Every year auto manufacturers spend millions of dollars in R&D to make sure the cars they sell to consumers not only match consumer wants and fit their lifestyles, but also maintain an aesthetic that appeals to most consumers. Throughout the decades, there have been some cars that could be described as a piece of art. They’ve become cultural icons, representing a time in history, with some becoming highly sought after collectible antiques.
Other stylings, however, are far less memorable, forever lost in the catalog of generic cookie cutter consumer cars and mediocre design. Subaru had a brilliant ad campaign in 2011 that hit this nail perfectly. Remember The Mediocrity? The ad featured a generic, beige vehicle that made fun of the bland, boring styling we were used to seeing in mass consumer cars. “Finally, a car that feels like every other sedan on the road today. It’s not extraordinary, it’s extra-ordinary,” quipped the ads.
The thing is, new model designs, even if not all, generally do come with a certain “wow factor” that excites you. It appeals to our wants for the latest and greatest consumer product. And with some cars, the initial feeling may be that its styling will last forever, outshining anything else that could possibly come out in the future. But once the early excitement wears off, we realize that’s not always the case. A few years down the line after some new models come out, you may start feeling that your car is comparatively out of place. That your car is just like all the other cookie cutter cars you were comparing yours to when it was new. So, you begin shopping for a new car again.
Even some of the most stylish, coolest sports cars seem less romantic and sleek over time, because our perception of its appeal, is affected by what we see surrounding us every day. Its stylistic beauty is relative to the design of other cars on the road. Like a hairstyle, what may seemed cool then, doesn’t always stand the test of time. What’s the car equivalent of a mullet?
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But some cars do stand the test of time. They become what we refer to as “classics” with body styling that remains timeless. They always hold a special place in our collective hearts, and our mental concept of what is beautiful, sexy and cool. And this isn’t limited to a specific era of cars, though I’m sure every car fanatic has a generation preference. Beauty is ultimately is in the eye of the beholder. It’s subjective, but here are 10 cars that I personally feel remain forever memorable for their elegant designs.
Top 10 Timeless Cars List
1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL: This vehicle was the first-ever production model with a direct fuel injection system. The 300 SL was based on Daimler-Benz AG’s 1952 Grand Prix racer, the W194. This car remains iconic today, especially for its slick design and gullwing doors. Photo – iStock by Getty Images
1955 Chevrolet Bel-Air: 1955 was the first model year for the second generation design of the BelAir. It featured new styling and power, including a V8 option. The two-tone paint job is always a classic look. And of course you need the matching fuzzy dice to go with this beautiful car. Photo– iStock by Getty Images
1967 Ford Mustang Fastback: The pony car. Classic American muscle. There were certainly many great American muscle cars from this period, but nothing resonates quite like the Mustang name. Even amongst Mustangs though, it was difficult to narrow down to just one choice for this list. Ultimately, I had to go with the ’67 Fastback. 1967 saw the first redesign of the original model. It was larger than the original and with the fastback, the sloping roofline extending to the tail, it got a solid performance look. Photo – iStock by Getty Images
1964 Aston Martin DB5: The DB5 was only produced between 1963 and 1965 and only a little over 1000 were made. The DB5 car is famous for being the most recognized cinematic James Bond car, first appearing in Goldfinger (1964). It appeared again in Skyfall (2012), albeit it is eventually tragically bullet ridden and blown up. Don’t worry, they used a model and some impressive CGI for that scene. Destroying a real one would have been both a heartbreaking crime and expensive. One of these will cost you about $450,000 today. Need a loan? Photo – iStock by Getty Images
1965 AC Shelby Cobra 427: The Cobra Mark III was designed in cooperation with Ford and featured a Ford 427 engine rated at 425 horsepower. While an impressive vehicle, the car was unfortunately a financial failure. To save on costs, most AC Cobra 427s were instead fitted with Ford’s 428ci engines intended for street use, instead of racing. Still, performance versions of this car dominated for years in races, and this car remains a classic icon. Photo– iStock by Getty Images
1929 Packard Phaeton Model 640: Packard was an American luxury automobile company that was founded in 1899 and closed its doors in 1958. While these cars are just a memory to most consumers today, these early cars have a design that’s unlike anything today or anything we’ll ever see again. The Phaeton retains some elements of pre-industrial days with an almost stagecoach like body. Everything about this car exudes a Gatsby-esque class. The chrome, outside luggage trunk and white wall tires only add to the timeless elegance and period sophistication these old timers represent. Photo –iStock by Getty Images
1963 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray: The first-ever production Corvette coupe featured an unusual styling design for its time period that remains stunning today. This car features a memorable “futuristic fastback” flow with a split rear window, hidden headlamps, and coupe doors cut into the roof. Photo – iStock by Getty Images
1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am: You might recognize the Special Edition version of this car as it was featured in the film Smokey and the Bandit (1977). The Firebird got its distinctive slant-nose facelift in its 1977 model update. Pontiac also began using square headlamps on the Firebird giving it an even more aggressive look. This new front styling along with its T-top roof makes this car a classic and timeless design. Photo – iStock by Getty Images
2013 Audi R8: The youngest car on our list, time will tell if the Audi R8 will truly age well or become an old design relic. For now, this car remains a contender. Unlike many sports cars, this design maintains a sleek, almost futuristic persona, while still balancing simplicity and elegant curves. It doesn’t try to be too edgy or flashy, which often causes cars to seem outdated as newer tech and designs come along. You might recognize the 2008 roadster version of this car in Marvel’s cinematic film, Iron Man (2008). Photo – iStock by Getty Images
The Volkswagen Type 2 (T1) Samba Bus: This classic German-engineered car had to finish the list. Also more commonly known as “The Volkswagen Bus” or “Hippie Van,” no other car represents an entire generation and decade better than the Type 2. This car remains highly sought after for the free lifestyle it represents, its iconic design, and pure nostalgia. For many enthusiasts, this car often makes the dream list for garage restoration projects and romanticized transport of choice for epic road trips. Photo – iStock by Getty Images
Mike is a PR manager, writer, and content editor for LendingTree focused on creating informative and digestible financial content for the everyday consumer and reader. Mike graduated from College of Charleston and received his MBA from Winthrop University. Follow him on Twitter @MikeOuyangTweet
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