Discussion>> Top 20 Most Influential Cars Pt.2

Let's continue our discussion on the top 20 most influential cars of all time right now with second and final part of our list.

From some of the world's greatest Supercars to the humble People's Car, it's all here.

CAR: Volkswagen Beetle

YEAR: 1938

KEY MILESTONE: The People's Car. One of the world's best selling automobiles of all time.

LASTING INFLUENCE: The original Beetle was sold in various markets through the early 2000s. It also helped form the groundwork for Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche and subsidaries.


Mike: Is there anyone out there who hasn't known someone with a Beetle? It doesn't seem like it. The culture that sprung up of customizing and racing air cooled Beetles is also very notable, especially here in California.

Rod: The much loved VW Bug is Europe's Model T. It was also the first import car to gain acceptance into the US market, starting a trend which has changed the fortunes of the entire domestic car industry.

Jonathan: Lethargic acceleration, heaters that either didn't work or only blew hot in the the summer, barely-attached driving seats, snapping window winders, underpowered batteries, rust… My five years of Beetle ownership were typical, and yet I wouldn't have missed them for anything. Add a half-decent stereo and a couple of friends to a Beetle, and you've got a perfect motoring experience that makes you forget any of the bad points.

Paddy: The Beetle further evolved the philosophy of accessible motoring to the general public but it's success is down to more than that. Launched at a time when US cars of the era suffered from such flamboyant styling and needless excess, the Beetle was happy to say nothing about itself. But by saying nothing, it really said everything. It does however owe some of its success to one of the greatest advertising campaigns of all time at the hands of Doyle Dane Bernbach.

Charles: Slightly off topic, but VW's Beetle ads were also very influential. That whole campaign really shook up the advertising industry, and you can still see its influence today.

CAR: McLaren F1

YEAR: 1994

KEY MILESTONE: "The ultimate road car." Set a new benchmark for what a production car could do.

LASTING INFLUENCE: 20 years later and it's still one of the fastest cars of all time.


Mike: The three-seat cockpit with the driver in the middle is one of the coolest things I have ever seen on a car.

Rod: This was the last production based car to win the 24Hs of Le Mans outright, an unthinkable feat even today.

Jonathan: Gordon Murray's automotive pièce de resistance, packed with technology and innovation. There may be cars which are faster (and more expensive), but for me the F1 defines the term supercar.

Andy: As Rod mentioned, it’s the last production based racecar to win Le Mans. Very few cars have won Le Mans on their debut. It also finished 3rd, 4th, 5th 13th  at Le Mans, won the 1995 and 1996 BPR Championship and 1996 Japanese GT (now Super GT) Championship.

This was a huge achievement when you consider it wasn’t designed for the race track. It was only when a couple of owners, Thomas Bscher (later, head of Bugatti) and Ray Bellm said they would run one themselves, that Gordon and Ron decided they better do it properly themselves. It was a blessing, because the racecars helped to turn the project into a profit.

One of the coolest things about the F1 is the lack of driver aids and gizmos, one of the last supercars of this era and only beaten a couple of times in top speed. What many people don’t realize is how useable the F1 is as a day to day car. There was an owner in Sussex who used to use his daily and even went to the local supermarket!

Charles: Jonathan touched on an interesting point about what defines a supercar. In my opinion, a supercar needs to rewrite the rulebook, pushing the boundaries of engineering, design and performance. The F1 achieved all of that.

CAR: Lamborghini Miura

YEAR: 1966

KEY MILESTONE: Redefined what a sports car could be with its mid-mounted V12 and stunning bodywork. It's considered to be the world's first genuine supercar.

LASTING INFLUENCE: All mid-engine high performance road cars can trace their lineage back to to the Miura.


Mike: I would love to see Lamborghini get back to the flowing, organic design language seen in the Miura. Would be a nice contrast from the wind-tunnel developed supercars of today.

Rod: This car was the fastest production car in the world when it was introduced. It repurposed the midship layout of Le Mans racers for the street, a radical proposition at the time. 

Jonathan: A world away from the chiselled looks of latter-day Lamborghinis, the Miura wowed the public on its launch, and is another car that still stuns to this day – especially as the flowing lines conceal a howling V12. Just watch the opening scene from The Italian Job for four minutes of Miura magic

Paddy: Most things evolve. They change slowly, gradually maturing sometimes in a manner that makes it hard to pinpoint when the old went out and the new came in. That is usually true with art, music and cars. It is not true with the era of the supercar however. There is a well defined moment when everything changed, and that moment was the arrival of the Lamborghini Miura.

Andy: The definition of car-p0rn!

CAR: GC8 Subaru Impreza WRX

YEAR: 1992

KEY MILESTONE: A groundbreaking car both on the street and in professional rally racing. Helped establish Subaru as an enthusiast brand.

LASTING INFLUENCE: Still a favorite of both tuners and rally racers nearly two decades after it was introduced.


Mike: Besides its potent AWD system, the Boxer motor gives the WRX a ton of character. It's one of those cars you can instantly recognize with your ears.

Andy: Often forgotten fact….The 2d 22B, along with other WRC Variants was style by Peter Stevens, who stylized the McLaren F1.

Jonathan:  An object lesson in how racing success to can change the perception of your brand. The sound of an Impreza crackling and howling its way through a forest is something everyone should witness.

