After weeks of behind the scenes work, we are finally ready to present our list of the top 20 must influential cars of at all time.
The entire Speedhunters team has been busy preparing this list, and we did it in the most democratic way possible. First we assembled a large group of candidates, then each member of the team was given 20 votes to form the final list. The final list includes some of the best selling cars of all time, as well as some of the world's rarest specialty cars. All of them though changed the way people thought about the automobile and their impact on the industry can still be felt to this day.
You will also find a few cars that might not be part of mainstream lists of this type, but we feel they very much represent the Speedhunters ethos.
Anyways, let's get on with the discussion. Here's are the first half of our 20 most influential cars of all time, in no particular order.
CAR: Ford Model T
KEY MILESTONE: The first mass produced car… ever.
LASTING INFLUENCE: All mass produced cars owe something to the Model T as does the Hot Rod movement.
Rod: In many ways the Model T was ground zero for the modern auto industry as we know it.
Mike: The vehicle that transformed automobiles from rich man's contraptions to something almost everyone could own. It changed not just the auto industry, but society itself.
Alok: Totally agree with Mike, the introduction of the world's first automatic conveyor belt in the production of the Model T influenced manufacturing processes around the world.
Jonathan: "Any colour that he wants so long as it is black" – the birth of mass-production, and remember that the Model T was far ahead of its time in other ways as well: there was no real road infrastructure for it to drive on when it was introduced!
Charles: Indeed. A car that truly revolutionized the lifestyles of every day people.
Paddy: Henry Ford himself was responsible for perfecting a method of mass production that would allow the general public to buy their own motor cars and enjoy a freedom that was never known to man before the start of the twentieth century.
CAR: VW Golf GTi Mk1
KEY MILESTONE: Announced at the 1975 Frankfurt auto show, the Golf GTi was THE car that started the hot hatch movement.
LASTING INFLUENCE: All modern iterations of high performance front-drive compact cars owe their lineage to the GTi
Rod: Many imitators have come and gone, but the GTi is still the centre point of VW culture around the world.
Mike: The first generation GTi was groundbreaking with its combination of affordability, practicality, and overall fun factor. Even better is that its retained all of those attributes through the years right up to today. Much in the vein of the Porsche 911.
Andy: Massively influential car not just because it was a hot-hatch, but it also signaled the re-birth of Volkswagen. Remember, before the Golf and first generation Passat, their range consisted of Type 3, Type 4, Beetle and bus and while many of these were cool, Volkswagen needed to step up to the times!
Often forgotten fact, the Renault 5 Alpine (Gordini) was the first Hot Hatch, going into production a few months earlier in 1975,
Jonathan: The performance car you could actually realistically own. The only thing I never understood was why it was called a Rabbit in the States! Then again, that's probably no more strange than it being called 'Golf', come to think about it!
CAR: Audi quattro
KEY MILESTONE: The first high performance AWD production car. Completely revolutionized rallying and lead to the wide spread adoption of AWD systems.
LASTING INFLUENCE: Any high performance AWD car like the Mitsubishi Evo series or the Nissan GT-R car can trace its lineage back to the quattro.
Rod: AWD is a fairly common option in today's market, but before the quattro, this was not the case.
Mike: Not only was the quattro groundbreaking for its use of AWD, but it also helped start the Audi brand down the path to being the performance icon that it is today.
Andy: Ironic that such a influential car will have started life as a side project because no one would believe a four wheel drive coupe would work in the marketplace or in the world of rallying. Legend had it that VAG discovered the VW Iltis Jeep could beat any other vehicle in the snow and so the quattro….along with an amazing marketing machine was born.
Jonathan: "Fire up the quattro". The primordial quattro gave birth to a whole range of more and more extreme rally cars during the golden years of the World Rally Championship. My only problem as a child was deciding between the quattro and the Lancia Delta Integrale…
Paddy: There had been plenty of four wheel drive vehicles before Audi created the quattro – military and farming machinery being the obvious ones. The quattro system itself came about when Audi chief chassis engineer Jorg Bensinger was asked to explain to journalists the pros and cons of front wheel and rear wheel drive systems. During his research it became rather obvious of the benefits of 4WD in a car but it would take years before the opportunity arose to create the quattro system.
CAR: Ford Mustang
KEY MILESTONE: While not considered to be the world's first muscle car, the Mustang has helped define the term. It also holds the record as the fasting selling car of all time.
