The Most Iconic Cars Ever Made
Cars have changed a lot over the years, but one thing about them remains the same — people love iconic makes and models. Each decade had its own versions of the automobile that won out over the rest, and many car manufacturers improved upon previous designs to make new cars that much better and entice consumers. As the decades went on, new designs, drive styles and body types were introduced, but some have stood the test of time better than others.
Dodge Brothers Model 30, 1914
John and Horace Dodge became car-industry pioneers when they created Dodge Brothers Company in 1914. They grew up in an automotive family working at their father's shop, so they got off to a good start when it came to designing and producing cars.
Chrysler Imperial 80, 1926
Starting in the early years of the automobile, Chrysler made vehicles that were designed to be both reliable and stylish. In 1926, the company released the Imperial 80, a car that was meant to make a competitive mark on the auto industry.
Lancia Lambda, 1923
Lancia is a car manufacturer based in Italy that’s been around since 1906. The car company pioneered the sports tourer with its Lancia Lambda in 1923. The car was the first to offer an independent front suspension system and a V4 engine.
Rolls Royce Phantom I, 1925
Rolls Royce has become synonymous with luxury and affluence over the years — and for good reason. The cars are generally sought after by the rich and famous, and brides and grooms often use them as wedding limousines. In 1925, Rolls Royce introduced the Phantom I, a replacement for its popular 40/50 Silver Ghost.
Bentley 8 Litre, 1930
Perhaps no car make is as widely recognized for being a luxurious status symbol quite like a Bentley is. Back in 1930, Bentley launched its very last car before Rolls Royce purchased the company: the Bentley 8 Litre.
Ford Roadster, 1932
The Ford Roadster was arguably the car that started the hot rod trend among Americans and other car enthusiasts around the world. The car was the main player in speed and drag racing because of its V8 engine and accessibility that allowed mechanics to easily modify it.
Pierce Silver Arrow, 1933
The futuristic look of the Pierce Silver Arrow was something people marveled at when it was released in 1933. It boasted enclosed fenders, and the swooping bodywork was unlike anything anyone had ever seen in car production.
Cadillac V16, 1938
There's a reason why people use the name Cadillac to describe something that’s the best of the best. The car company started strong and has kept it up. Back in 1938, it introduced the powerful Cadillac V16, a beautiful and heavy car that hit the pinnacle of popularity shortly after its release.
Buick Century, 1941
The Buick Century was once one of America's most powerful vehicles to hit the road. The car could hit speeds of over 100 miles an hour — with a most comfortable cruise at 80 miles an hour — and got power from an eight-cylinder engine with 165 horsepower.
Lincoln Continental, 1942
Lincoln’s production was put on hold during WWII, but that wasn't before it released the Continental with a slightly new design that included front-end sheetmetal. Most of the Lincolns released before the war didn’t vary much from their predecessors, but the Continental was decidedly different.
Chevrolet Fleetmaster, 1947
Perhaps one of the most recognizable cars on the list is the Chevrolet Fleetmaster. Although it didn't have much of a style change from the previous model, it did take some 1930s designs and update them a little bit to make this one of the most sought-after convertible cars of the decade.
Mercury 8, 1949
When the custom-car culture of the ‘40s took over for machine-heads across America, the Mercury 8 was a top choice. The design and composition of the car had drastically changed from its predecessor, which made it that much more desirable among car lovers.
Volkswagen Beetle, 1950
The 1950 Beetle was a vast improvement on the older versions of the classic car, which was released in the late 1930s, and the 1950 version saw a rise in sales by over 100%. Over the years since its release, the Beetle has gone on to become one of the best-selling cars in history.
Chevrolet Corvette, 1953
Even people who don't care much about cars know about the Chevy Corvette. The car has been pushed in pop culture and became a classic almost instantly upon its release. This was the first "sports car" in American-made history, and it became a staple on the roads in the U.S.