Charles: The WRX was so influential. It put startling performance within the reach of every day enthusiasts, without the need to get a mortgage or sacrifice practicality. It was useable performance too; the WRX made average drivers seem like great drivers. It also played a big part in drawing a new generation to the WRC. In some countries, the WRX – which became popular with ram-raiders – forced Authorities to improve their police cars, as they simply weren't able to keep up.


CAR: Ford Escort Mk.II

YEAR: 1975

KEY MILESTONE: A very capable compact car that become a rally icon in Europe.

LASTING INFLUENCE: Still considered to be one of Ford Europe's best cars. Simple in its design and loved by many.


Mike: As an American I'm glad Ford is finally starting to sell its European models in the US. That won't make up not selling this car over here though…

Jonathan: I can't think Escort MK.II without immediately conjuring up an image of a Rothmans-livered, headlamp-laden, mud-splattered vision of rallying heaven coming at me sideways. Buying an Escort meant basking in the racing and rally success of this suburban success story – the top of the tree being the RS Mexico and slant-nosed RS2000 variants.

Paddy: The MKII Escort remains one of the most successful chassis' in motorsport history. Its simple design and lightweight RWD platform along with access to the Ford parts bin, brought a competitive car to the masses. Their popularity has never receded and with an illustrious history of icons such as Clark, Vatanen, Blomqvist, Waldegard, Mikkola and McRae who have all drive the MKII Escort in anger, I can't imagine a day when the Escorts won't be an integral part of modern rallying.


CAR: Nissan Silvia S13

YEAR: 1989

KEY MILESTONE: The Silvia and its hatchback cousin, the 180SX combined a well-designed FR chassis with powerful turbocharged motors and handsome styling.

LASTING INFLUENCE: While the S13 is an icon among drifters, it's also proven to to be adept at everything else. Still one of the world's most popular tuning platforms.


Mike: The Japanese commercials with the two-tone Silvia set to Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale". That's enough to sell me right there. The fact that there's a global motorsport that probably wouldn't exist without this car also says a ton.

Charles: The needs and demands of performance enthusiasts have always been the same, and the S13 ticked all of the right boxes. It was a car that was easy to modify and fun to drive. That combination endeared itself to fans worldwide.


YEAR: 1986

KEY MILESTONE: One of the best examples of the factory tuner car ever.

LASTING INFLUENCE: Not only was the E30 M3 a groundbreaking machine in its own right, it was the beginning one of the world's best performance models.


Mike: In high school my friends and I would talk about the E30 M3's "80s porn star looks". Who wouldn't want to look like an 80s porn star? The fact that it has such an awesome powertrain is just a bonus.

Rod: Many imitators have come and gone, but the M3 is the standard that all other performance saloons are measured on. 

Jonathan: The ultimate driving machine? The E30 sums up the two-wheel touring car excess of the '80s and early '90s, and is still the go-to model for track day nirvana.


CAR: Mercedes Benz 300SL

YEAR: 1954

KEY MILESTONE: The 300SL featured a beautiful design, unique gull wing doors and a racing pedigree to back it up its looks.

LASTING INFLUENCE: The 300SL was notable enough to inspire Mercedes to build the SLS AMG.


Mike: The sexiest Mercedes ever. What more needs to be said?

Jonathan: Now phenomenally rare and expensive, the SLS is an automotive work of art, and one where the sensuous, classic styling was helped rather than hindered by the use of aerodynamics. Proves the point that a car with gull-wing doors can never be bad.


CAR: Porsche 959

YEAR: 1986

KEY MILESTONE: The fastest car of its time, boasting some incredible technology. The 959 was the start of Porsche's reinvention of the 911 from the 993 through to the 991.

LASTING INFLUENCE: One of the greatest and most sought-after Porsches of all time, there are traces of 959 DNA every new 911 in showrooms today.


Mike: The 1980s aren't necessarily known for brilliant car designs, but I disagree. Just look at this car!

Rod: The 959 used high tech engineering innovation to gain stratospheric performance, not brute force. While there are many cars on the market like this now, at the time of the 959, this was not so much the case.

Jonathan: Obscenely fast, and though not the prettiest take on the 911 shape it took the old girl into previously unthought of performance territory. A test-bed of new supercar tech, with four-wheel drive, sequentially twin-turbocharged V6 boxer engine and active suspension. Like the Veyron, a money-losing vanity project to push the boundaries of automotive expectations: always the best reason to make a car.

CAR: Honda Civic

YEAR: 1973

KEY MILESTONE: An economy car at heart, but so much more than that. The Type R models proved just what the chassis was capable of.

LASTING INFLUENCE: Besides being one of the world's best selling models, the Civic defined a generation of car enthusiasts and builders.


Mike: Just like the original Mini, the Civic set benchmarks for what front-drive car was capable of in both practicality and fun factor.

Rod: The Honda Civic, like Toyota's Corolla, helped the Japanese car industry gain footholds in countries around the world. Without them, the Japanese car industry would not be where it is today.

Charles: The Civic was extremely influential in spawning the sport compact movement, especially in the United States. While it was always a popular car to modify in Japan, it captured the imagination of a new generation of enthusiasts in the western world. The Civic was one of the key players in the whole domestic versus import rivalry a decade ago.

So there you have it. As with any list like this, there's sure to be some disagreement, and we welcome you guys to join in the discussion below.

-The Speedhunters Team




I feel like one is missing: the Datsun 240z. If it weren't for that, it is likely that there would have never been any international interest in a Japanese sportscar. I feel like that is the definition of influential.