Some cars become icons overnight, others receive the accolades they deserve some years later, retrospectively recognised as nothing short of classics.
Here at ALA GAP Insurance we’ve decided to shine the spotlight on top 10 classic cars that have attained that ‘classic’ recognition beyond any doubt – often reflected by the prices paid for even degraded examples. Several have almost transcended the idea of a ‘classic’ car, becoming ingrained in the national imagination!
1. Datsun 240z/Nissan S30
The Datsun 240z was introduced to the market at a time when European vehicles dominated the sports car market. Incredibly sleek styling, reminiscent of the Jaguar E-Type, and solid Japanese engineering combined to make these vehicles incredibly popular – especially considering a comparatively low price for the time. The 240z also served to broaden the image of Nissan beyond their more usual econo-box designs. The 240z today is still beautiful, highly sought after, and a reminder that Europeans do not hold a monopoly on smooth, curving design.
2. Rolls Royce Silver Shadow
The Silver Shadow was something of a departure for the venerable company, and a big change from its predecessor, the Silver Cloud. The first “single bow” vehicle from the company, the Silver Shadow was both narrower and shorter than previous models, but featured a monocoque chassis construction that actually increased the amount of space available for both passengers and luggage. The modernisation of the marque meant increased sales, and the Silver Shadow had a comparatively large production run to meet demand. Today, the Silver Shadow remains a classic example of 1960’s luxury and innovation within a company one would not normally associate with ‘modernisation’.
3. Mini Cooper S
No list of classic cars would ever be complete without certain entries, and the Mini Cooper S is one of them. Permanently ingrained as a British icon, partly thanks to the film ‘The Italian Job’, Minis were produced for over fifty years and remain incredibly popular today. The Cooper S was a modified, more powerful version released in 1963 and over 19,000 examples of the mk. 1 were sold to the public. These little cars are a wonder of economical, fun design and remain as something intrinsically British.
4. VW Golf GTI Mk. 1
Another smaller car, the Golf GTI Mk. 1 was first introduced in 1975 and is widely considered to be the original ‘hot hatchback’. A sportier version of the VW Golf – the successor to the Beetle – the GTI was designed to be both practical and sporty. The basic concept was incredibly straightforward – applying high-performance packages to basic-transportation economy vehicles – and gained almost instant mass market appeal. The VW Golf GTI Mk. 1 is a classic of its type and continues to be incredibly popular – as do modern iterations.
5. Toyota 2000 GT
Along with the Datsun 240z, the 2000GT revolutionized the automotive world’s view of Japan – viewed at the time as a producer of imitative and stodgily practical vehicles. A sleek, high-performance fastback, it demonstrated the ability of Toyota to produce a sports car that rivalled the prestige marques of Europe. Reviewing a pre-production 2000GT in 1967, Road & Track magazine summed up the car as “one of the most exciting and enjoyable cars we’ve driven,” and compared it favourably to the Porsche 911 – a vehicle today considered one of the ultimate driver’s cars. Today, the 2000GT is seen as the first seriously collectible Japanese car – and its first supercar.
6. Shelby Cobra Mk. III
A combination of British ingenuity and American brute power, the Shelby Cobra is one of the few iconic vehicles where the name transcends the image of the car. The Shelby Cobra was a two-seater roadster, featuring a hand-built body designed by the British AC Cars, and a Ford small-block V8 procured for AC Cars by Carol Shelby, and a legend was born. The Mk. III is amongst the rarest of the amazing cars, and will sell in excess of 1.5 million USD.
7. Jaguar E-Type
The E-Type is, perhaps, the ultimate expression of British design and creative power – an almost instant icon that routinely tops “most desirable car” lists. With racing pedigree, the E-Type was extremely fast for the era and featured much more advanced engineering than most other vehicles of the time. The Jaguar even drew high praise from Enzo Ferrari himself, who called it “the most beautiful car ever made”. This car, like the Mini, has cemented a place in the British sub-conscious – understated, elegant, and a true classic.
8. Mercedes 300SL Gullwing
One of the most instantly recognisable cars in the world, the 300SL was also the fastest production car of its day. The 300 SL is the iconic Mercedes, immediately successful upon its release, and boasts a strong motorsport history having won the European Rally Championship in 1955. Priced at $11,000 on release, these beautiful gull-winged models featured the first use of direct fuel injection and sold 80% of their total production of approximately 1400 units in the US (breaking out of Mercedes’ traditional home market). If nothing else persuades you that these cars are icons, models have sold for over $4 million – as good an indication as any that there is global recognition of the importance of the 300 SL.
9. Aston Martin DB5
No classic car list could ever be complete without the Aston DB5. Made famous world-wide by its inclusion in a number of James Bond films, this car is another British icon. Actually designed by the Italian Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera firm, the DB5 featured reclining seats, wool pile carpets, electric windows, twin fuel tanks, chrome wire wheels, oil cooler, a magnesium-alloy body, full leather trim in the cabin and even a fire extinguisher – extremely well equipped for the time. With only just over 1000 ever made, the rarity of this vehicle is also, in part, responsible for its inclusion in any ‘Classic’ list. Bear in mind, however, that you’re unlikely to find a version on the market with an ejector seat, rotating registration plates, or oil slick…
10. Lamborghini Miura
The Lamborghini Miura was produced between 1966 and 1973 and is widely considered to have instigated the trend of high performance, two-seater and mid-engine sports cars. The Miura was originally conceived by Lamborghini’s engineering team, who designed the car in their spare time against the wishes of the company founder. The Miura was a big departure for the company, who had previously preferred powerful yet sedate grand touring cars, rather than the race-car-derived machines produced by local rival Ferrari. Popular from the moment of its presentation to the press and public, the Lamborghini Miura is the icon of a different age of motoring – a time when design and style combined with speed ruled the day.
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Datsun 240z/Nissan S30 image under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Author: Rockymntskier
Rolls Royce Silver Shadow image under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Author: Quartl
Mini Cooper S image under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Unported license. Author: Pedro Ribeiro Simões
VW Golf GTI Mk. 1 image under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Author: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonysphotos/
Toyota 2000 GT image under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Author: Morio
Shelby Cobra Mk. III image under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. Author: Stahlkocher
Jaguar E-type image under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Author: Brian Snelson
Mercedes 300SL Gullwing image under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. Author: Brett Weinstein (Wikipedia User: Nrbelex)
Aston Martin DB5 image under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Author: Thesupermat
Lamborghini Miura image under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Author: Thesupermat