Cars are objects of subjectivity, and everyone seems to have an opinion, from the cognoscenti to the everyman. The best cars can be whittled down based on design, popularity, exclusivity, performance or all of the above. There are plenty of lists out there and opinions inevitably vary (widely), but for our humble screed we’ve used a single rule: which cars are truly significant in our own minds.
Almost everyone has a fantasy that involves a super-cool car. Here’s how to get behind the wheel.
1960 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato
Though not as famous as its younger DB5 brother, it’s even more stunning in our humble opinion. The bulging hood, the big frowning Aston grille and the spectacular wire wheels, along with the Zagato Italian touch rendered this British car stunningly curvaceous. Limited to only 20 versions, it still trades at over a cool million at auction. 0-60 times of 6 seconds and 314 horsepower made this car a force to be reckoned with in its day. We envision someone like Sir Richard Branson tooling around in one of these. Lucky bastard.
Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta SWB
Probably one of Ferrari/Pininfarina’s most beautiful designs, the 250GT Berlinetta SWB dominated the 1960 24 Hours of Le Mans by taking the first four positions. With a shorter wheelbase (SWB) than the 250GT Berlinetta and the removal of the rear quarter windows, the 250GT SWB boasted improved cornering due to the wheelbase reduction. A revised V12 was parked under the hood, along with larger carburetors. The competition version crushed everyone else on the racing circuit in 1959 and 1960. Current versions bring upwards of $4 million to own a piece of racing history.
1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic
The Type 57 Atlantic is the kind of car that can never be copied, reproduced or emulated without utterly ruining the memory. The sheet metal alone will send you home drooling, as if you’d seen the most sensuous woman in the world. With curves galore and an elongated hood, the Atlantic looked like nothing else on the road in its day and still stands apart over the generations. Like a vintage era Batmobile, it’s both Powerful and elegant. It now auctions north of 30 million dollars and is essentially the world’s most expensive car.
1948 Tucker Torpedo
The brainchild of Preston Tucker, the “Torpedo” or Tucker Sedan, was created in response to the lack of new ideas from any of the big three in the early 1940’s. Originally designed with such innovations as four-wheel independent suspension, a rear mounted flat six aluminum engine a hydraulic drive system and four-wheel disc brakes. Sadly only 51 cars were made and the Tucker Torpedo never got out of the starting gates, supposedly due to a conspiracy by the big three. On the bright side, a single iteration of this pioneering automobile is worth a sweet $1.2 million.
Aston Martin DB5
Bond made it famous in Goldfinger, but it would’ve stood on the merits of its own looks. The silky grand tourer was built from 1963-1965 and boasted a then-healthy 282 horsepower, enabling it to reach 145 mph at the top end and zero to sixty in around 7 seconds. Most importantly, the DB5 still stands as one of the most recognizable cars in the world. Instant panache for and respect to anyone lucky enough to own this rarity.
Built by Ford to not only compete with Ferrari but to humiliate them at Le Mans, the GT40 was racing domination at its best, taking top position at the grueling 24 hour race series four years in a row. Utilizing high displacement Ford V8s, the GT40 established Ford as the only American built car to ever take Le Mans overall. It spawned the Ford GT, which carries forward the same kind of ferocious performance that made it an icon. Recently a 1966 Mk1 version brought in over $4 million at auction. Now that’s a pricey Ford.
1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Coupe
Also known as the C2, this version of the Corvette turned things around for Chevy. Redesigned completely, it sported a now much sought after split window, Corvette-only reverse flip-up headlights, improved handling and performance and a gorgeous silhouette made the C2 a standout amongst American sports cars. Produced for 20 years, the Sting Ray Coupe is as American as it gets. Part elegance and all sinew, the wide and sleek C2 will forever be associated with brilliant American design.
The intention to build the sleek and unique supercar was purely for homologation, and in 1970, BMW partnered with Lamborghini to help bring it to life. Lambo jumped ship before production and BMW took over the entire project, bringing the rare cars to market from 1978 to 1981. Fewer than 500 were built and they’re still so sought after today that BMW still holds the M1 name sacred, as does the rest of the automotive world. We’ve seen it in the flesh and it is awesome.
1967 Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale
Widely considered to be one of the sexiest automobiles ever made, the car was not just a looker. Alfa produced the 33 as a roadgoing version of the racing Tipo 33 and introduced Alfa’s racing technology to the world. It clocked 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and topped out at a blistering 160 mph. Sadly, only 18 were made. If it looks familiar, it inspired the modern Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione. A beauty in its own right.
AC Shelby Cobra 427
The stuff of legend, this is. Carroll Shelby approached Ford MoCo in order to shoehorn its monster 520 bhp, 427 V-8 into the AC Cobra, a British sports car. The result was magic and threw down with the previously victorious Chevy Corvettes in auto racing. It was a triumph of huge proportions. Shelby’s beast did the quarter-mile in 13.2 seconds and handled like it was on rails. And though the production of these monsters ended in 1967, the automotive world would never be the same