no doubt that the modern descendants, the Jeep CJ and Wrangler, exemplify the all-around utility of this wartime workhorse. From Willys to Ford to Chrysler, the Jeep maintains bomb-proof the heritage that was born in a time of our country’s greatest need.
Austin Healey 3000
We love roadsters and the Jensen Motors bodied Austin-Healey 3000 is no exception. Built in the 50s and 60s, the 3000 went through three iterations from MkI to MkIII, with ever-growing output and refinement. The bug-eyed fascia and large shiny grille made it a standout, along with the prominent bulging hood. Racing versions showed up at Sebring and LeMans. Sadly the run ended in 1967 when Austin-Healey stopped producing cars. It remains as a true gentleman’s car and is upheld by enthusiasts and vintage racing circuits today. Classy and very, very British.