In the past I’ve covered my picks for the best cars of the 1980s and ‘90s. Now it’s time for my Top 10 cars of All-Time, whereby I pit country against country. Our six contenders are the U.S.A., Britain, Japan, Germany, Italy and France. Will you side with American muscle or French flair? Can Japanese perfection trump Italian passion? Or do you choose German engineering over British ingenuity? Whatever you choose, you’re in for one helluva ride. So, let’s count down my Top 10 Cars of All-Time.
Today’s contender is...the U.S.A.
Ford’s Model T is widely considered to be the world’s first mass produced automobile, and the first to make cars popular among common, middle-class Americans. It was Henry Ford’s crowning achievement, and was as influential to automobile design and manufacture as the Hoover Dam was to engineering. It’s more than just a car: it’s an American icon.
Another famous first, the Dodge Power Wagon is considered to be the granddaddy of the modern, 4WD pickup truck. Though the name would disappear at the end of 1980 the Power Wagon lives on in the form of Dodge’s venerable Ram. The Power Wagon isn’t all things to all people, but it is all things to a few. Powerful, rugged and affordable: everything a labourer could want in a car.
You may be wondering what the Ford Crown Victoria is doing on this list. Here is a car that is not revolutionary, attractive or outstanding in any way. So why have I included it? Simple: roughl five million of these vehicles are (or were) in use with the nation’s police, taxi and rental companies. The Crown Vic is as ubiquitous and identifiably American as McDonald’s and baseball caps.
7. Cord 810
The Cord 810 is one of my favourite cars. It is a rolling piece of art; art deco in automotive form. Sleek, fast and looking like something off the cover of Popular Mechanics, the Cord made almost everything else at the time look like a relic from an earlier age. New York’s Museum of Modern Art even went so far as to name the Cord 810 as one of the 10 most significant cars of the 20th century. So there.
In the 1960s, Henry Ford II was negotiating with Enzo Ferrari to buy the fame Italian automaker. When the deal fell through, the American decided to beat Old Man Ferrari at his own game and commissioned Lola Cars of England to build him a Ferrari beater. And build one they did. With four consecutive Le Mans wins and still holding the title of the only American car to win at the prestigious event, the GT40 is a defiant, one fingered salute at the European racing aristocracy. And that’s why we love it.
Yes, the post-’78 Eldorado’s were rubbish and the 1986 model in particular makes me cry tears of blood. So what? From 1953 to 1978, five generations of Cadillac’s indefatigable Eldorado showed the world how America does luxury. Big, powerful and supremely comfortable, these were the it cars for celebrities and commoners alike. Elvis Presley had two, for crying out loud. This was American luxury at its very best.
The 1957 Chevy Bel-Air is my favourite classic car. I’m constantly scouring the classified ads, seeing what’s out there and how much their owners are asking. This isn’t the only reason it’s on this list though. No, the Bel-Air was a revelation. Here was a car that was stylish, powerful and well-equipped, a luxury car with a sub-luxury price. I mean just look at this thing: it was gorgeous. And it was a popular seller for Chevrolet to boot. The Bel-Air is truly one of the greats.
Pontiac’s iconic GTO set the benchmark for muscle cars for years to come. It had everything you would expect from such a car: rear wheel drive, a limited slip diff and any one of several big, honking V8s under the hood. Vin Diesel drove one in xXx, and it was the main antagonist in the classic Two Lane Blacktop. It even has a starring role in the recent teen comedy Sex Drive. Though perhaps not as well known or well loved as its Dodge Charger / Challenger brethren, the GTO is still one of the greats.
The Ford Mustang is American automotive royalty. It was the first of the pony cars, and forced the General to produce the equally as awesome Chevy Camaro. Available as either a V6 or a V8, with pricing comparable to the venerable Chevy Bel-Air of seven years earlier, the four-seat Mustang was a revelation. And the styling – don’t get me started on the styling. In a word: gorgeous, like Grace Kelly or the Chrysler Building. The Mustang is a true icon of the American automotive scene, trumped only by our number one.
I defy anyone to name a more iconic American automobile. The Corvette is as American as apple pie. Big V8? Check. Rear wheel drive? Check. Gorgeous styling? Check, with a few forgivable fopars; nobody’s perfect, after all. The first generation was penned by Harley Earl – widely considered to be the U.S.’s most iconic automotive designer – and signed off on by GM’s top brass. Today, the Corvette remains Chevrolet’s halo model and a favourite of GM engineers and customers alike. It’s also, in my opinion, the best car America has produced.
So there you have it. Though remember, this is only my opinion. It’s hard picking just ten, and there are countless cars I was forced to exclude: Ford’s F-Series, Dodge’s Charger and Chevy’s Camaro to name a few. We want to hear what you think, so get commenting!
By Tristan Hankins