Last 50 years of automotive industry have been more than incredible. We’ve came from ridiculously thirsty V8 engines, to fully electric vehicles that can blow almost any supercar out of the water with their performance. A huge number of cars and car models have been made in those 50 years, but there are some which gained a legendary status for one reason or another. We’re here to present you with 52 coolest cars of the last 50 years.
1963 Aston Martin DB5
What is probably one of the most famous Bond cars ever is also one of the best cars Aston Martin has ever built. The Aston Martin DB5 was just above and beyond anything the competition had to offer both in terms of engineering and performance. This legendary car is still considered to represent the golden age of Aston Martin.
1963 Studebaker Avanti
With a goal of creating a high end luxury car, Studebaker created the now famous Avanti. It was a misunderstood car at the time, and it didn’t live to see mass production, however it was one of the best automobiles of its time period. Avanti offered numerous solutions that couldn’t be found anywhere else, but clumsy logistics killed it before it could reach fame.
1963 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
By far one of the most popular, and best looking Corvettes ever made, the Stingray was a special car. The design was completely new at the time, and it reflected a new wave of American automotive design. Many later models took inspiration from this legendary Corvette.
1964 Lincoln Continental Convertible
Simple in appearance, this incredible car was the pinnacle of Detroit automotive industry for a good while. You will hardly find a more iconic American convertible than the 1964 Lincoln Continental. This car had it all, the style, comfort, and most importantly, a presence.
1965 Matra Djet
If you want to know which car is responsible for the now standard mid-engine design, this is it. The French made 1965 Matra Djet was innovative in many ways. It offered disc brakes on all four wheels, while also introducing completely independent rear suspension.
1965 Shelby Cobra 427
There are only a handful of cars that depict that American don’t-give-a-damn attitude, and this Shelby Cobra is definitely one of them. It has more power than it could ever need, sounds like something found in deepest pits of hell, and comes with a driving sensation you will rarely find anywhere else.
1965 Shelby GT350R
In a desperate attempt to save his business, Carroll Shelby created a true legend. The 1965 Shelby GT350R is one of his finest works, and one that completely changed the public opinion when it came to Mustangs. Fine balance between power and agility, combined with near perfect engineering is what this Shelby is all about.
1965 Jaguar E-Type Coupe Series 1 4.2
British are known for their finesse when it comes to making cars, but non of that was found in the 1965 Jaguar E-Type Coupe Series 1 4.2. No, this car was all about raw power, sexy looks that were pretty unconventional, and performance that backed up the whole package.
1966 Oldsmobile Toronado
While it may look like another American muscle car, the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado stood out from the pack in several ways. First and foremost it was a front-wheel drive car with a powerful V8 engine, which was definitely not too common back in the day. Besides that, it was also a luxury automobile in a very aggressive body.
1966 Alfa Romeo Spider
Known for its appearance in The Graduate, the 1966 Alfa Romeo Spider is truly a legendary car. This convertible came with no roof, a very interesting aluminum engine, and design that made it look very stylish even back in the day. If you wanted to stand out, this Alfa Romeo was the car you were looking for.
1967 Gurney Eagle-Weslake MK1
There are not too many F1 cars that achieved the level of fame as the 1967 Gurney Eagle-Weslake MK1. Aside from being driven by the legendary Dan Gurney, it was also one of the best looking F1 cars ever made. They say that aesthetics are irrelevant in top tier motor sport, but this car proved that you can have both the performance and good looks.
1967 Mazda Cosmo
Every owner of the Mazda RX-7, or any Mazda with a rotary engine should know about Mazda Cosmo. It was the first model to introduce the said engine, and the one responsible for the following success of this new technology. Aside from innovative engine, Cosmo was definitely a well built car in all other aspects.
1967 Ferrari 330 P4
Considered to be one of the more exotic looking Ferraris ever made, the 330 P4 was and still is a very special car. It’s hard to come by these days, at least if you are looking for a mint condition one, and collectors who own them won’t separate from their piece no matter the price.
1967 Ferrari Dino 206 GT
While Enzo hated the idea of small and affordable vehicles, his son Dino was adamant about it. Being his pet project, Ferrari Dino 206 GT was actually a success. It won over numerous drivers with its simplicity, balance of performance and price, both of which are not your regular Ferrari attributes.
1967 Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale
Long before FIAT acquired Alfa Romeo, this manufacturer was making some of the most outrageous cars on the market. The Tipo 33 Stradale is a perfect example of what Alfa Romeo was capable at the time. It was loud, fast, and so uncomfortable to drive, yet you could hardly stay away from it. The Tipo 33 Stradale defined the best era of Alfa Romeo to date.
1969 Datsun 240Z
Also known as Nissan S30, the 240Z is the Japanese vintage car to own. Yoshihiko Matsuo’s creation is one of the most iconic Japanese cars ever made, and it didn’t take long before it mesmerized the automotive world with its design and performance.
