There’s just something about old cars… the power, the beauty, the sheer majesty of a machine that’s recognized and respected the world over. The definitions of “vintage” and “classic” cars may vary slightly depending upon where you live and who you ask, but some cars just seem to stand out a bit from the rest; even when compared to modern cars that are loaded with features and which can top speeds that were once thought impossible, these cars are quick to be noticed and fawned over by their fans. Fast cars are great, and groundbreaking new features can definitely get the crowd to “ooh” and “ahh”… but even the most high tech example of modern automotive engineering pales in comparison to the breathtaking beauty and style of some of these true classics. Of course, the cars that make the list of the best vintage cars ever will differ slightly depending on who’s making the list; different individuals may pick out different model years, or other cars which aren’t included on this specific listing. It’s not easy picking out just 10 cars from all of the amazing machines that have graced the roads and raceways over the years, so feel free to disagree with some of these choices if your favorite vintage ride didn’t make the top 10.
1927 Ford Model T
Picture of non-black 1927 Model T at Greenfield Village, photo by rmhermen
When looking at vintage cars, it’s hard to surpass the enduring style and legacy of the Model T. This car is generally viewed as being the first affordable production automobile, and set the standard for what a classic car should look like way back in 1908. A variety of changes were made to the design of the Model T during the 19 years that it was in production, culminating in the 1927 model that is still sought after by collectors and makers of classic reproductions today. The Model T (or the Tin Lizzie, as it was often called) is a great example of how a car doesn’t have to be the fastest available to still be revered by those who appreciate great vehicles; even though it only had two gears, the Model T was still voted “Car of the Century” in 1999, beating out other classics such as the Volkswagen Beetle, the Mini, and the Porche 911 with a considerable lead.
1969 Corvette Sting Ray (no, it's NOT Stingray it's Sting Ray)
Next we have a car that needs no introduction… from its instantly recognizable body shape to the iconic crossed-flags emblem, it’s hard to imagine any listing of the greatest vintage cars of all time that doesn’t include some version of the Corvette. One of the cars that defined American muscle in the 60’s, Chevrolet’s Corvette Sting Ray coupe is quite possibly one of the most famous cars ever produced. Corvettes have appeared as centerpieces for countless movies, and ever since production started on this classic line they’ve been seen as a definition of simplicity and style. The 1969 Corvette Sting Ray saw the peak of Corvette cool, before automotive styles began to change and the Corvette shifted to the changes it would feature in the 70’s and 80’s. The ’69 Stingray featured a split rear suspension, disc brakes, a “big block” engine, side exhaust pipes, the classic split rear window of the Sting Ray, and a variety of other features that make it remain a highly desired car even to this day.
1967 Ford Mustang
When looking at American muscle cars like the ’69 Sting Ray, you can’t overlook the Mustang from the Ford Motor Company. Even today, filmmakers and producers look to the Mustangs of the 60’s when they want a vehicle that conveys pure power and indomitable force… and nothing does this better than the 1967 Mustang. It was in ’67 that the Mustang received its first real increases in length and height, and it was given a wider body frame which allowed for the inclusion on a “big block” engine to give this beast plenty of horsepower. This was combined with a variety of extra vintage car parts giving features such as power disc brakes, a tilt steering wheel, and the innovative FMX transmission which allowed for fully automatic shifting in addition to manual shifting.
1969 Camaro SS
It seems that 1969 was a very good year for Chevrolet. In addition to producing a classic powerhouse like the ’69 Corvette Sting Ray, Chevy also released the last model in the first generation of Camaros. The ’69 Camaro SS featured a sporty look that still was obviously aggressive (thanks to a new sheet metal body, deep-set headlights, a redesigned grill, and a variety of other design changes.) Chevrolet allowed for some changes in their ordering process for this model year as well, which let dealers order Camaros with engines over the usual limit of 400 cc (6.6 L)… this resulted in Camaros featuring 427 engines, and helped to establish the Camaro’s reputation as a powerful machine that refused to back down.
