This is the ultimate bar room and barbecue debate that has been raging on for years and will no doubt persist for years to come. What makes a car cool? Is it cutting edge technology, timeless and sexy good looks, or ultra high performance?
We think it’s all of those features and then some. In addition to a combination of those factors, we’d like to think that a cool car can be defined as something that has influenced our attitude and thinking towards how we perceive what a car is and stands for. Some of them have an intangible quality that has captivated our hearts and minds.
Here then is our Top 50 coolest cars of all time. This is obviously a very subjective and contentious topic so feel free to leave your comments, criticisms, and additions at the bottom of the page.
Hit the jump for the hallowed list.
50. Brabus Rocket
The CLS is Merc’s most wicked model in years. It looks like a sleek coupe, but actually has 4 doors. The loons (who we love) at Brabus have turned it into a Rocket with clever fettling of the 6.2 liter twin turbo AMG V12, making this car the world’s fastest four door saloon. Guinness trapped the beast at 365.6km/h with a 0-100 time of under four seconds. Brabus have had to restrict the top speed to 350km/h as no production tire can take the abuse at those speeds. This car has an MBA degree – Master of Business Acceleration - and we adore it. More on the Brabus Rocket here.
49. BMW HR2
This is NOT a hybrid! The BMW HR2 was the first ever Hydrogen powered race car and has set 9 international and FIA-certified land-speed records for hydrogen cars at the Miramas Proving Grounds in France. The BMW HR2 is one of the few hydrogen cars developed with internal combustion engine (ICE) technology instead of fuel cell technology and has offered a sustainable, pollution free alternative to hybrids. Its aerodynamic shape means it’s unmistakable.
48. Lamborghini Countach
There isn’t a really an explanation necessary when it comes to this car and the issue of cool. It may be a bitch to drive, but its looks have revolutionized the supercar industry. Not to mention the black example driven by the two bikini-clad ladies in the Cannonball Run that was on every boy’s bedroom wall in the 80’s. More on the Countach here.
47. Nissan R35 GT-R
It has a proud legacy preceding it which made its debut a very highly anticipated affair. It is crammed full of the latest technology and showcases what Japanese super sports cars are truly capable of. At half the price of the best offerings from Modena and Maranello, The GT-R outperforms them in both straight line and the twisties. We love the fact that it pokes a finger in the eye of European Supercar Makers so effortlessly. More on the GT-R here.
46. Austin Mini Cooper S
The original Mini was born in 1959 and it was the sport edition, tweaked by a man called John Cooper. Suddenly the Mini was quick and agile, and John Cooper Works became a household name even to this day. We love it too as it brought driving to the masses, in a fun and affordable way. It is the undisputed essence of motoring.
the undisputed essence of motoring
45. Original Volkswagen Beetle
Ferdinand Porsche built this before founding Porsche. Rear-engined, air-cooled, and funded by Hitler, the Beetle, like the Mini , brought motoring to the common man. It also became a hippy icon of the sixties, a motorsport winner, and the modifiers favorite – no wonder it’s the world’s best selling car of all time.
44. BMW M3 CSL
The E46 M3 was hardcore in standard form. Add a carbon roof, tires that only work in the dry, and lose 95kgs in weight for the full track-trimmed taste. But if you think the CSL is in supercar dream territory because of the limited production run and price, then think again; we’ve seen 2003 models going for $45,000, and in a few years should drop even further. More on the M3 CSL here.
43. Aston Martin DBS
This is the car that starred alongside Daniel Craig in the refreshed Casino Royale Bond movie. The DBS is the road going link between Aston’s DB9 road car and the powerful DBR9 race car. Bond trashes it within minutes of the DBS’ debut – a stunt which was filmed, not in rural Montenegro, but at the Millbrook proving ground in Bedfordshire. Who wouldn’t want to be Bond for at least a day, eh?
42. Ferrari F40
This is the car that would replace the Countach on kids’ bedroom walls in the late 80’s. Ferrari’s owner Enzo, was 90 years old and wanted to die knowing his company was still at the top of its game. The 3 liter twin turbo V8 F40 of 1987 celebrated Ferrari s 40th anniversary and made a legend on his last legs a very happy man indeed. It had a full carbon fiber body, as lightness was the order of the day – even the paint was so thin that you could see the weave of the carbon fiber beneath it.
41. Renault 5 Turbo 2
Forever remembered as the flea-weight turbo’d hatch, the original 5 GT turbo flew. But the Turbo 2 was the big brother. Its stocky body packed a mid-mounted 119kW Turbo fed 1.4 liter engine that drove the rear wheels. Very rare and very wild indeed.
40. AC/Shelby Cobra
Still one of the fastest accelerating cars ever produced, this car was the brainchild of failed chicken farmer Carroll Shelby. He took an English body shell from the basic AC Ace and stuck in a monstrous Ford V8 Engine. The result? The menacing Cobra. You’ll struggle to find a more raw and visceral driving experience anywhere else.