1969 Lola T70
There were many sport cars in the late 60s that could blow the T70 out of the water when it came to performance, but none could even come close when it came to pure character. This car looked like an epitome of a sports car at the time, and showed the masses that performance doesn’t necessarily need finesse.
1970 Citroen SM
French car manufacturer Citroen is known for their unique designs, especially in late 60s and early 70s. Citroen SM was a showcase of their capability both in terms of engineering and design. This thing could reach 140 mph with an engine producing just 170 horsepower. To be honest, even today this is still a great achievement.
1970 Chaparral 2J
If you ever wondered what happens when you let your engineers lose, the 1970 Chaparral 2J may give you the taste of possible outcomes. This unique vehicle was mixture of a car and a snowmobile, which produced some incredible results when it comes to speed. It’s as practical as a bull in a china shop, but it stands as a reminder to future engineers that anything is possible.
1972 De Tomaso Pantera
During a time when the Ford GT40 was looked upon as the hottest thing you could possibly own, De Tomaso Pantera offered a discount version that was much more affordable. It had the looks and performance that was thrilling, while it came at a price a regular Joe would find attainable.
1972 BMW 2002tii
Long before the first M3 rolled off the production line, BWM 2002tii was the best you could expect from German car manufacturers. This compact sedan was powerful, agile, and most importantly reliable. Everything we love about the M3 was forged in this car, and we are more than grateful.
1973 Lancia Stratos HF
When most car enthusiasts think of Lancia Stratos, first thing that comes to mind is usually Rally Group 4, and all the crazy things that happened during this golden time of motorsports history. It was the first project Bertone has done in cooperation with Lancia, and the car quickly entered the hall of fame.
1975 Golf Mk1 GTI
Golf Mk1 GTI was the original hot hatch that created a whole new market category. VW wanted to offer more performance in their flagship economy car, and the GTI was their solution. Needless to say, it was an instant success which spawned numerous subsequent iterations of this legendary model.
1975 AMC Gremlin
AMC Gremlin holds a special place in automotive history, not because it was an exceptional car performance wise, but because of its funky design and huge following. It was supposed to be the domestic option for an affordable subcompact, and it did a great job for an entire generation of drivers.
1977 Lamborghini Countach LP400
What is definitely one of the most iconic cars ever made, was considered a completely mad idea at the time. The Countach LP400 was a completely off the hook sports car that stunned the world with its performance and incredible design. It is to this day one of the best things Lamborghini has ever made.
1977 Lotus 78
Efficiency is everything in racing, and Lotus definitely showed their mastery of aerodynamics with their 1977 Lotus 78. This car didn’t fight air, it used to the fullest extent and the results were simply amazing. Lotus 78 definitely changed the way the industry designed certain parts of these cars forever.
1978 Pontiac Trans Am
To this day it’s not really clear how this car became so popular. It was mediocre at best, and offered no significant advantages over its competition at the time. However, thanks to the famous movie whose main protagonist drove a Pontiac Trans Am, the sales skyrocketed. Even so, this Pontiac was never supposed to be that popular.
1979 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen
What differentiates the G-Wagen from the competition is its incredibly low center of mass, reliable mechanics, and as of recently ride comfort. This four-wheel drive SUV can conquer some pretty daring inclines, and go through most unforgiving terrain with ease.
1984 Toyota Land Cruiser J70
While it’s not the first Land Cruiser ever made, it is truly the most iconic one. Known for its reliability and unprecedented off-road capabilities, the J70 Land Cruiser is the vehicle of choice of many armies around the world, and bad guys alike. There is no better way to conquer the deserts of Africa than in one of these incredible cars.
1985 SAAB 900 SPG
You could say that SAAB 900 SPG was a showcase of sorts, demonstrating what this Swedish car manufacturer was capable of, and how little they cared about what is considered canon in automotive design. The engine and transmission were done in a way that was never seen before, however everything worked perfectly.
1985 Audi Sport Quattro S1
For all intents and purposes, the history of rally has two separate periods, before and after Audi Sport Quattro S1. The introduction of four-wheel drive completely turned this sport around, and while it’s not exclusively used today, Audi has proven that four-wheel drive systems are not only for off-road use.
1986 Lancia Delta HF
Rally Group B was one of the most intense competitions in the world, but it also spawned some of the best and most legendary cars to date. Lancia Delta HF was one of the cars that entered the hall of fame thanks to its impressive performance and capabilities demonstrated in Group B rally.
1986 Mercedes-Benz W124 Hammer
After the expected success of the W124 platform in mid 80s, Mercedes-Benz decided to turn things up a notch. They’ve decided to release a completely mad version of this car with an overpowered V8 engine, and stupendous amounts of torque. The W124 Hammer was a true lunatic’s car, but it was simply beautiful.
1986 Jeep Wrangler
There are only few vehicles that come to mind when you think of off-road adventures or rock crawling, and Jeep Wrangler is almost always the first choice. It’s a legendary 4×4 that has proven its worth numerous times by now, and is loved all over the world. s
1987 Buick Grand National GNX
Back in the day, if you wanted a fast muscle car that wouldn’t break your bank account, Buick Grand National GNX was your best choice. The turbocharged V6 engine was capable of delivering some serious performance that could even put a Corvette in the rear view mirror. All at an affordable price for an average driver.
