As the famous saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but regardless of personal taste, some cars truly capture the imagination of all or most car fanatics.
Unlike many ‘most desirable’ lists, this one isn’t a medley of super and sports cars but instead looks at different manufacturers, models and iconic motors which, if money were no object, many of us would happily make room in our garage to accommodate.
10. Porsche 356
The Porsche 356 was Porsche’s first production car and provided an incredible driving experience for owners with the lightweight body, rear engine placement and rear-wheel-drive configuration.
The car, which was in production from 1948 to 1965, was something wholly new and exciting. Not only did the 356 give a nod to its cousin, the VW Beetle as designed by Porsche Snr, but it also sported a completely new chassis and body.
It took two years to make the first 50 356s, and after a win at Le Mans in 1951, the car became better known outside of its existing market in Germany and Austria.
Nowadays, with such iconic history and heritage, these cars command prices higher than the average British home.
9. Jaguar E-Type
Is there a car more instantly recognisable than the Jaguar E-Type?
Probably one of the most impressive cars of the 60s and celebrating 60 years since launch in 2021, it would be a disservice not to mention the E-Type.
The E-Type was just as iconic as the Mini in its own way, and when unveiled at Geneva Motor Show in the spring of 1961, the car was touted as achieving 150mph, which meant it had the same output as far more expensive models.
The styling plus top-notch performance meant the buying public were hooked and that included celebs. Brigitte Bardot and Steve McQueen owned an E-Type, and the car embodied a level of inspirational cool that really surpassed the Mini in the Swinging 60s.
8. Mr Bean’s Mini
Some may scoff at this addition to the list, but very few people can’t recall Mr Bean and his iconic Mini with the black bonnet.
Although several were used in the filming, there is one car that cropped up more than most, SLW 287R. The car now resides in a private collection and only resurfaces for promotional work, including an incredibly fun lap around the Goodwood circuit in 2009.
The car still retains all sorts of quirky add ons from her days as a television star, including the additional windscreen washer jets put in place for the infamous ‘getting ready whilst driving’ scene, which involved Mr Bean brushing his teeth!
Many cars are famous for their stints on television, but Mr Bean’s Mini is definitely a car many of us would secretly love to have in our own garage at home.
7. Volkswagen Karmann Ghia
The Karmann Ghia was made from 1955 to 1974. The praise and adoration heaped on the Beetle should be shared more liberally with Karmann Ghia, which in its original guise took the chassis and mechanics of the Type 1 Beetle but devised styling that took VW into a new stratosphere.
Incredibly, the Ghia prototype took a mere five months from start to finish, bringing the journey from first talks to completed model in a speedy twelve months. The design started with fundamentals from a show car Virgil Exner designed for Chrysler named the D’Elegance. Although well-received, the D’Elegance never made it into production, meaning the borrowed styling cues were not immediately apparent to potential purchasers.
The body on the Karmann Ghia is pretty labour intensive. It is a one-piece design excluding the opening elements. The doors, boot and bonnet and the car were crafted and finished by skilled professionals, not put together from endless panels and parts churned out by a machine.
The buying public loved it when it debuted at the Paris Motor Show in 1953, and 10,000 were sold in the first year, with an entire production run of just shy of half a million units in its lifetime.
6. 1957 Chevy Bel-Air
If you want to understand American fashion and trends of the late 50s, there is no better place to start than the 57 Chevy Bel-Air. The car is spoken of highly by reviewers worldwide and considered one of the 50s’ greats when referring to American automotive mid-century advancements.
The Bel-Air was produced for many years, but the 57 is considered the peak year and most coveted by American car fanatics. It’s worth noting that this is a period in time where car manufacturers didn’t have a plethora of models like today, but simply one model offered in a variety of trims. Bel-Air was the top level of trim for the car, with a range of seven body styles to choose from.
It was also the first car since 1918 (the second generation from 1955) to come with a V8 engine, the standard option on the famed 57 Bel-Air. The motor and overall performance, coupled with the fins, grille and dash layout, made it a firm favourite with the buying public at the time. It remains a firm favourite of American car fanatics across the globe.
5. Amphicar Model 770
The Amphicar had to appear on this list purely because of how wonderfully eccentric it is.
