The Most Important Cars From History
IN my view, these are some of the most important cars from all of automotive history...
The motorcar has occupied the Earth for 132 years. In that time, it has amassed a history of inexpressible vastness that has seen it evolve through countless stages - with some cars revolutionising the fundamentals of how things work. This blog is about those cars: the most important cars from all of automotive history.
I appreciate that creating such a list is – like most things – rather subjective, despite some of the more obvious entrants into this ultimate hall of motoring fame. My list consists of 12 cars: 12 of the most revolutionary road going game changers the world has ever seen. I have been rather strict with my selection, which will inevitably lead to people hounding me; after all, people only judge you by what you don't include rather than what you do. But you can't do anything about those people.
So then, let's start proceedings...
1885 Benz Patent Motorwagen – For Being The First Car
This is where it all started, folks: the very first car ever made. Less than a litre, single cylinder, and two-thirds of a horsepower. If you got 10mph out of it, you we're going down a steep hill; and after 5 miles – or about 3 and a half hours – it'd run out of fuel. But we've all got to start somewhere!
1908 Ford Model T – For Being The First Mass-Produced Car
Credit: Barrett Jackson
Mass production is something we all take for granted, and that's all because of the Ford Model T. Before the Model T, the car was primarily for the rich. The convenience in how the Model T was produced enabled it to be affordable, which meant it was obtainable. As a result, it flew out of the factory in the millions!
1922 Austin Seven – For Being The First Conventional Car
If you were to get into a Ford Model T, unless you'd done in a degree in how to drive it, you wouldn't find yourself going anywhere. And that's because all the controls are completely different to what you'd find in a car today. If you were to get into an Austin Seven however, you would be greeted by controls exactly like what you'd find in a car nowadays: clutch on the left, brake in the middle, throttle on the right, and a gearstick in the centre of the car. It wasn't the first car to be fitted with conventional controls – that accolade goes to the Cadillac Type 53 from 1916. But it was the first car the average person actually had a chance of affording that utilised the normal controls of today.
Volkswagen Beetle – For Being Europe's People's Car
The Volkswagen Beetle – or KDF-Wagen as it was first known – was all part of Hitler's grand plan to get German families motoring. He set out a number of parameters for a "Volkswagen" (People's Car) - which included that it must be practical for a family, be affordable for the masses, and that it must also look like a beetle – and then all these elements were amalgamated into a vehicle by Ferdinand Porsche. It turned out to be a winning formula, because not only did the Beetle sell in staggering numbers, but it also remained in production in some form or another from 1938 until 2003.
1945 Willys-Overland CJ-2A – For Being The First Off-Roader Civilians Could Buy
Credit: Motor Trend
The Willys Jeep is credited as one of the key factors that helped the free world win WW2. So naturally, once Hitler had shot himself and things started to calm down, the MB was taken, and made into a civilian version. This was the car that inspired the ultimate 4x4 icon that is the Land Rover – but the fact remains, the CJ was the first of the breed.
1959 Austin Mini – For Reshaping The Small Car Platform
Stating the obvious, there was absolutely nothing new with the concept of a "small car" when the Mini came out – but what was new was the Mini's approach. Mounting the engine and gearbox transversely, rather than longitudinally, and sending drive to the front wheels, it enabled there to be more space inside while keeping the dimensions nice and petite. It was a revolution in packaging that shaped the entire small car genre for the decades that followed.
1964 Ford Mustang – For Being A Working Man's Hero
The Mustang was the car that really shaped the muscle car genre, and part of that came from its obtainability. Back when it was released, if you were in the market for a practical family "sedan", you wouldn't have to reach that much further into your pocket to buy the glorious lines and exciting V8 of the Mustang. It turned out to be an offer many people simply couldn't refuse, and as a result, the Mustang sold like Imodium in a diarrhoea epidemic (not my most pleasant metaphor, I know).
1966 Lamborghini Miura – For Inventing The Supercar
Is there a word that defines our car-loving species better than "supercar"? I don't think there is. And it's all down to the glorious Lamborghini Miura! All performance cars that came before the Miura had their engines situated in the front of the chassis. The Miura on the other hand had its engine in the middle, which was revolutionary for the time. It may've been transversely mounted, which resulted in some niggles, but it was the car that shaped the entire performance car sect. For that, we owe it our gratitude.
1969 Range Rover – For Making Off-Roaders Easy To Live With
Up until the Range Rover came along, off-roaders were to be used purely for farming and military purposes. You could take one on the road, in the same way you could get down a rocky escarpment by rolling in a wooden keg; both would be comparably uncomfortable. The Range Rover changed this by being easy to live with, without sacrificing any off-road abilities. And to top it off, it evolved into the luxury item we know the SUV to be today.
1997 Toyota Prius – For Being The First Production Hybrid
The car's so ugly the background ran away. Credit: pakwheels
Importance doesn't always define greatness, and that's certainly the case with the Prius. It is a fowl piece of infected turd on wheels that has all the appeal of having your eyes gouged out by crows. But it was the first production car to implement hybrid technology, which is now becoming requisite throughout the entire industry. For everything to be reinvented, something has to reinvent itself first, and that was the Prius.
2005 Bugatti Veyron – For Showing That The Impossible Was Possible
Credit: Sunday Times Driving
Newton's third law states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction – something which resonated in the car world...until the Bugatti Veyron came along. Usually, the action of giving a car Veyron-like speed would cause an opposite reaction of making it a recalcitrant nightmare. But the Veyron showed us that a car without compromise was possible. In its omnipotence, it made the world stand back, and wonder what the bloodyhell they could possibly do to compete with it. No car before it brought such intense quantities of elements together that are usually totally oppugnant, and made them work in seamless harmony. As a result, it showed people that a car thought to be impossible was actually possible.
2008 Honda FCX Clarity – For Being The First To Step Into Our Sustainable Future
As we're on the precipice of great change, every manufacturer under the sun is pursuing electric technology to power their future cars; they are adapting to survive. But in that process, they aren't quite adapting enough. The electric car may be sustainable, but it doesn't replace our current petrol and diesel cars with the absolute convenience that is required. That is where the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle comes in.
Strictly speaking, Honda had been experimenting with fuel cell technology for years before the Clarity's release – but it is still seen as the world's first production fuel cell car. Production for the FCX Clarity was limited to areas where hydrogen was available at filling stations, but despite the complexities and expense, it showcased the most convenient way in which sustainability can be achieved. In many ways then, you could view the Clarity as the most important car ever made. Perhaps in 50 years time, people will look back on it in such a way.
So then, that's my list of what I think are the most important cars ever made. Now I want to know: what do YOU think are the most important cars in history? Let me know in the comments.
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Written by: Angelo Uccello
Tribe: Speed Machines
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