39. 1961-69 Lincoln Continental
President Kennedy got shot in a customized limousine model, which isn’t cool, but the Continental also made an appearance in the Matrix in 1999, which is very cool. The Continental convertibles were all four door, the rear doors being suicide. Cool beyond a shadow of a doubt.
38. VW Golf GTI MKI
This list wouldn’t be complete without the original hot hatch. This car was built as a side project by some clever VW engineers, the fuel injected tight road loving GTI sparked off a generation of affordable fast cars that were comfortable, reliable, and practical. To think that was over 30 years ago!
37. Lotus Cortina
Take a two door Ford family car, and get Lotus to fit a 1000 of them with a twin cam 1.6 liter engine, close ratio gearbox, and stiffer suspension and watch them rule every motorsport competition of the mid 1960s. There are now many replicas around, but mint originals are now proving very valuable, fetching around $30 000! All hail the sporty Corty!
36. Audi S1 Quattro
Known by ze Germans as the “ur Quattro” (meaning the original), the Quattro was the first car to boast 4WD and a turbo. The S1 of 1985 was the steroid-filled motorsport version, with 447kW, that set the record for the Pikes Peak Hillclimb in the 1980’s. It was also the car that spawned Audi’s domination of the Rally scene. Evos and Scoobys have a lot to thank this car for.
35. Audi RS6 Avant Plus
Audi kicked off its supercar-slapping estate policy with the RS2 and RS4. But for us it’s the A6 based 2004 RS6 that rocks our world. With a twin turbo 4.2 liter V8 that spews out 358kW via its Quattro system, 0-100km/h is realized in just 4.6 seconds. Your local Audi dealer could also de-restrict the killer estate to hit around 180mph plus. That should make the school run rather interesting. It also has enough room for your kids, dog, grandma, and shopping. Utter Genius.
34. Spyker D12 (Peking to Paris)
Eccentric Dutch car maker Spyker has re-written the SUV rulebook with their mad-looking D12. Inside the suicide pillarless rear doors, is an interior oozing hand stitched luxury and style. For a big vehicle its lively too, hitting 62mph in under 5 seconds thanks to a 373kW Audi W12 engine. It’s so darn strange, it has to be cool.
33. Peugeot 205 GTi
Peugeot wanted a piece of VW’s hot Golf GTi, so they conceived the 205 GTi in 1984. Initially in 1.6 liter form, 1.9 liter 97kW versions were available later in 1986. It may be getting long on the tooth, but a decent 205 GTi is still a handful of rapid injected horses to drive and are as exhilarating as 80s hot hatches get.
32. Nissan S15 200SX
With a factory fitted 2 liter turbocharged engine and great handling, this car represents affordable access to the sport of Drifting. There are probably at least a dozen going sideways as you read this! The car is simple and easy to modify, yielding great results in the fun factor department – there are even a few rolling around with V8s under the hood.
31. Vauxhall Monaro
Also known as the Chevrolet CR8 and Chev Lumina in other countries, the Aussies are responsible for shoving in a V8 Corvette engine into a 21st century family sedan and this is the end result. A 6 liter V8, rear wheel driven, four seater, cheap servicing, AND Vauxhall bolted on a supercharger at no extra charge! 373kW and 677Nm = born to smoke! If only Chevy had similar treatment for the CR8 at the same price.
30. Hennessey Venom 1000 Twin Turbo SRT
As if 373kW wasn’t enough for a corner-fearing Hulk Hogan mobile, US Hyper-tuners Hennessey hooked up the Viper’s V10 with a pair of massive turbos to produce a 746kW version – and one of the quickest cars ever produced. Life insurance mandatory.
29. Toyota Corolla AE86
Sometimes being cool means being ugly. In this case, a humble mid-eighties horrible Toyota with a strong twin cam engine and rear wheel drive that is bullet proof and fantastic at driving sideways. The twin cam AE86 hatched Drift culture as we know it today and anyone who has seen the 2005 movie Initial D knows exactly why the old skool Corolla is cool.
28. 1932 Ford Coupe V8 (Hot Rod)
In the US, the ’32 Coupe is the most modified car of all time – the original Hot Rod shape. It was also one of the first American production cars to feature a V8 engine. We all owe this car, and the brave pioneers who tweaked the crap out of them with evermore extreme mechanical mods, a modifying debt. Respect is due.
27. C.A.M.I Terra Wind RV
A 13 meter long motorhome with marble work tops, plush carpets, a whirlpool tub, and a movie theatre that can turn into a house boat and drive you across lakes – no matter how deep! And all for the pricely sum of $800,000. There’s nothing crappy about that, except maybe the price.
