Top Ten Cars To Drive Before You Die


What are the ten cars that you must drive before you kick the bucket? Arguments often erupt in the office and the homes that concern this topic. What is the definitive list of cars that the motor enthusiast should drive before they die? Car and Driver have attempted to drill down the good, the bad and ugly, to deliver the ultimate list! We believe that this list represents respective eras in automotive development, the purest distillation of what we consider to be necessary automotive traits, and this top ten would also provide a person with a great, broad and comprehensive overview of automotive history.

Ford Model T

This automobile may be fairly primitive with only 20 hp, two forward speeds, three footpedals (one reverse) and a top speed of 40 mph – hardly a ride for the thrill seeker. However, this vehicle offers the driver a unique cultural experience – a window in the beginning of the automobile age.

This car is arguably the most used car for people learning to drive – and no motor has ever had a bigger influence on history.

When Model T production ended in May 1927 after a 19-year run, the tally stood at just over 15 million. A good many of those cars have survived—experts estimate at least 25,000—in decent running condition. There might even be one near you.

Duesenberg SJ

It was huge – the completed product weighed over 2.5 tons. It was influential, bold and daring. It was one of the ‘Greats’ of the 20th Century. The engineering was pioneering in it’s day, and even in an age of grand classics, the Duesy’s 6.9-liter straight-eight made its contemporaries—Cadillac’s V-16, the Packard Twin Six, the Marmon V-16, the Lincoln V-12—look a little tepid. In basic J configuration, introduced in 1928, the DOHC 32-valve eight was rated for 265 hp, phenomenal at the time. Supercharging was added in 1932, creating the SJ and bumping output to 320 hp. Of the 500 or so Duesenbergs built between 1928 and 1937, only 36 were SJs, which makes driving opportunities pretty rare, even though most of them survive.

Citroën DS

Shortly after the Citroën DS’s launch in 1955, French philosopher Roland Barthes wrote that it had “obviously fallen from the sky.” Pronounced “déesse,” which means “goddess” in French, it looked like nothing else on earth. Streamlined to the max, Citroën’s proudest car boasted a hydropneumatic suspension, a fiberglass roof, and a one-spoke steering wheel—among many other technological highlights. In 1967, swivelling headlights were added, recently seen as a great innovation by other car makers.

The driving experience soothes and is superbly comfortable, and the DS—despite its four-cylinder-only engine portfolio—is a fast car, with late models topping 115 mph. For decades, the irreverent DS was a preferred mode of transportation by intellectuals and aesthetes, based on a quality seldom associated with luxury cars: intellectual superiority.

Mini Cooper S

Alec Issigonis’s cheap small car for BMC was innovative with its front-wheel drive and spacesaving transverse engine layout but, more than that, it was incredibly entertaining to drive, even if it took buyers quite a while to cotton on.

The Mini had a personality that few small cars had displayed before, and it soon became a best-seller. The Austin version was initially called the Se7en, but became the Mini in 1961. The 848cc A-series engine was used throughout the life of the MkI; one significant change was the adoption of Hydrolastic suspension in place of the original rubber-cone type in 1964.

A Mini Cooper is the smallest car you might ever pilot, dainty enough that it feels as if you were putting it on like a shirt. Getting so much from so little is both really appealing and a uniquely rewarding driving experience.

Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda

The Plymouth Barracuda saga began in 1964 as a fastback coupe based on the Valiant. The first-generation Barracuda was mostly famous for its distinctive wraparound rear glass, but also for being Plymouth’s first sporty, compact vehicle or “pony car.”

Twist the key, and the sound is glorious, sort of artillery-piece-meets-pissed-off-grizzly-bear, and the fuel and exhaust fumes are intoxicating enough to turn Al Gore into a believer. Then you stab the gas, the car rears up on its archaic suspension, and you’re the star of your very own Rat Fink poster—the chassis is that flexible, the power is that prodigious.

Porsche 911 Carrera

The Porsche 911 captured the imagination like the Jaguar E type had a decade before, and the initial run of 500 sold out almost immediately. Porsche had to reinstate production to build more – another 1,090, in fact – in order to meet demand.

Evoking memories of the legendary 2.7 and 3.0-litre RS and RSR which were regarded as one of the “truly special of the 1970’s” Porsche AG introduced in 1992 a Type 964 Carrera RS, which was a lightweight variant like its illustrious forebears. It was based on the ‘Carrera Cup’ competition car and sold in the European market only.

The Carrera RS retained the 3.6-litre engine, albeit boosted in maximum output to 260bhp, but for the following Carrera RS ‘3.8’, the bore size was increased by 2mm for a capacity of 3,746cc. Maximum power went up to 300bhp and this M64/04 engine was installed in a wider, Turbo-style body, also used for the RSR competition version.

BMW E30 M3

This is the car of course, that gets The Internet in a bother; a classic from BMW’s history, born out of motorsport and packing the kind of driving dynamics that gets enthusiastic helmsmen worked up.

Fitted variously with unique 2.3- and 2.5-litre four-bangers making 195 to 235 hp, the original E30 M3 offered solid performance, with a top speed of about 150 mph and 0-to-60-mph times in the high-six-second bracket. But it’s one of the great back-road cars, with a wonderfully neutral handling balance, a supple yet controlled ride, and steering seemingly hard-wired to your brain.

Lotus Elise

There’s a good word that sums up the Elise, and that word is ‘connected’. In a world where cars are more and more divorced from both driver and road, the lightweight Elise is a sportscar that still delivers the best seat-of-the-pants feel this side of a Caterham.

Built on an ultra-rigid aluminum tub, the sub-2000-pound Elise promotes an intimacy between driver and machine that is duplicated by no other road car currently in production. Combining its light weight and mid-mounted 189-hp, Toyota-sourced 1.8-liter four-cylinder allows the Elise to blast to 60 mph in well under five seconds, but straight-line speed isn’t what makes the Elise so special.

Bugatti Veyron 16.4

The Bugatti Veyron’s birth was not an easy one, that it came to be because one day Volkswagen tsar Ferdinand Piech had a dream: to provide the world with a car that had 1000bhp, cost one million euros and could do over 400km/h (250mph). To begin with the brief seemed impossible but in Piech’s mind, not something that couldn’t happen.

The Veyron is, famously, the world’s fastest car. That was the Super Sport coupe model though, which has since been discontinued. Now, only the open-top Grand Sport remains on sale, with the big Bug effectively in the world’s most extravagant runout cycle. True to form, buyers haven’t had to put up with a piffling 1,001bhp for long. The Veyron really can handle all that power. It’s an engineering marvel.

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