Last week, we showed you what happens when automotive design goes horribly wrong. In the interest of balance, it seems only fair to show you what happens when designers totally nail it, and create cars that exemplify sheer brilliance in automotive design aesthetic.
I think Bob Lutz is right about the potential “emotional connection” between a car and its driver. For many of us gearheads out there, cars are as much of an object of desire as any long legged dame. Tell me you couldn’t just stare at any of these cars for an unhealthy amount of time. Here are the seven most beautiful (production) cars ever made.
7. - Plymouth Barracuda AAR
More so than any of the other great offerings from the Big Three, the 3rd generation Plymouth Barracuda came to epitomize the muscle car look with its take on the iconic “coke bottle” design.
To compete with the Ford Mustang Boss 302 and Chevrolet Camaro Z28 in the Trans-Am racing series, Plymouth designed this special edition AAR (All American Racing) Barracuda with a purpose-built 340 cube V8 topped with three 2-barrel carburetors, heavy duty suspension and brakes, side pipe exhaust, a unique ram air hood, and some visual changes in terms of stripes and spoilers.
The result was a factory-built race car designed as much for cornering as it was for churning out tire smoke. And somehow Plymouth managed to merge all this engineering together into the aesthetic high watermark for all other muscle cars to strive for. It might not have been the fastest of them all, but it definitely got more than its fair share of head turns, like any proper muscle car should.
6. – Aston Martin DB9
As the first car to be built in Aston’s new Gaydon facility in England, the DB9 was such a huge step forward from the DB7 that Aston decided to skip the DB8 iteration altogether, thinking it might indicate an incremental change from the Jaguar XK8-based DB7 instead of the wholly redesigned car that the DB9 is.
And from a visual standpoint, the DB9 is the Aston Martin, creating the middleground balance of the platform from which other Astons like the Vanquish and the DBS draw upon. While those cars certainly have their own merits, the DB9 measured approach of sex appeal coupled with restraint resulted in a drop-dead gorgeous GT car with genuine style.
5. - 1959 Cadillac Coupe De Ville
What can you say about a long black Cadillac that Johnny Cash, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry haven’t said already? Just look at this thing – the fins, the chrome, the sheer mass of awesome that is a ’59 Coupe Deville. Cars like this make me proud to be an American. It is not possible to look uncool driving one of these.
After 1959, big brother stepped in to stop the awesome madness that was the giant tail fin trend on the cars of the day. As a result, the ’59 Coupe Deville stands as the greatest, and last, genuine statement of Cadillac’s incredible designs from the late 40s to the early 60s.
4. – Jaguar E Type, Series 1
You simply can’t have a list of the most beautiful cars ever made and omit the E Type. This design was a huge jump for Jaguar, and its combination of high performance and great looks tops many people’s lists of the greatest sports cars of the 1960s, including Enzo Ferarri’s.
And the Jag was not just another pretty face, either. Upon its release in 1961, and despite utilizing a somewhat dated motor design, the E type was the fastest production car on the face of the planet, capable of reaching 150mph.
Between the distinction of being one of the first cars designed in a wind tunnel, and having a unique rear independent suspension design that allowed the back of the car to be significantly shorter than a contemporary design, nearly every sports car made since the E type’s introduction has taken some level of influence from this beautiful and capable machine.
3. Lamborghini Reventón
The perfect choice for Bruce Wayne’s “low profile” set of wheels, the Revention’s sheetmetal was inspired by the F-22 fighter jet. Derived from the Murciélago LP640, the Reventón’s run was limited to just twenty cars, each going for about $1.5 million.
Beyond the brand’s legendary performance, Lamborghini has always taken a ballsy approach to design, and avoided the easy, proven routes. The whole sci-fi/Batmobile thing that Lamborghini has been fascinated with ever since the Countach is pretty badass in my opinion, and it’s a testament to the notion that timeless designs are rarely conservative.
2. – Ford GT40
If you ever wondered where the idea for the Mach 5 from the Speed Racer cartoon came from, look no further.
As the story goes, in 1963, Ford was in the late stages of negotiating a deal to buy Ferrari when Enzo Ferrari backed out of the deal at the last minute. This really pissed off Henry Ford II.
Ford commissioned his engineering team, with the help of Lotus, Cooper and Lola, to build a car with the specific purpose of beating Ferrari at the endurance racing circuits, such as the 24 Hours of Lemans. They succeeded. The result of the project was the Ford GT40, the car which went on to win four Lemans races in a row, including a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finish for Ford in 1966.
Beyond its winning prowess and the insane roar of its 427 cube V8, the GT40’s design is just outright intoxicating. It is the stuff of a kid’s daydream, the sort of car that only exists on wall posters. But Ford made it real.
1. – Ferrari 250 GTO
The 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO radiates pure sex. You can thank Sergio Scaglietti, one of Enzo’s favorite designers, for that. The 250 GTO is the result of a perfect marriage between just about every great design aesthetic for sport cars that’d come before it, while it also brought with it many new ideas which auto makers are still trying to recapture to this day.
And it wasn’t just a looker, either – the 250 GTO won the World Manufacturer's Championship in 1962, 1963, and 1964, powered by a 3.0 liter V12 motor with an exhaust note that epitomizes classic Ferrari.
Since Ferrari only made 36 of these cars in total, their rarity makes them a little pricey these days. Earlier this year, an anonymous English buyer won a 250 GTO at auction for the mind blowing sum of £15.7 million, or about 30 million dollars.
Beauty ain’t cheap. But it’s worth it.