Ask anyone about their dream car and they will have an answer at the ready. Over the past eight decades, we have seen some of the most beautiful, unique, and stylish cars that rose to fame and popularity for various reasons. As Americans begin to spend more time on the roads, it’s appropriate to take a look back at the vehicles that have shaped our country, culture, and driving habits.
Classic Car Terms
While reading, visiting, or watching car shows on TV, you’ll come across some unique car terms. We’ve highlighted some of the most common.
- Antique: Used to describe vehicles from 1916 onwards.
- Cabriolet: French word meaning convertible
- Classic: The Classic Car Club of America declares “classic” as a vehicle built between 1925 and 1942.
- Club Coupe: Hard-top, two-door car with a small rear seat
- Coupe DeVille: Was the term for any car with a fixed roof over the back seat but a convertible over the driver.
- Drag Plates: Metal plates with the car club’s name and logo
- Hard Top: A car designed like a convertible but with a very rigid top
- Matching Numbers: When the engine and transmission are marked with the same VIN number.
- Muscle Car: A medium-sized car built between 1964 and 1972 with large displacement engines.
- O.E.M.: Original Equipment Manufacturer. Used to identify when a part is from the original manufacturer.
- Roadster: A two-seat convertible without side windows.
- Vintage: A car built between 1916 and 1924
- VIN: Vehicle Identification Number, the car’s unique serial number
Most Iconic Cars from Each Decade
Now for the fun! Let’s take a look back at some of the classic cars since WWII.
The 1940’s: The Jeep
The Willys-Overland Jeep is a vehicle from WWII, and its legacy is as strong as the Jeep itself. It’s considered rugged and was designed with wheels that can function in almost every situation. It was used by both the U.S. and our allies as a scouting vehicle and needed to be prepared to take on most conditions. Originally designed as a military vehicle, it made its way into civilian life after the war.
The 1950’s: Chevrolet Corvette
The Vette has undergone many incarnations over the years, but the original from the 50’s is an all-time classic car. A roadster, the Corvette became legal to drive on the streets in 1953. The sleek design was smaller and fit in well with many of the trends apparent during that decade. It was also America’s take on the European models that were popular. During this time, most families had large sedans. The Corvette was considered America’s first sports car.
The 1960’s: Volkswagen Beetle
As the large American sedans previously mentioned began to lose interest amongst across the country, people started looking for a cost-effective and smaller alternative. The answer was the Beetle. It came to fruition in Nazi Germany when Porsche was asked to create a car for the people. The Beetle survived even after the war and peaked in the 60’s. The car was brought back in 2003 selling almost 21 million.
The 1970’s: Lamborghini Countach
Not Lamborghini’s first significant hit, it was the car the put them on the map. In fact, there is no car in the past 40-years that can match the Countach’s star power. It’s defined by its iconic swinging doors, wedge shape, and v12 engine. The name “Countach” is Italian slang meaning “Holy Cow” and is the perfect name considering the success the company had with bringing this make and model to the people.
1980’s: Dodge Caravan
Vans always existed, but they weren’t tailored for families. They were mostly utilitarian or turned into campers by some of the roaming hippies from the 70’s. However, that all changed with Chrysler who decided to design the first family-oriented minivan the Dodge Caravan in 1983. They provided families with a level of convenience that they had never experienced before. Today, however, the minivan from the 80’s has been replaced by SUVs.
The 1990’s: Ford Explorer
You know those SUVs we just mentioned? They were made famous by the introduction of the Ford Explorer back in the early 90’s. The Explorer did something similar to the SUV that the Caravan did to vans: it changed the perspective. SUVs were rugged all-terrain vehicles. The Explorer, on the other hand, was appropriate for the road and suitable for families. While the model did get some backlash over the amount of gas consumed, no other SUV has had the same impact.
The 2000’s: Toyota Prius
Even though the 90’s went SUV crazy, Toyota spent a lot of time and money developing an anti-SUV. The result? The Prius. It was the first car available commercially to use Hybrid Synergy Drive. What it provided drivers was a gas/electric hybrid that was fuel efficient and cut down on emissions. The infamous profile of the Prius was actually the second generation. At the time, most people found it to be hideous, but Toyota has gone on to sell over 6 million Priuses.
The 2010’s: Tesla Model S
Tesla CEO Elon Musk decided to show the world that electric cars aren’t just for the golf course. He wanted to create something that was fast and attractive. He achieved just that with the Model S. It was voted Car of the Year in 2013 and for a good reason. It’s comfortable, stylish, safe, and very luxurious. Since its inception, the model has undergone performance and range upgrades but creating one of the first all-electric cars as beautifully as this will definitely go down in history.
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