The car was built for an impressive seven years but failed to reach even 5,000 units sold, and yet if you ask anyone for the name of the car that is usable both on land and in water, everyone seems to know the name Amphicar!
The Amphicar was powered by the engine from a Triumph Herald 1200 and built in West Germany. It was quite a big hit with affluent Americans; President Lyndon B Johnson loved to lure unsuspecting guests out for a quiet drive and then drive into nearby rivers and lakes before switching the Amphicar into the correct mode for water.
The Amphicar is a bit of a jack of all trades and master of none and doesn’t perform particularly well as either a car or a boat, but as a bit of kit for having good fun with friends, it is priceless!
Well, not quite. Most sell in American auctions nowadays and fetch somewhere in the region of $100,000.
4. BMW Isetta
Gina from Heartbeat had one, and I cannot have been the only young person to have thought she was the coolest lady of the 60s after spotting her cherry red Isetta 300 whizzing through Aidensfield.
The Isetta, of course, is one of the most famous of the ‘bubble’ cars, and yet it all came about due to BMW getting inspiration from an Italian company that made both fridges and mini cars!
The car came to market in 1955 and sold until 1962. It filled a spot for BMW, who were struggling with the downturn in motorbike and luxury vehicle sales. It was badged as a Motocoupe with the strapline ‘you’ll always be happy in the BMW Isetta – whatever the weather’.
At less than 8ft long and weighing an incredible 770lbs, the Isetta was a lot speedier than you may imagine. The front seat is also roomy enough to pack in two adults, making it a thoroughly usable, albeit quirky, classic.
Nowadays, these bubble cars command eye-watering prices and put them out of the reach of most who simply cannot afford to house an adorable Isetta for good weather days and small adventures nearby.
3. DeLorean DMC-12
The DMC-12 is one of those cars that reached the upper echelons of iconic cool thanks to a starring role in Back To The Future.
Made from only 1981 to 1983, the creator John DeLorean was a former manager at GM who left the company to set up on his own. By teaming up with Allstate Auto Insurance and dabbling in no end of bizarre tie ins, he was able to bring the DMC-12 to market.
The story of DeLorean as a company is almost as bizarre as the plot of Back to The Future. It recently became even more complicated this week as a man came to light in the press for building replicas of the DMC-12 from Reliant cars.
The DMC-12 is one of those strange cars that some people absolutely adore and others shrug off as a bit of a gimmick.
However, as a car that even the most switched off bystander would recognise, it deserves a high-up place on this list.
2. L’Oeuf D’electrique
You may not have heard of the L’Oeuf D’electrique concept car. However, it is definitely one of the most exciting cars of the 1940s. It was designed by Paul Arzens, an industrial designer interested in alternative fuels who experimented with the use of electricity to power vehicles.
Arzens had previously worked on the locomotive design and also undertook work for Chrysler and Peugeot.
The Egg was Arzens personal vehicle, and he built it thinking that electricity was the future for powering vehicles after fuel shortages. It’s said that the Smart Fortwo took inspiration from L’Oeuf in design.
As there is only one, and it’s a prototype, it really is a vehicle that money can’t buy. A drive in this imaginative concept vehicle would definitely be worth whatever it cost for such a forward-thinking experience.
At the top of the list is the automotive masterpiece needing no introduction, the Citroen DS.
As per ‘pre-PSA Peugeot merger’ Citroen, the design was magnificent and perfectly timed as many mid-century and early Citroens were. The production ran from 1955 to 1975 and even in today’s harsh gaze, the car looks positively futuristic.
The car was designed by Flaminio Bertoni, who was also responsible for the Traction Avant, the 2CV, the Ami 6 and the H Van. It is clear that his background as a sculptor before working in automotive heavily inspired and influenced his designs.
Nearly 1.5 million of the DS were produced, and the hydropneumatic suspension and disc brakes really set the tone for what happened next not only at Citroen but in the wider world of automotive.
For a car that is as close to perfection as an automotive manufacturer has ever achieved, the prices aren’t as eye-waveringly high as you may expect. However, a decent example fetches upwards of £20,000, and with appreciation of the model and values ever-rising, now is the time to invest.
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