Photo by Sean O'Flaherty
The Tucker was truly an innovation in the world of automotive design, and though the 1948 model was the only model ever produced its effect on the world of automobiles can still be felt to this day. Preston Tucker and Alex Tremulis designed the Tucker as an attempt to break into the automotive industry, and though only a handful of cars were produced the features that were present in those cars were extremely innovative for the time.
1948 Tucker plans
Though the Tucker was doomed to failure due to SEC lawsuits and behind-the-scenes activities by major automotive companies who didn’t want an independent automotive manufacturer to succeed, a significant number of the 51 Tuckers produced are still road-worthy and are considered to be one of the ultimate automotive collectibles for those lucky enough to be able to get their hands on one.
1967 Volkswagen Beetle
photo taken by Morio
Though it’s not a powerhouse like some of the other cars on this list, the 1967 Volkswagen Beetle is instantly recognizable and could quite possibly be one of the more famous vehicles ever produced. Originally known simply as the Volkswagen Type 1, by 1967 the German motor company decided to embrace the nicknames such as the “Beetle” and “Bug” that their car had received by an adoring public. The ’67 Beetle featured a variety of improvements over its predecessors in addition to formally adopting it’s new name; a new drivetrain was included, the engine was made larger, and the electrical generator doubled its output as it was converted to a 12V system. Additional changes were also made to the braking system, clutch disc, and various other features, making the ’67 Beetle a functionally different car than anything that had come before, and it's one on this list that won't sting you TOO badly for vintage car insurance!.
1964 Porsche 911
Any list of classic cars wouldn’t be complete without an entry featuring the Porsche 911, which was originally developed as a replacement for the smaller and less comfortable Porsche 356 (and also as somewhat of a more sporting evolution of the Volkswagen Beetle, as many of the early Porsche cars used parts from Volkswagen vehicles.) When introduced in 1964, the 911 featured an air-cooled rear mounted engine and a five speed manual transmission. Though it contained four seats, the rear seats were very small and many considered it to be a “2 + 2” vehicle as opposed to a true four-seater. Though the Porsche 911 has remained in production since its original introduction, many still prefer the older models for their classical styling and air-cooled engines (as the company changed to water-cooled engines in 1998.)
1962 Maserati 3500
The Maserati 3500 was created in an attempt to allow the Maserati company to tap into the growing Grand Turismo market, resulting in a classic car that not only had competitive power but was also able to keep up with many of the innovations of the time. When the car was first introduced in 1957, it featured a variety of changes to the design of the initial prototype; by 1962, a number of additional options had been added as standard features. The ’62 Maserati 3500 featured front and rear disc brakes, a limited slip differential, power windows, leather interior seating, and all of the power that one might expect from its six-cylinder engine and four-speed transmission. The 3500 would also serve as the basis for other Maserati products, such as the 3500 GTi (which was introduced as the first Italian production car featuring fuel injection.)
1967 Ford GT40
Another powerhouse from Ford in the 1960’s, the Ford GT40 was designed primarily as a racing car (though according to race rules, at least a limited number of the cars had to be made available for sale to private owners.) The GT40 had been intended as a primary competitor against the cars being made by Ferrari, after an attempt to buy the Ferrari company by Ford Motors fell through in 1963. Different versions of the car were produced, labeled Mark I, Mark II, and Mark III, with the differences being largely the engine size and (in the case of the Mark III) the purpose for which the car was designed and built. As these cars were designed primarily for limited use in Grand Turismo races, any collector who owns an original ’67 GT40 considers himself quite lucky indeed.
1953 Aston Martin DB2
Image (c) Peter Madle http://www.madle.org
The Aston Martin DB2 was developed in 1950 as a replacement for the previous Aston Martin 2-Litre Sports car. It featured a larger, dual overhead cam straight 6 engine, and was originally designed as a closed coupe racing car. By 1953, a convertible version of this classic car had also been introduced as well as engine options which provided for additional horsepower. Though the DB2 was only in production for 3 years, it served as a basis for many other Aston Martin vehicles which proved to be very popular both on the racetrack and as a road car.