26. Porsche 911
It is impossible to pin point one version of the Porsche 911 (nine-eleven) as our favorite, as almost every model built over the last 40 years has had something undeniably cool about it. Some prefer the 60’s cars, some say the 1973 RS is the one. Others want to learn how to keep late 70’s turbos out of trees and light poles. Some go for the 993 or the water cooled 996, while the ladies love the later cabriolet models. I personally prefer the Bad Boys Turbo 3.6 myself. Whichever 911 you love, the fact remains that this sports car has the most faithful family tree in motoring history. Long may it continue.
25. Honda NSX
With a legendary mid mounted V6 engine and VTEC, the NSX was, and still is, Japan’s Ferrari. The car handles like its on rails and sounds glorious while revving all the way to 8500RPM. The chassis was developed in conjunction with legendary F1 multiple champion. Aryton Senna, during his days at Honda. With credentials like that, it had to be here.
24. Renault Espace F1
To mark ten years of their fairly boring MPV, Renault only went and made an F1-engined 10 cylinder version. Using a 1994 Williams F1 chassis and Renault 611kW V10 engine, a carbon Espace body was made to fit over. A builder’s dream and an insurance nightmare. Wonder how t handled, Hmm…
23. Ford RS200
The road-going RS200, built between 1984-86, was based on Ford’s Group B Rally car. It was mid engined and 4WD, and while the official 0-100km/h time was a scenery warping 2.8 seconds, some of the more powerful “evolution” cars have been clocked at 2.1 seconds – faster than a Veyron !
22. Ferrari P4/5 Pininfarina
Only 400 Enzos were made, but that wasn’t exclusive enough for American film producer James M. Glickenhaus. The multi multi millionaire film mogul loved the car and felt it needed a serious makeover in line with 1960’s Ferrari Prototypes . So he bought one and took it straight to Pininfarina for a one off handmade body that also shaved off over 200kgs from its weight. The result took a year to build and cost a cool $6 million. What a fantastic life to lead when you can totally modify an Enzo.
21. TVR Speed Cerbera 12
Appearing at the 1996 Birmingham Motorshow, the magnificent Speed 12 was TVR’s answer to the McLaren F1. A 7.7 liter V12 with an industrial strength manual gearbox, that actually broke a dyno before recording over 655kW, the $220 000 Speed 12 was destined for Le Mans, but couldn’t compete due to rule changes. It barely made it to production either, partly because TVR then-owner Peter Wheeler, considered it “too powerful for road use.” Only a few exist today.
20. Volvo P1800
Before the Swedish manufacturer made big boxy estates that were safe when you crash them, Volvo turned out a very sharp coupe called the P1800. Years before picking up Bonds Walther PPK, Roger Moore drove a white one in The Saint. Production spanned from 1961 to 1973. This was Volvo’s first Italian designed sports coupe and is still gorgeous today.
19. Citroen SM
Futuristic French body styling, packed with innovation and a howling Maserati V8 under the bonnet. A mechanic’s nightmare, but one of the most desirable machines built to date. A decent one today can be found for a poultry $20,000. Expect reliability issues.
18. Cord 812 S/C
The 1937 Cord 812 S/C proves that pre-war cars aren’t all big lazy pieces of antique dog mud. The S/C stands for supercharged; its got hidden headlights, a drop top, and monstrous side exhaust pipes. The slippery front wheel fenders that wrap seductively around chunky white wall tires that make this car a true style icon. Add on all the chrome and cars don’t look any more gangster than this.
17. Lancia Delta HF Integrale
The Italians take on the Audi Quattro. Boxy arches, glowing turbo, and Rally glory. The Integrale took 46 WRC wins overall and won the constructor’s Championship a record six times in a row from 1987 to 1992. It looks good too and road going examples work… most of the time.
16. Ford Sierra RS Cosworth
The need to beat Rover in the mid ‘80s BTCC battle saw Ford join forces with Cosworth. The result was a three door Sierra with a 2 liter DOHC 16v engine, Garret T03 turbo, and a monumental whale tail spoiler. The Cossie was born. In certain countries, enthusiasts enjoyed exclusive rights to the normally aspirated XR8, a 5 liter V8 capable of serious damage. Only 250 were built, also with Motorsport in mind.
15. Koenigsegg CCX R
This is without a doubt the meanest most aggressive car ever made. Have you heard one of these things? It sounds like the devil screaming! With 670kW from its twin supercharged 4.7 liter V8 and no traction control, you don’t drive this car – you hold on for dear life! It is still to date, the only car Top Gears’ Stig lost control of. It’s so scary, it has to be cool.
14. Fiat 500
Speed doesn’t always mean style, hence why Fiat’s cute 1950s baby deserves a place in the TopSpeed Top 50. The miniscule 500cc motor may only be good for 80km/h, but the 500 always gets a grin from passers by. Women love them. Hell, even Michael Schumacher and Mclaren F1 designer Gordon Murray each have one.
