Help me compile the real definitive list of the best ever cars

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James Elliott
James Elliott's picture
Joined: 2011-03-11

All you have to do is select your top five (from any era) in any or all categories with your first choice receiving 25 points, your runner-up 20 and so on until your fifth choice receives five points. If you want to add some brief explanatory notes for your choices, that would be better still.

Here are the categories, with no date restrictions at all – it can be anything from the Benz Patent Motorwagen of 1886 to whatever potent little sexbomb Kia is launching this week:

Best drivers’ car

Most beautiful car

Most important car

Best all-rounder (including practicality!)

Your dream car (money no object)

Chris Martin
Joined: 2011-08-20

First I have to repeat my distrust of lists of anything as subjective as this as of course as soon as we all get it done, we can have second, or third, thoughts, but here goes my one and only attempt. As an exercise in  clear thinking it is an interesting challenge so I have set myself the goal of typing this while reading only what drivel I am typing on the screen in front of me and deliberately NOT referring to the books and magazines that surround me. That would be too easy!

Best drivers’ car;

1 – Mercedes 450SEL W116 S-Class; although most would claim the rare 6.9 to be superior, I have never driven one.

2 – Rolls Royce Silver Shadow; wafting along silently in a comfy leather armchair with an unavoidable air of superiority, the sort of transport one could get addicted to and then nothing (except maybe if you can find a good survivor Mercedes as above) comes close, even if RR do owe a little credit to borrowing Citroen hydraulics and the General’s auto ‘box.

3 – Swift FB90; probably any well set-up Formula Ford single seater would qualify, but I have not tried any since ’91. I am sure a lot would list here their respective idea of a good fun sports car, but realistically, it is irresponsible and anti-social to push the limits of most modern day machinery on public roads, but if the adrenalin rush from driving right on the limit is your favourite drug, then I would recommend a comfortable, (sensible even) everyday car, and spend the price of a decent 911 on a year’s club racing.

4 – Jaguar XJ6 Series 1; similar to my first two choices, but although they were a lot cheaper in their day, a good one now would not be.

5 – Alfasud; the first little front-driver I drove after the ubiquitous Mini and far superior in both ride and handling, made the origianal Golf GTI  feel like a truck.

Most beautiful car;

1 – Delage D8 by Letourner et Marchand; see dream cars below.

2 – Citroen DS; amazing in ’55, and still is. There never has been before or since, a clean sheet design for an affordable everyday regular production car to equal it.

3 – AC Cobra 289; only the first generation models before they grew wide arches etc. And definitely NO STRIPES !

4 – 1971 Buick Riviera – Bill Mitchell’s last masterpiece, who would have thought scaling the mid-sixties Corvette roof up to Buick’s barge like dimensions would work?

5 – Studebaker Avanti; Raymond Loewy matched anything by Bill Mitchell with this one.

Most important car;

1 – 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen; obvious, and not just because James mentioned it above, but we have to start somewhere. Some may go even further back to Cugnot!

2 – Ford Model T; inevitable with hindsight, but somebody had to simplify and refine the horseless carriage into an affordable everyday car for the masses.

3 – VW Beetle; taking the Model T concept of simplicity to the next generation or two.

4 – Citroen DS; for showing that thinking outside the norm could produce something more useful than just a weird showcar concept.

5 – Mini; obvious I know, but it changed the industry forever.

Best all-rounder (including practicality!);

1 – Range Rover; the first and original model. Made the off-roader trendy for city use, but has never been beaten for style.

2 – Volvo 240 Estate, preferably automatic; go anywhere, take anything, fear nobody! And yes, I did use to deal a bit around the antique markets in the days before eBay.

3 – Mini Metro; or probably any other small Mini-influenced commuter car with a hatchback, but this applies to city dwellers only.

4 – Ford Model T; practical in terms of longevity and serviceability, many are still going after a hundred years and all parts are easily available. And tough as!