1987 Ruf CTR-001 Yellowbird
A Porsche 911 is a piece of art on its own, delivering performance that has become legendary by now. But, what happens when a genius car tuner grabs a hold of one, and works his magic? A 1987 Ruf CTR-001 Yellowbird is the answer. This 911 was at the time one of the fastest cars in the world.
1988 BMW M5
It was by far the fastest sedan you could buy when it came out, and it marked a very significant point in automotive history. When the 1988 BMW M5 came out, drivers around the world rejoiced, and BMW’s competition got the first taste of the troubles that were coming.
1988 BMW M3
Similar to it’s bigger brother, the M3 offered unprecedented performance for a compact sedan, and quickly became globally popular among car enthusiasts. The 1988 BMW M3 E30 is still considered to be the best in the series even to this day. It is truly a special car.
1989 Audi 90 Quattro IMSA GTO
This very special Audi 90 model made its appearance for a very brief moment, taking away the spotlight with its performance. It was developed strictly for the IMSA GTO championship after Trans-Am banned all-wheel drive in 1989. During its only active season in the IMSA GTO races, it came in at second place that season. The lessons learned were then quickly transferred to German DTM races.
1990 Honda NSX
When Honda NSX rolled out in 1990, it brought so many innovative features that left a huge mark on the industry for years to come. It featured all-aluminum body and engine with VTEC system, and performance that put most Ferraris to shame.
1991 Mazda 787B
Mazda 787B won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1991, becoming the first Japanese team to ever achieve that. What makes this win even more exciting is the fact that Mazda 787B featured a tuned version of the R26B rotary engine. A naturally aspirated 2.6 liter, 700hp unit that screamed like a banshee down the track.
1992 McLaren F1
When it first came out, McLaren F1 was the fastest car in the world, while it didn’t lack the agility and handling either. It was unusual for its single seat configuration as well, which was something you rarely ever saw in production cars up to that point. McLaren F1 is without a doubt one of the most innovative cars ever made.
1992 Williams Renault FW14B
Even to this day, the Williams Renault FW14 and FW14B are considered to be some of the most advanced F1 cars ever made. Most of the features introduced by these models ended up banned by the F1 regulations afterward. When the FW14 came out, it simply outclassed anything on the track at the time, and gave the Williams drivers a clear advantage over the competition.
1995 Mazda Miata
It’s not the prettiest nor the fastest coupe in the world, but Mazda Miata is definitely one of the most lovable ones. This no-nonsense little car has grown a gigantic following, and is known as a very capable platform for those who like to play with their cars.
1997 Thrust SSC
You may wonder why we added this machine to our list of coolest cars, since it’s technically a jet on wheels, but the Thrust SSC earned it’s place here as the fastest wheeled object in the world. It managed to reach the speeds of 763 mph on the flat desert track, breaking the sound barrier.
1997 Panoz Esperante
Panoz Esperante represents one man’s idea, hard work, and dream come true. Don Panoz wanted to make a Le Mans prototype with front engine displacement, which is definitely not the standard in this league. His success was limited, but while trying to reach his goal, Panoz created one of the coolest cars ever.
2005 Lotus Elise
While others tried to achieve performance with huge engines, Lotus took a whole different approach and created one of the best handling cars ever made. The 2005 Lotus Elise is not the first of its kind, but it’s one of the best iterations available. Small and super light, Elise achieved wonders both on and off the track.
2006 Corvette C6.R
The C6.R Corvette is one of the more recent models of this car which managed to win the Le Mans, without looking like something that would fall apart off the track. It’s one of Pratt & Miller’s best creations so far, and it deserves a mention on any list.
2006 Audi R8
When Audi decided to bring their Audi track mini wonder to the market as a street legal sports car, some critics were suspicious. Thankfully for Audi, as soon as R8 left the production line, it became a hit. It offered superb handling, balanced power, and a very exotic design which was completely new in Audi lineup.
2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302
Mustangs come in various flavors, but one is definitely special. The Mustang Boss is a sub-brand that always signified finest performance and abundance of power. The 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 once again broke the stereotype of Mustangs being only good on a straight patch of road, offering performance likes of which are not even seen in recent European sport sedans.
2013 Tesla Model S
In a sea of hybrids and underwhelming electric vehicles, Tesla Model S made huge waves with its unprecedented performance and style. Tesla has proven that electric vehicles can look mean, and go fast while still being more efficient than their internal combustion counterparts. This thing will leave anything short of a Veyron in its rear view mirror, without burning a drop of gas.
2014 BMW i8
While it’s not nearly as impressive as Tesla Model S, the BMW i8 brings forth numerous futuristic solutions and technologies we may see become standard in near future. It’s a first sign from BMW which shows that this German giant is ready to begin their involvement in EV segment.