In the time span of human history, automobiles have not been around for a very long time. It was about 136 years ago, in 1885, when Karl Benz invented the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, the world’s first-ever production automobile. However, cars only began worldwide production in the early 20th century, and even just a century ago, you wouldn’t be able to spot multiple cars on the road.
If you are a car enthusiast, you might have educated yourself all about cars in the 20th century. Whether you are looking to buy or list one of your own used cars for sale, there were cars that shaped the way we engineer vehicles today. Some changed the course of history, while some were immortalized in pop culture. Here are some of the most iconic cars sold in the US –
Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3
An iconic Merc, which was only available in the US, the 300 SEL was one of the first “sleeper” cars of its kind. A sleeper car is one that does not look fast, but on the road, it can leave you in the dust.
It was a full-sized luxury car from the German manufacturer and was the only manufacturer from 1968 to 1972. Powered by Mercedes’ 6.3L M100 V8 engine, it could produce up to 247 horsepower and 434 lb-ft of torque, which might not sound like a lot in a modern context, but it was the world’s quickest four-door car at the time.
You could fit your whole family inside it and still go till 130 MPH, which was a big figure back in the day. It offered not only speed, but extreme luxury, including air suspension, 4-wheel disc brakes, power windows, and power windows. While not too different in design from other cars in the day, it has aged wonderfully and sets an example for all the luxury performance cars today.
Ford Model T
The Model T first came into the market in 1908 and immediately became a hit among the masses. Why? Because it was one of the first ‘affordable’ cars to ever be built. There were multiple designers for the car but one of them was Henry Ford himself. It was named the most influential car of the 20th in the Car of the Century Competition.
It’s also one of the highest-selling cars till this date, with over 15 million models sold. It finally ceased production in 1927. The Model T was aimed at offering a cheap means of transportation to middle-class Americans and it could run on gasoline, kerosene, or ethanol. Powered by a 2.9L inline-four it could only get up to 40 MPH, but what mattered was cheap and affordable family transportation.
Jaguar XK-E (E-Type)
The XK-E (also known as the E-type outside NA) is a legendary sports car; considered to be one of the most beautiful cars of all time. First appearing in 1961, it was based on the D-type, a Le Mans winning champion race car. Powered by a 3.8L engine, it could go up to 150 MPH.
It also included disc brakes, rack, and pinion steering, and independent front and rear suspension, not generally found in the sports cars of the time. It ceased production in 1975 but it had already made its mark. In 1961, the automotive legend Enzo Ferrari himself called it the most beautiful car ever made. It is also featured in popular films, making it an unforgettable icon.
Aston Martin DB5
It doesn’t matter if you are a car enthusiast or not, there is no way you haven’t heard of the Aston Martin DB5, colloquially known as the “James Bond car”. Yes, James Bond drove Aston Martins and the DB5 first appeared in the 1964 film, Goldfinger. It has been immortalized forever as Sean Connery’s favorite ride and it looks every bit beautiful, to this day.
Powered by a 4.0L DOHC straight-6 engine, it was capable of producing up to 325 horsepower and 288 lb-ft of torque, leading to a top speed of 145 MPH. Not to mention how gorgeous and luxurious it was from the inside. The DB5 was once dubbed the “most famous car in the world” and we couldn’t argue otherwise. Also, these sell for millions in auctions all over the world.
Ferrari 250 GTO
One of the most legendary and iconic cars from its era, the Ferrari 250 GTO was constructed only from 1962 to 1964, primarily for homologation into the FIA’s Group 3 Grand Touring Car capacity. There were only 36 cars built in those two years. The GTO was powered by Ferrari’s Tipo 168 Comp/62 V12 engine which churned out 296 horsepower and 217 lb-ft of torque.
With a top speed of 174 MPH, it was one of the fastest cars in the world. The rarity of the car led it to become the most expensive car ever sold in a private auction for a staggering $70 million in 2018. It is also constantly listed as one of the best sports cars of all time, for it was as every bit beautiful from the exterior as was its engine.
McLaren was founded by the legendary race car driver Bruce McLaren and they were into Formula One car construction and racing before they produced their first sports car – the F1.
The F1 was constructed from 1992 to 1998, and only 106 were ever built. When it first came out, it was the fastest production car in the world with a speed of 240 MPH, and it stayed there till 2005. To this day, it is still the fastest naturally aspirated car ever made. It brought numerous new technologies, like a center seat for the driver with two seats for the passengers on either side; which is a feat never seen again on any sports car.
It was also very light and offered a streamlined structure and great driving dynamics. It was also very stylish and beautiful, and often claimed by many as the “greatest sports car ever made”. Also claimed as the greatest automotive achievement ever, the F1 is owned by a lot of famous people all over the world.
The Beetle is another car like the Model T, which was constructed to offer affordable family transportation. It was aptly named Beetle for its compact and tiny design, one that was formulated by Adolf Hitler himself.
It was a very simple car which began production in 1938 and lasted till 2003 and there were 21.5 million built. The first Beetle had 25 horsepower and could hit an impressive 62 MPH. The Beetle remains one of the most affordable and popular cars ever made to this day, with it ranking 4th in the most influential cars of the world in the Car of the Century competition in 1999.
Some Honorable mentions
Honestly, compiling a list of some of the most iconic cars ever would be endless, but there are some other honorable mentions – Ford Thunderbird, Ford Mustang Fastback, Chevrolet Corvette, Lamborghini Diablo, Pontiac GTO, Ford GT40, Shelby Cobra, Ferrari F40, Ferrari Testarossa, Pontiac GTO, Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.