5 – Ford Transit; look at it as a blank canvas; they have been built for just about every practical use you can imagine.

Your dream car (money no object);

1 – Facel Vega HK500; the perfect combination of glitz and grunt.

2 – Bugatti T35; everybody’s favourite ‘little blue racer’ but just about unaffordable now, even the Pur Sang replicas are lottery money.

3 – Cord 810/812 Beverly Sedan; more attainable for the average buyer than a Phaeton and to my eye better looking anyway.

4 – Delage D8 by Letourner et Marchand; a touch more refined and graceful than the more obvious Figoni & Falaschi creations on a thoroughbred chassis.

5 – Rolls Royce Camargue; surely a future design classic that is selling at bargain prices right now, best grab one while I still can.

And while we are at it, may I suggest another category that James overlooked;

Automotive dead-ends;

1 – Toyota Prius; ill thought out concept led by marketing people rather than engineers to cash in on the trendy ‘Green’ ideas of those simpletons who think they are helping save the planet. Sorry mate, there’s no such thing as free energy, and when the streets are cluttered with abandoned Prius’s because nobody can afford to replace the batteries how ‘green’ will they look then?

2 – Austin 3 Litre; sorry Martin B. But what were Austin trying to prove? If they had badged it as a Wolseley it might even have sold.

3 – Fiat Panda 4X4; where was it supposed to go?

4 – Chevrolet Volt; see Prius.

5 – Bugatti Veyron, or any so-called Supercar capable of going faster than 300kph; where are you going to use it?

Chris M.


Mario Laguna
Joined: 2011-08-29

Best drivers’ car
1-246GT Dino NART
2- Porsche 911S 2,4
3-Lotus Elan
4-Fiat 750 Abarth Zagato
5-Audi Quattro

Most beautiful car
1-Ferrari 206 Dino
2- Porsche 911
3- Ferrari 275GTB
4- Lancia Flaminia Zagato
5-Alfa Romeo Giulia spider

Most important car
1-Porsche 917
2-Ferarri P3
3-Citroën DS
4-BMC Mini
5-Ford T

Best all-rounder (including practicality!)
1-Porsche 911
2-BMW M1
3-VW Polo GTI
4-Alpine-Renault A110
5-Mercedes-Benz 280SL

Your dream car (money no object)
1-Pegaso Z-102 Touring Superleggera
2-Porsche 917
3- Ferrari 250LM
4-Jaguar D-Type
5-Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster


Joined: 2012-08-03

Most beautiful car

1. Bugatti 57 SC Atlantic

2. Monteverdi Berlinetta

3. Ferrari 250 GT Californa Spider

4. Bucciali TAV 8-32 Saoutchik 'Fleche d'Or' Berline

5. Tatra 77

Most important car

1. Mini

2. Citroen Traction Avant

3. Porsche 911

4. NSU Ro 80

5. Range Rover

Your dream car (money no object)

1. Monteverdi Hai

2. De Tomaso Deauville

3. Cord 812 Beverly Sedan

4. Toyota 2000 GT

5. Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B

Joined: 2011-09-19

Just stumbled upon this so not had a chance to compile a proper list but AMAZED that the Austin 7 hasn't featured in a "most important" list when surely it should head all of them?

Relatively affordable motoring in a format the we can still recognise (unlike bizarre devices like the Model T), helped create BMW (Dixi), Jeep (American Bantam) (and there's always that controversial Datsun link) not to mention Jaguar (Swallow Seven) and then spawned several generations of motorsport specials and sportscar companies.

A giant-killer in every sense.


