There are car designs that have withstood the test of time. Even though their styles and individual looks are not recreated en-masse for the modern-day vehicle, you will be hard-pressed to find anyone that does not appreciate the look, style, and quality of a classic car.
Classic cars include a wide range of models. Some are ex-race cars; others are everyday fan favorites. With such a wide variety of classic and iconic designs out there, you are sure to be able to find a classic car and bring it home for yourself.
While there are many cars from the classic era between the 1950s and the 1990s, the absolute top are these top 10. These styles are the most iconic, the most coveted, and, in many cases, incredibly rare. They are the focus of classic car enthusiasts like Mike Savage New Canaan, and the favorites even amongst car manufacturing royalty like Enzo Ferrari. They are striking even to the layperson. They are incredible works of art and engineering to the aficionado. They are striking through and through, and these are the top 10.
1. Jaguar E-Type
This is the car that Enzo Ferrari claimed was “the most beautiful car ever made”. Featuring smooth, sleek lines and a streamlined look, this classic beauty is style incarnate. There are several versions of the Jaguar E-Type, with the Series 1 the most popular amongst collectors. The good news for those with a smaller budget for classic vehicles is that there is a Series 2.
The most rare and coveted version, however, is the Jaguar Lightweight E-Type, of which there were only 12 made and only 11 still around. They frequently sell for over $1 million.
2. Lamborghini Miura
The Lamborghini Miura is an Italian sportscar classic that was produced initially between 1966 and 1973. There are only around 400 estimated to still exist, at least in repaired and refurbished condition, making them a very rare, very iconic classic to set your sights on. Due to their rarity, you can expect them to sell for $1.5 to $3 million. This is five to 15 times more expensive than they sold for initially, even adjusting for inflation, showcasing just how coveted this model is.
3. Ford Thunderbird
The Ford Thunderbird was an everyday classic, making it more accessible for most car enthusiasts. That being said, there are certain years that will take precedence. The Thunderbird 2dr Convertible 50th anniversary costs approximately $44,355. As for the original 1955 Thunderbird, only 212 vehicles of that model were ever produced, making it a very rare vehicle that can be hard to get your hands on.
The older generation thunderbirds are quite rare, and as a result, they feature a higher price tag than modern models. The good news is that Ford has not retired this line, and the next series of Thunderbirds is set to come out in 2022.
4. Shelby GT350 (Cobra)
The Shelby GT350, also known as the Cobra, was a small but mighty Ford Mustang from the 1960s. It featured a V8 engine, but unlike other racing vehicles, this one was built for the street. Carroll Shelby, its designer, is often considered as one of the 20th century’s motoring geniuses, and for good reason.
The 1965 Shelby GT350 features the highest price tag for a Mustang in the world. It has sold for $3.85 million USD. There are other models, including the GT350R, which is lighter, grippier, and in many ways a better drive. Regardless of whether you are after the original or the GT350R, you are sure to find a stunning example of engineering, and a true classic car worthy of this list.
5. Chevrolet Corvette
The Chevrolet Corvette is one of the most collected and coveted muscle classic cars in the United States. Keith Martin, publisher of Sports Car Market even called it “the most iconic American car ever made”. The design is stunning, iconic, and is sure to draw heads while also dripping in luxury and refinement.
You can expect to find these cars between $25,000 on the lower end scale (meaning they will require work) and on average $35,000. There are upper end versions that are valued over $50,000, but most vehicles you will see for sale won’t be at this upper end of the scale.
When it comes to the year to buy, always go for the 1963. This is the definition of a classic car icon, and will continue to be a familiar and striking vehicle for generations to come. Though the 1963 is the icon, there are many generations of the Corvette and many offer stunning, classic designs to fall in love with. Another classic, for example, is the 1982 Stingray, a beautiful, powerful muscle car that takes style to the max, and another example from Chevrolet that deserves a special mention is the 1967 Camaro.
6. Ferrari 250 GTO
Another race car in this list is the Ferrari 250 GTO. They are incredibly rare, incredibly iconic, and go for a hefty price tag. There were only 39 ever made and are considered by many enthusiasts to be a holy grail amongst classic cars. Early models have been sold for $38 million USD at the Bonham’s Qual Lodge auction a few years ago. Another sold for $48.4 million USD at a Sotheby’s auction in California.
In general, a red, 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO is expected to cost between $45 million and $60 million whenever they go to auction.
This car was initially built for the FIA Group 3 Grand Touring Car category in 1964. It can reach an incredible 170 miles per hour, making it one of the fastest cars of its time.
7. Mercedes SL 300 Gullwing
The Mercedes SL 300 Gullwing was one of the first sportscars to enter the stage after the war, back in 1954. It was the very first direct fuel injection series production car and could reach up to 160 miles per hour. It was a marvel, and it completely changed the game for Mercedes-Benz, kickstarting its name within luxury circles.
It regularly sells for between $500,000 and $2 million. There were only 3,258 ever built, and 1,400 were coupes. Getting your hands on one means you have one of the rarest vehicles on the planet, aside from the small-edition race cars, of course.
8. Volvo P1800
The Volvo P1800 is a 2+2, front-engine and rear-drive sports car that stole the hearts of many when it was first released in 1961. The series was continued for 11 years and was finally retired in 1972. It is a classic car with an iconic shape, and it is perfect for European streets due to its smaller size. Today you can expect to pay around $77,000 to $92,000 for a 1967 model, though the highest price is $500,000. The vehicle attached to that price tag is actually new. There has been a massive resurgence of classic designs from the top manufacturers. This means that you can get the 2021 Volvo P1800 and enjoy all the modern amenities including a carbon fiber body, a 413-hp engine, and 5-speed manual transition.
9. De Tomaso Pantera
Designed by Tom Tjaarda, this 5.9 L engine, 5-speed manual transmission classic captures the height of the 1970s. With fold-down headlights, a sleek body, and an instantly recognizable design, this vehicle is an absolute classic. You can expect to pay from $50,000 to $250,000 for a classic original that has been refurbished and is once again ready for the road.
Unlike with the Volvo P1800 and many other classic models, there is no chance of a resurgence of the design for future models, as the De Tomaso brand liquidated in 2004, making this a true, capsuled model that can only be found in a classic original.
10. Rolls-Royce Dawn Drophead
Most classic cars are sleek, small, and fast. The Rolls-Royce Dawn Drophead kicks those expectations to the curb with a classic design that we all recognize. It is the oldest model in this batch, and an icon because of it. Initially launched in 1949 and then retired in 1954, this large, striking vehicle was one of the leading ladies when it came to transitioning vehicles out of the post-war era and into a new future where style, design, and craftsmanship reigned supreme. There are only 28 of these vehicles left in the United States, and 50 in total worldwide. All are owned by private collectors.
The good news for fans is that Rolls Royce has released a successor model. This successor is a reimagined, modern version of the original Dawn Drophead, and a great, luxurious option for the modern-day Rolls Royce enthusiast.
As for the originals, they sell for between $280,000 to $400,000.
Though not an extensive list of the most iconic classic cars, these top 10 cover everything from the everyday classic to the race car masters. There are numerous organizations and collectors that allow the public to come and see their vehicles, and some even offer you the chance to drive them. With so many options, you can really experience the greatness of these vehicles, even if you cannot bring one home for yourself.