Sometimes, manufacturers make really good cars. Then, some manufacturers make great cars. Cars that are so good, they become an icon. Cars that are revered for generations. These are cars that have their own cult-like fan base.
To list every one would require the space of a novel, so we’ll only look at an arbitrary few. For the same reasons, I’ve decided not to include TV/movie cars. (I apologize in advance to fans of Knight Rider, Magnum P.I, Dukes of Hazzard, Bullitt, Back to the Future..you see my point.). So without further ado:
You know how sometimes a brand becomes so popular, it becomes the product? Like how the Hoover is a make of vacuum cleaner, not a synonym of it. Well the Jeep is another example. How often have you heard someone who doesn’t know much about cars refer to any 4X4 as a Jeep? It’s not hard to see why. As a cheap, sturdy means of transport with off road capabilities, they have been everywhere, be it the battlefields of WW2 or the suburbs of Philadelphia.
In its 70 year history it has appeared in many forms; from the 1941 Willys MA, designed just for the US Army, to the Grand Wagoneer which was the longest produced vehicle in the USA.
Jeeps are used by people from all walks of life. They’ve been police cars, fire engines and desert buggies. Parts are simple, vastly available and reliable so its no surprise that there are so many old ones still on the road. Those who use them love them, therefore it’s not uncommon to see them personalised.
If you are baffled by the status they enjoy, don’t worry. It’s a Jeep thing. You wouldn’t understand.
If ever there was a car that represented an entire nation, it was the Ford Mustang, the king of muscle cars. It was cheap, sporty and incredibly popular with sales topping 680,000 units in its first year alone, a record which has never been beaten.
Gran Torinos, Barracudas and Pontiac GTOs all came and went, but the Mustang was the muscle car that outlived them all. In its 50 year history, it has existed in six generations with numerous body styles and special editions, yet the basic recipe remains unchanged: cheap, powerful and rwd.
But the Ford Mustang was more than just an iconic car. It is part of American culture. It symbolizes the ‘live and let live’ attitude of the 1960s America, when the economy was booming, music was good and times were a’changin. You can’t get more American then that.
Mustang owners love their cars. The fan base is huge, with owners from all backgrounds. Be it a 16 year old restoring his first classic or a 60 year olds who has owned his for 40 years, there’s a Ford Mustang for everybody.
The Mclaren F1 ticks all the right supercar boxes. It held the record for fastest road car for 12 years. It proved hugely successful in motor sports, winning its debut at Le Mans. It has an engine bay lined with gold and to this day, it remains the fastest naturally aspirated road car in the world.
The Mclaren was designed to be the world’s finest drivers’ car; a goal that many agree was achieved. The driving experience is not hampered by electronic aids or outdated technology- it is simply man controlling machine. It even has a central driving position like an F1 car.
The Mclaren is even practical by supercar standards. It seats three, has good outward visibility and adequate luggage space. Mclaren still maintain each car, even though production ended 14 years ago. It’s exclusive too – only 62 road variants were made at a price of one million dollars. Today a Mclaren F1 will cost you more than 4 times as much. Unsurprising really, considering the legend it has become.
Lamborghinis always have been the quintessential supercar. Each model is a hyperbole, the ultimate poster car. They’ve never had the highest figures or prestige, but have always been the most outrageous. Lamborghinis have always been about excitement, which is what makes them great.
Ferrucio Lamborghini started his own car company when dissatisfied with Ferrari’s customer service. A few years later Lamborghini made the Miura, And though the interior was cramped and uncomfortable, it was the fastest and most ornate car in the world.
Then came the Countach which was difficult to drive and slower than rivals, but looked like a spaceship. It had doors that swung upwards and massive wings. It was the ultimate expression of defiance, It was the same case with the Diablo and Murcielago- not the fastest in their category, but certainly the most flamboyant.
That is what Lamborghini does right. It captures the heart of your inner child, and is why everybody loves them.
The Nissan Skyline is the Ford Mustang of Japan. It is a favourite of JDM enthusiasts. Whichever competition you can think of, chances are a Skyline has won it, making the car very popular with the drifting and tuner culture. The models that are loved most are the R32s to R34s.
They are relatively for the performance they offer, and highly tunable. The current generation, the R35 is competitive with cars that cost 3 times as much and with more power.
Whereas there have been many great tuner cars, none have really stolen the show like the Skyline has.
The above are just a few of the great cars throughout the decades. There is no checklist for what makes a car popular. Some are a one model wonder, others last decades in production. They can be the stuff of dreams or extremely affordable.
What is certain however, is that cult-cars are not just confined to motoring circles- some become well known enough to represent an entire culture: these are the great cars that no doubt have a place in the history books.