Joined: 2011-10-23

Best drivers' car
1) Nissan GT-R (I know it's modern, but the grip is phenomenal, and its ability to resist both oversteer and understeer and breakneck speeds is incredible. The performance is pretty amazing too - it does 0-62mph in 2.7 seconds.)
2) Toyota GT-86 (Another modern car, but this one is awesome as well. It's RWD and has been given skinny tyres from a Prius so that its limits can be found at legal speeds. The 200bhp engine is naturally aspirated, so you really have to rev it to get the best out of it, which is good, and even with the lack of power, the skinny tyres allow for plenty of oversteer. It also has a proper manual 'box too, unlike most modern sportscars.)
3) Mini Cooper (A tad predictable, I know, but it has to be in there somewhere. A properly chuckable car that I want to own more and more every time I see the Italian Job. An incredible little car.)
4) Honda Integra Type-R (Well, it was between this or the new Clio Renaultsport. It's a FWD car that understeers and torque steers as little as possible, but it has all the advantages of a FWD car, from packaging to front end grip.)
5) Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0 (I'm not a 911 man, but there's something special about that mechanical gearshift, that light front end, the sound of a flat-six and the performance to match. There was only one 911 with the 4.0 engine, and it was made to mark the end of production of the previous generation 911 which is still being made - the 997.)

Most beautiful car
1) Alfa Romeo Guilia Sprint (It's what the Italians do best. Stunning lines that just asked to be looked at.)
2) Jaguar XKSS (The XKSS has all the lovely features from the E-Type, such as the long bonnet and beautifully crafted doors.)
3) Mercedes-Benz SLS (I know it's another modern car, but the long bonnet and gullwing doors are just excellent. The gullwing doors meet in the middle of the roof meaning that they open upwards. This means that you can actually park closer to things than you could with a conventional car and still get out.)
4) Ferrari 250GT California (Do I really have to explain? No? Good.)
5) Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake (I know, another modern car. Another Merc as well. This one is based upon the CLS saloon, a saloon based on the E-Class, but with coupe-like lines and a coupe like shape. It had lovely pillarless doors, too. The Shooting Brake maintains a coupe-like shape - even the windows curve down at the back like a coupe. It really is a stunner, and you can get it with a huge V8. And a Cherrywood boot floor.)

Most important car
1) Mini (For its packaging.)
2) Ford Model-T (First car to be mass-produced.)
3) Mercedes-Benz S-Class (For featuring technology that always ends up filtering down to mainstream cars of the future.)
4) Jensen FF (The car that showed that 4WD wasn't just for offroad vehicles.)
5) Smart City-Coupe (A globally successful city car that has had a huge effect on 21st century motoring.)

Best all-rounder
1) Nissan GT-R (OK, I've used this car already, but it's practical, good looking, insanely fast in a straight line, capable of generating face-remoulding G-forces in the bends, good on poor road conditions thanks to 4WD, comfortable, relatively economical, loaded with equipment, reliable and incredible value.)
2) Mercedes-Benz E300H estate (A seven seater diesel hybrid with more bootspace than any other estate car on sale. The electric motor doesn't intrude into ther interior as it is mounted alongside the 204bhp turbocharged four cylinder diesel engine that has loads of torque and is refined. It's economical on long journeys at speed thanks to tall gearing and loads of torque and is also economical around town, using sometimes just power from the batteries that recharge from the car's used energy, so you only fill it up with fuel like a normal car. It does about 70mpg and it's fast. It also handles well and looks good. The estate version has seven seats.)
3) Renault Grand Espace (A huge, comfortable and versatile seven seater with loads of room for all occupants as well as room for luggage space with seven passengers. With the seats down, it's more practical than some vans.)
4) Fiat Panda 4x4 (A small nimble hatchback that's cute, quirky and easy to park with genuine offroad ability.)
5) Ford F450 (Because it's massive and has a huge diesel engine and it's really cool.)

Your dream car
1) Nissan GT-R (Laugh all you want. My dream car is a Nissan. Thing is, this car does all you could ever ask for and so much more. It's better than brilliant in every way and is the ultimate car of the moment.)
2) Mercedes-Benz SLS (A usable supercar that's immensely fast, a riot to drive and easy to live with day-to-day.)
3) Alfa Romeo Guilia Sprint (I'd probably never drive it. I'd just stand there and look at it for hours on end.)
4) Aston Martin DB5 (Everyone wants to be James Bond, don't they?)
5) Aston Martin V12 Vantage (A beautiful coupe with a naturally aspirated V12 engine, RWD and a manual gearbox. Utter perfection, and that's before you hear it.)