13. BMW M5
The latest generation M5 is Bimmer’s hottest 5 series yet. It’s a fantastic 5 seater saloon packing serious power and drift potential. With each M5 the Germans inject more testosterone and the cars keep getting faster, and every time we get harder. This is as good as German muscle gets. It was the first and will also be the last M5 to get an F1-inspired V10 engine. We miss it already.
12. Subaru Impreza
Until 1993 Subarus were farmer or equestrian machines used to tug trailers around. The Impreza changed all that. A 4WD saloon with a flat four Boxer turbo and an appetite for rallying, Impreza is derived from the Italian word for feat, and in Polish it means party. Both are apt indeed.
11. Plymouth Superbird
It’s hard to believe you could ever buy this car, let alone in 1970. The Superbird was a muscle car based upon the Plymouth Roadrunner and built with a metal aerodynamic nose cone and rear wing for NASCAR homologation purposes. Only 1920 were built and fewer were ordered with the 320kW 7 liter V8. The “beep beep!” road runner cartoon character horn was factory equipment.
10. Ferrari 250GT SWB Spyder California
Remember the classic 80’s movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? Yeah, we thought you did. This is the car Cameron’s dad kept in a glass case – it was his pride and joy and from its gorgeous lines, you can see why. Sadly his gets joyridden and then kicked off an axle stand into a forest – Oops! The car is undeniably the most desirable Ferrari ever. James Coburn’s pristine example sold for over $10 million around two years ago.
9. Ford GT40
Not the modern homage-paying GT, but the original raw and gritty GT40, so called because of its height of 40 inches. Built to thrash Ferrari at Le Mans, and it did – winning the 24 hour race four years on the trot from 1966-69. It used a 4.7 and 7 liter V8s as a pose to the Ferrari V12s. This is the stuff legends are made of.
8. McLaren F1
A carbon fiber road legal race car with BMW V12 power, an engine bay lined with gold, and a unique central driving position with passengers on each side. Good for 243mph, it held the record as the world’s fastest production car for over six years until the arrival of the Veyron. It is still hailed by many as one of the best drivers’ cars of all time.
7. Dodge Charger (Original)
With 318kW on tap and skinny tires, the Charger was always going to be fun. The baddies in Bullitt chased Steve McQueen in a black ’68 Charger, while them Dukes leapt canyons in an orange ‘69 in the Dukes of Hazzard. Try and find a meaner muscle car – we dare you.
6. Mitsubishi Lancer EVO
Richards Burns, Tommi Makinen, a crackling turbo, and masses of 4WD grip are just some of the things that jump to mind when you mention this car. The Lancer was about as fun as knitting until the EVO version arrived. It soon made its name in rallying and has since gone through nearly 10 guises – the maddest being the 298kW EVO VIII MR FQ 400. FQ stands for “friggin quick”, by the way. Allegedly.
5. Bugatti Veyron
Despite being smaller than you think up close and not very pretty, the Veyron is still the Don. Why? Because it is the fastest, most powerful, most expensive production car ever built. This ultimate feat of engineering ends here with 16 cylinders, 8 liters, four turbos, and a top speed of 261mph. Even though VW sell this car at $1.5million, they still make a loss on each and every one of them.
4. Top Secret Toyota Supra
Smoking in bars and restaurants may be banned, but smoking on the busiest highway in Britain is altogether different. Top Secret boss Mr. Nagata smoked the tires on his 735kW Supra and hit 199mph on the same highway shortly before getting deported. What a hero.
3. Ford Mustang
The car that started the “pony car” wars in the 1960s and made every American want a sexy muscle coupe. Notchbacks were the choice for MILFs, convertibles for chicks and those on the coasts, and fastbacks for guys like Steve McQueen. The ‘stang is still one of the US’ best-loved machines. The new one’s not bad either…
2. Volkswagen Golf W12-650
The modified world has seen many attempts at creating the perfect Golf, and there have been some absolute beauties. We’ve seen rear engined V8 models, twin engined VR12s, ultra wide MK2 Rallyes, you name it. But in 2007 VW settled it once and for all with their awesome W12-650. With a 6 liter engine, two turbos, and 200mph+ top speed. This is the modified Golf that everyone can enjoy. The car was built as a tribute from VW to their loyal fans in the world of aftermarket modification. Never before has an Automaker built a car for such an audience. Perfection indeed.
1. Mercedes 300SL Gullwing
This was the first Merc to bear the SL logo and also the first car to get gullwing doors. Built between 1955-63, the SL’s poor brakes and unstable chassis earned it the unfortunate “widowmaker” nickname, but we don’t care as it is still the sexiest coupe ever. It’s a combination of those credentials that give this car the number one spot in our Top 50 Coolest Cars Ever.
Let the arguing commence!