LASTING INFLUENCE: The Mustang is the only pony car to have seen uninterrupted production since it first rolled off the line in mid 1964. The idea of a high power V8 engine stuffed into a saloon body type in some form or another can be traced back to the original pony car: the Mustang.
Rod: The styling of the Mustang even influenced such cars as the early '70s Toyota Celica and Nissan Skyline!
Mike: The fact the Mustang is responsible for the birth other car legends like the Plymouth Barracuda and Chevy Camaro says a lot about its historical significance. Amazing that Ford could transform the humble little Falcon economy car into an icon through a bit of style and some great marketing. In the modern era the Mustang is also a champion of bang for the buck performance.
Jonathan: Those lines, that engine sound. A car that defines the term muscle car for most people. Thankfully Ford have revisited the classic era for styling cues on the latest model, after two decades in the wilderness.
CAR: BMC Mini
KEY MILESTONE: The Mini was the first car to use a transverse front wheel drive layout. This freed up 80% of the floor pan to be used for passenger and luggage, thus allowing a never-seen-before compact layout.
LASTING INFLUENCE: The packaging and layout of all front wheel drive cars can be traced back to the Mini.
Rod: Given the Mini's iconic status it's no wonder that BMW has been able to make a full car brand out of it.
Mike: It's also quite amazing just how long the original Mini was sold. Well into the modern era.
Charles: The Mini – or more exactly its predecessors – was borne during a period when fuel was in short supply and was being rationed. What resulted however, is one of the most iconic cars of all time. In spite of its small capacity and size, they were fun. The Mini is a car with a soul; it had character. I think other manufacturers have realised this but aren't able to replicate that je ne sais quoi.
Andy: As Mike says, the Mini stayed into production to the end of the 20th century. It had moved away to being a workhorse and was now more of a cultural chariot with wood trim, metallic paint and even fuel injection!. BLMC/Rover Group is rumoured to have lost money on most of the 5 million Minis built.
I use to co-drive in one, when I rallied back in the UK. Great fun and on a muddy stage, often quicker in the twisty stuff than cars with three times its power. That Rally car wore its Union Jack livery with pride!
Jonathan: Who can't love the underdog? Seeing these diminutive buzzboxes belittling their 'proper' cars on the rally stages and race tracks of the world must have driven other manufacturers insane. There's still nothing better than seeing souped-up Minis out in the wild.
CAR: Toyota AE86 Levin/Trueno
KEY MILESTONE: The AE86 offered a compact rear-wheel drive platform, a rev-happy twin cam fuel injected engine, a limited slip differential, and four-wheel disc brakes. Those were big things for any car in the early 1980s, especially an affordable Toyota.
LASTING INFLUENCE: The fact the Toyota is patterning its new FT-86 after the AE86 says a lot about how special the car was.
Mike: The Corolla itself is one of the planet's best selling cars of all time. This happens to be the most desired iteration of that car.
Charles: Very few cars make you become a better driver. The hachi is one of those.
Rod: If the FT86 manages to fulfill its promise and create a new wave of entry level RWD sports car, then the AE86 place in automotive history will be cemented forever.
Paddy: I've often heard of the 86 referred to as the Japanese MKII Escort, a title which is meant as a term of endearment. Light, simple and a cheap front engined rear wheel drive platform ensured the legacy the 86 enjoys today.
CAR: Ferrari F40
KEY MILESTONE: Lifted the benchmark of supercars in the 80s. Was the fastest street legal production car in the world.
LASTING INFLUENCE: The F40 still is, in the eyes of many enthusiasts, one of the greatest cars ever built.
Charles: Oh my. Even saying its name makes me go weak at the knees. I was six years old when it was released, and I still remember the impact it had on me. It was such a formidable car at the time that it won the hearts of generations.
Rod Chong: The first production car to break the 200 mph barrier. Nuff said.
Andy: Like the Lamborghini Miura and McLaren F1, this was a landmark supercar. It was quite crudely put together when you look closely at it, with makes 200mph even more impressive. I remember a quote, reportedly from Gordon Murray. Somebody asked if the McLaren F1 was going to be their answer to the F40 to which he replied, "I don't think so, there's no one at McLaren who can weld that badly."
Still, a very important car. Amazing over 1000 were built in the end.
Jonathan: Fire and brimstone. This more what people think a Ferrari should be like, rather than the modern, more refined fare on offer.