Chris Martin
Joined: 2011-08-20

I_Drink_Petrol wrote:

Just stumbled upon this so not had a chance to compile a proper list but AMAZED that the Austin 7 hasn't featured in a "most important" list when surely it should head all of them?

Relatively affordable motoring in a format the we can still recognise (unlike bizarre devices like the Model T), helped create BMW (Dixi), Jeep (American Bantam) (and there's always that controversial Datsun link) not to mention Jaguar (Swallow Seven) and then spawned several generations of motorsport specials and sportscar companies.

A giant-killer in every sense.


If nobody has yet included it, then maybe there is a reason. If you think otherwise, let's have your list, and by the time James has finished counting we may see a truer picture.

I can see where you get the idea, but to put it in perspective, the Seven was not much more than a scaled down Ford T anyway. Austin had been known for making impressive luxurious Edwardians but by the time the war was over society had changed and Austin changed with it to try to make a small car for the masses. Introduced14 years after the T Ford, and lasting until '39, again 12 years after the Ford was replaced, but at the time of it's introduction in 1922 it is worth noting that half the cars in the world were Model T Fords.

That is a statistical fact.

I am not sure what you refer to as being bizarre about the T, it stands to reason that the majority learned to drive in one at that time, and the only real difference today to set it apart from others of the era is the two-speed planetary transmission, which is easy to master, and the design of which forms the basis of modern automatics.

Austin wanted part of it's success, and who could blame him, so Sir Herbert even resorted to lobbying parliament to change the taxation system in favour of his little car, at once slashing Ford sales in England. The TT truck was still a big seller, as commercials were exempt, and Ford did later offer a smaller 2 litre engine in some European markets, but the trend in Britain was already away from the larger American cars anyway.

As for the foreign satellite operations, yes the Dixi did become BMW, but compared to the importance of the 328 and the 'bikes it is not a great landmark,and most histories of that company regard the late fifties bubble cars as the true saviours of the name, and the sixties sedans as the start of the real BMW marque. And Ford already had a plant in Cologne.

Rosengart made a few in France, and then? Ford already had a plant in Bordeaux.

Nissan did copy a Seven, at a time when the Japanese were copying everything and anything, but Ford had appointed Sale & Frazer as agents as early as 1910 based in Yokohama, and as demand increased Ford took over this plant in '24 to commence manufacturing in their own name.

The Bantam in the USA was always doomed as a dead end. Austin had launched the Seven to the American public in 1930 and began manufacturing in Pennsylvania immediately, but Austin America was bankrupt by '34 and bought for $5,000 by Roy Evans who tried to continue to sell them with jazzed up bodies as the Bantam. I think these are some of the best looking small cars from the thirties but the US car buyers were not as impressed and they never really took off. This company, by now nothing to do with Austin, tendered for the government contract for what became the Jeep, but lost out to Ford and Willys mainly because they did not have the manufacturing facilities required.

As for the Jaguar connection, again a tenuous one, but yes Swallow Sidecars did do a neat line in rebodied Sevens (as well as other cars) and later changed their name to Jaguar, but the only relevant ancestry starts with the Standard based SS cars.

Statistically, to put another perspective on it, the Ford Motor Company built over 15 million Model Ts between 1908 and 1927. The claimed total production for the Austin Seven from 1922 to 1939 is 290,000 units.