Chevrolet Bel Air, 1957
Even in the 1950s, this was a surefire contender for car enthusiasts everywhere. Saying it was a beautiful take on automobile design even back then was a complete understatement.
Studebaker Avanti, 1962
The Studebaker Avanti is one of the rarer luxury coupes ever made. Fewer than 5,000 of the cars were manufactured, and the lifespan of the car was reportedly just a year. The Avanti was originally marketed to the public as "the only four-passenger high-performance personal car."
Pontiac GTO, 1964
The ‘60s were the beginnings of the American muscle car, and the GTO kicked that era off with its high horsepower and small body design. The V8 engine was one of the most powerful at the time. The car also had hood scoops, even though they weren't functional initially.
Porsche 911, 1965
Just about anything from Porsche is many a car lover's dream. This particular luxury model has been making waves since its conception. When the Porsche 911 was released, it was the start of the car company's long reign over the industry; the 911 set a standard for racing.
Stutz Blackhawk, 1970
The Stutz Blackhawk was the perfect example of 1970s style. The Italian car was produced on an American chassis, and it was the epitome of luxury, costing buyers upwards of $30,000 for the cheapest option. With inflation, that would be over $200,000 today. Only about 600 of the cars were ever made.
Ford Ranchero, 1972
The Ford Ranchero was the 1970s’ version of a lovechild between the pick-up truck and the sporty sedan. The pick-up cars were made to haul and cruise, and people loved the way they drove, along with their appearance, at the time.
Pontiac Trans Am, 1977
The Pontiac Trans Am ruled the 1970s when it came out. Pop culture took the car and ran with it. The car was featured in the movie Smokey and the Bandit, making it more famous than it already was. The front decal of a "screaming chicken" made it a standout on the road.
Everyone who's anyone will recognize the DeLorean as the fast, time-traveling car from the hit film Back to the Future. The butterfly doors, the cool boxy style and the fact that it could time-travel (in the movie) made the car an iconic ‘80s staple.
Volkswagen GTI, 1983
Another Volkswagen on the list is the GTI, the first hatchback made to be a sporty alternative to common four-door automobiles of the time. The car was cheap for its day, costing buyers less than $10,000. That made ownership of the cool compact easy and affordable.
Ferrari Testarossa, 1985
Another iconic car that was made famous by pop culture, the Ferrari Testarossa was featured in the hit TV show Miami Vice. The advanced vehicle was so far ahead of its time that it was almost impossible to believe Ferrari had accomplished such a feat.
Mazda Miata, 1990
Taking a page out of the classic European roaster's book, the Mazda Miata showed up in 1990 with a truly unique look and feel. The handling of the car was top-notch when it was released, and at under $14,000, it wasn't too expensive for the everyday driver.
Porsche Boxster, 1997
The inspiration for this car’s design came from the 550 Spyder, and it measured up nicely. It was designed to introduce to people the idea of driving a sports car without having to go full speedster.
Pontiac Aztek, 2000
The Pontiac Aztek might not be the coolest car on the list, but that doesn't make it any less iconic. The crossover was supposed to be a shining light in the world of SUVs, but it just didn't hit the mark. People didn't like its looks or driving abilities.
Audi R8, 2006
Audis are typically marketed as high-end, luxurious sports cars, and the Audi R8 was no different. Its predecessor didn't impress because it resembled a VW Golf more than anything else. But with the R8, the manufacturers decided to use a chassis that was more in line with a Lamborghini.
Tesla Model S, 2012
When the Tesla Model S arrived on the scene, it was the first car made without inspiration from any other automobile that came before it. This electric car was unique in almost every aspect, and the style made all other electric cars look, well, pretty dull.
Tesla Model 3, 2018
Tesla is really making a name for itself in the electric-vehicle industry, and the Tesla Model 3 is a perfect example of an icon of the road. The sport sedan offers a 300-mile range on a single charge — at an affordable price tag to boot.