To help continue theFourth of July celebrations here at TopSpeed, I have decided to take at look at how the American car has impacted the world. Europe is typically quoted with having the best cars, but here are some American machines that have stepped up and shown the world that we know what we are doing.

We may not have created the car, but we are responsible for the way they drive, the way they are made and we even made some major contributions to the world of performance and horsepower. Put down that hot dog for a few seconds and take a quick look back through history at America’s greatest contributions to the world of internal combustion. That cooler full of cold beverages and that box of explosives will both still be there when you get done.

Continue reading to find out America’s greatest contributions to the world of the automobile.

Chevrolet Corvette

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Chevrolet Corvette Z06

For quite a long time, Europe was the only continent that was consistently creating interesting and powerful sports cars. America had a few good runs, but compared to the wares of Italy and Germany, we didn’t stand a chance. Then the Corvette happened.

It wasn’t much of a barn stormer when it was first created. Its engine was nothing more than an inline-six and it only had a two-speed transmission, but its ultra-light glass fiber composite body would set the groundwork for 60-years of sports car history.
Soon after the original Corvette was born, Zora Arkus-Duntov stepped into the picture. He brought a strong desire to go racing and personally helped shape the Corvette into a true V-8 Powered sports car to compete with the word. From the original Sting Ray and the Grand Sport cars to the design of multiple mid-engined racing concepts, Zora made sure that Chevrolet was doing everything it could to chase more power and more performance.

Today the Chevrolet Corvette is a worldwide icon. With enough race wins under its belt in multiple disciplines to challenge names like Porsche and Ferrari, the Corvette made sure the world knows that America can build a damned good sports car.

Willys Jeep

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It may not be fast, but I don’t think the importance of the Willys Jeep can be over stated. For many reasons, this one vehicle is the reason that the second World War ended in favor of America and its allies. The Jeep was incredible cheap and quick to manufacture compared to other war machines, and its nearly indestructible nature meant that it would be a mainstay in the American military for decades.

By the time World War II had concluded more than 350,000 Willys Jeeps had been created. The Willys Jeep was so important to the world that even the engine has its own special name and history. Dubbed the Go Devil, the 2.2-liter inline four-cylinder engine was easily the most robust and reliable engine of the time, contributing to the Jeep’s performance in the war.

Ford Mustang

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When it comes to cheap speed, the American muscle car has no competition. Designed to be an affordable way to have a good time, the first real American muscle car was the Ford Mustang. The rest, as they say, is history.

Yes there were previous muscle cars like the Hudson Hornet and the Rambler Rebel, but the Mustang kicked off the pony wars and ushered in the real era of muscle that dominated the 60s and early 70s. Today the Mustang is still a recognized symbol of America and our automotive tastes and talents.

The car has been featured in dozens of movies, including one of the all-time great auto films Bullitt.

There are lots of competitors to the Mustang still around today like the Camaro and the Challenger, but the simple truth is that neither of those cars would be here today if Ford’s first Pony wasn’t such a runaway success.

Ford GT40

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1964-1965 Ford GT40 Mk. I

In the early 1960s, Ferrari was the kind of sports cars and racing. It had been dominating Le Mans and road racing circuits for year after year. It seemed nobody could stop them. Then something crazy happened. During talks of a full buyout by Ford, Enzo Ferrari ended talks and walked away from the table.

Angry at Enzo, Henry Ford II gave his motorsports division essentially limitless capitol with a single instruction; beat Ferrari at Le Mans. The resulting car from this challenge was the GT40. The GT stands for Grand Touring and the 40 references the cars size; the top of the car is only 40-inches off the ground. The name was originally just a code for the project, but it stuck to production.

With an aggressive and aerodynamic shape, along with a monstrous 4.2-liter alloy V-8 engine, the GT40 dominated Le Mans, dethroning Ferrari. Not only did this happen once, but the GT40 took the top of the podium for four years in a row. The GT40 also took the FIA International Championship all four years as well.

There are few cars that have been as influential in the world of racing as the GT40. Go America!

Cadillac CTS-V

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For decades Germany dominated the world of luxury cars, especially the fast ones. From the M5 and AMG E-Class cars to monsters form Porsche there seemed to be nothing stopping them. But then Suddenly a bunch of American’s that sounded like they must have been drunk stood up and claimed that they would dethrone the kings.

In the 80s and 90s Cadillac had morphed from a world-class brand into a shell of fake luxury and laughable performance. They brand was nothing more than a purveyor of velour for geriatrics. In an effort to turn itself around the CTS was created. Here was a RWD sedan with sharp styling and a true sports suspension.

The CTS itself was an incredible machine in its own right, but General Motors took things a step farther and Cadillac created the CTS-V. Powered by a Corvette engine and featuring a radical magnetic suspension setup, the world began to take notice. Still despite its best efforts, the Germans still managed to create faster and more intriguing cars.

Rather than quit, Cadillac began working on the second-generation car that would be faster and more powerful. Nobody in the world was prepared for what Cadillac had created. Powered by a 6.2-l;iter supercharged LSA V-8 the Cadillac CTS-V boasted 556 horsepower and a top speed of more than 190 horsepower, Cadillac had created the fastest sedan in the world.

Nothing from Germay, Italy or Japan could come close to the sedan’s near 200 mph speed. It was completely unheard of. Not even the Porsche Panamera Turbo S can outrun a CTS-V.

Ford Model T

1908 Ford Model T
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Ford T00666 Passenger Car

While most of the cars on this list have focused on America’s cultural and performance impact on the automotive scene, arguably none of this would exist if not for the Model T. The Model T was the first car built using major manufacturing processes and it made cars cheap enough for everyone.

The birth of the modern world of automotive transportation was almost single-handedly because of the Model T. With wooden wheels and powered by a 2.9-liter four-cylinder engine the Model T was capable of reaching a (probably terrifyingly quick) top speed of 45 mph.

This car was so successful that Ford was creating and selling more cars on its own than every other car manufacturer in the world combined. At a point in the early 1900’s 9 out of every 10 cars on the road was a Model T. If that doesn’t prove the incredible significance that the Model T, and America, had on the world, than nothing will.

There are a lot of other cars that I didn’t add to this list like the Dodge Viper, anything from our legendary pickup trucks and more, but I think the six here mark the largest collection of truly remarkable cars to come from America.

I hope you enjoyed my little look at American Automotive history.

Stay safe this weekend, friends.

Christian Moe
Christian Moe
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