James's original request, above, quite rightly made no mention of nationalities, and throws open the ultimate lists to cars from everywhere, but to blow the British trumpet for a minute, I will agree the importance of the Austin Seven in the start of what became a huge motorsport industry, and apart from what the Coopers were doing down in Surbiton it was thanks to the likes of Colin Chapman and Eric Broadley building 750 club specials that Britain has led the world in race car building for the last fifty years. Ferrari and Porsche fans will dispute that last bit, but consider how many non-Italians have helped in Ferrari's successes recently, and where did they come from? Likewise the Mercedes F1 engines built at Blixworth. All of this grew from a few back-yard operators. American's would argue the Fords spawned a similar growth in the hot-rod and speed equipment specialists over there, but the influence of that industry on the rest of the world is minimal.

Yes, Britain does owe some of that history to the humble Seven.

Chris M.


Joined: 2012-08-04

Best Drivers Car Alpha Sud

Most Beautiful Ferarri Daytona

Most pImpotant Mini

Best All Rounder Mercedes E-Class

Dream Car Ferrari 308GTS

MJL2's picture
Joined: 2012-07-24

Thank you for the opportunity to dream aloud.

Best drivers’ car: Lotus Elan.

Most beautiful car: Bugatti Type 35 / E Type Jaguar: I never could decide.

Most important car: MG M Type Midget (There would be no mass-produced, cheap sporting cars without it). 

Best all-rounder (including practicality!): Mazda MX-5.

Your dream car (money no object): Aston Martin DB4 GT.

Joined: 2012-08-05

Best drivers’ car

Bentley Turbo R

Most beautiful car

Etype Jaguar series 1

Most important car

Austin Mini

Best all-rounder (including practicality!)

Etype Jaguar 2+2

Your dream car (money no object)

Bugatti type 35

Simon Charlesworth
Simon Charlesworth's picture
Joined: 2011-05-25

Dearie me, another irresistible C&SC distraction...

Best Driver

Type 26 Lotus Elan: should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Lotus 2-Eleven: faster and with a better ride than an Exige
S, you can easily pretend you’re Vic Elford on the Targa.

AC Ace-Bristol (with retro-fitted Tojeiro R&P steering
conversion): for its involvement and that gem of an engine.

TVR Griffith (pre-cat with manual steering): it’s all about
the chassis turn-in, steering feel and the noise.

Alfa Romeo Alfasud 1.5TI: still the best front-drive car
around. Damn you rust!


Most Beautiful

Jaguar E-type 3.8 FHC: pure beauty

Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint Veloce: with that step-front
treatment it shouldn’t work but it does.

Citroën SM: the future still hasn’t arrived.

(early) Aston Martin DB4: the prettiest post-War Aston minus
the Bond luggage.

Ferrari 250GTO: beauty injected with motor sport


Most Important

Ford Model T: legacy, legacy, legacy.

Austin 7: The impact it had on Britain and her post-War
motor sport industry.

Morris Mini Minor: 9X could have been better, but this
remains the small car to beat.

MkI Ford Cortina: What no Citroën DS? NSU Ro80? Sadly the
future will be formed by cheap, conservative engineering.

Rover P6B: the world’s first junior exec gets the engine it
deserves. Europe’s roads are now heaving with pretenders to its throne.


Best All-rounder

MG MGB GT: one of the most versatile GTs around, OE or

Bristol 406: the ultimate Bristol ‘six’ type. Welcome relief
from today’s 20inch exhibitionists.

Ford Focus RS500: the mightiest of hot hatches. Incredibly
fast, incredibly enjoyable but er, somewhat juicy and a touch outré.

Citroën Xantia Activa: Q-car meets Parisian mini-cab, a
leftfield performance cult.

BMC 1800: bigger than a London studio flat and built like a
tank. If only it had been fitted with Turner’s 2.5-litre V8.


Dream Car

Ferrari 250GTO: if you have to ask...

AC Ace-Bristol: beautiful, light and joyous with a screaming

Mazda 787B: the best sounding GpC racer, I’d pay someone to
drive it around a circuit so that I could just listen to it.

McLaren F1: still, for me, the ultimate supercar.

MG MGD: a tantalising mid-engined concept which, if made,
would have meant the world would not have been polluted with the TR7.

Simon Charlesworth