Mike: The absolute definition of dream car.
Paddy: They say you should never meet your heroes. I've idolized the F40 all of my life but only recently have I had the pleasure of getting up close and personal with one in the carbon. It delivered in ways I never thought possible. IMO, the greatest super car of them all as it encompasses three of the most important super car characteristics – power, passion and progress.
CAR: Jaguar E-Type
KEY MILESTONE: Redefined sports car styling
LASTING INFLUENCE: "The most beautiful car ever made" – Enzo Ferrari
Charles: The fact that MoMA have added one to their permanent design collection speaks volumes. It personifies the term 'automotive art'.
Rod: The E-Type had Ferrari style looks and performance, but at a much more affordable price. Its success in the swinging '60s cemented the future of the Jaguar brand for decades to come.
Andy: Ignoring the final version with those large US federal bumpers, the E-type was one of the most beautiful cars to be designed. Malcolm Sayer designed and built this car as if it were an aircraft. Along with the Citroen DS, one of the first cars to have been designed with Aerodynamics in mind.
Jonathan: With its infinitely long bonnet, the E-Type just oozed class and style: a match and more for the best of the Italian design houses, and a car that still leaves you transfixed even today, 50 years later. Iconic and beautiful.
CAR: R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R
KEY MILESTONE: With advanced technology such as Super-HICAS (4WS) and ATTESA-ETS, the R32 added a new definition to the book of supercars.
LASTING INFLUENCE: It can be argued the R32 played a critical role in many aspects of today's car culture, particularly the emergence of Japan as an automotive powerhouse.
Charles: The GT-R was given the nickname 'Godzilla' in 1989 when it destroyed its opposition in the Australian Touring Car series. After a 17 year absence, the R32 was the defining way Nissan resurrected the GT-R name.
Rod: There are few auto companies outside of Nissan that can offer supercar performance at such a reasonably affordable price. The R32 was the start of the journey that has now lead to the success of the R35 GT-R.
Mike: There were many brilliant cars coming out of Japan in the late 80s and early 90s. This is perhaps the best.
CAR: Citroen DS
KEY MILESTONE: The list of features and technical innovations of the DS must have made it seems like a spaceship from the future. Four wheel independent suspension, front wheel disc brakes, monocoque chassis, power steering, power brakes, hydraulic self-leveling suspension, even automatic headlights: there wasn't a single car on the planet with all of these features at the time.
LASTING INFLUENCE: The DS pushed technical innovation to new standards in the European automotive industry. So many features innovated with the car we now take for granted, but it was the DS that started the requirement for manufacturers to push the efficiency and innovation of their engineering, not just their styling.
Rod: The DS was so far ahead of its time, it's almost impossible to comprehend. Just even consider it's aerodynamic, monocoque body and compare to other offerings at the time. In terms of a mid-50s car, there is no comparison.
Andy: The ‘Goddess’ was the barometer for car design for many decades. It really is a piece of art and has been used as a sculpture on many occasions around the world.. It has also been voted as the most influential or beautiful car design of the 20th century on a number of occasions. Remember, this car made its debut in 1955! Cars like the ’55 Chevrolet Bell-Air were the bestselling car in North America, the Mini was still a few years to launch.
Beauty was more than skin deep, this car was technology laden with Hydraulics for the for self leveling suspension system, steering, brakes and clutch. By the end of its life in the early 70’s, the DS had headlamps which turned with steering, fuel injection and five speed Automatic transmission.Unfortunately, all this cutting-edge technology was hard to maintain and fix and Citroen almost went bankrupt,
Robert Zemeckis chose the Citroen DS as a futuristic Taxi cab for 2015 in the film, Back to the Future! Not bad for a car designed in the early 50s. Sadly, no one, including Citroen would ever take the risk of bringing a car so advanced to market today.
Jonathan: I am so happy we included the DS. I have happy memories of cruising around in the back of my grandfather's DS (the brand-loyal family also had an Ami and Dyane). It felt like you were in a hovercraft – crossed with a UFO. There was nothing like it at the time, and hasn't been anything as outlandish or advanced since.
Paddy: DS, short for 'Déesse', translates to Goddess. Although its build was limited by budget (a flat six engine was originally planned) the DS evolved automotive design like no other. It was simply out of this world and remains today an automotive design icon.
To be continued tomorrow!
-The Speedhunters Team