1963_Chevrolet_Corvette_C2

By Jeremy from Sydney, Australia (1963 Chevrolet Corvette C2 Sting Ray Z06) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Most Beautiful Cars Ever Designed: Part 1

Automobile designers attempt to make even the most mundane cars into aesthetically pleasing machines. Although beauty may lie in the eye of the beholder, some cars have transcended their purpose as methods of transportation to become universally recognized works of functional art. We’d like to introduce you to some of the most beautiful vehicles ever produced.

1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL

By Rennett Stowe from USA (Red Mercedes Gullwing) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Rennett Stowe from USA (Red Mercedes Gullwing) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Before the introduction of the Mercedes-Benz 300SL, Americans considered the storied automaker as nothing more than a producer of stuffy, if comfortable, luxury cars. The iconic 300SL “Gullwing” sporting coupe single-handedly changed that image overnight. The high-performance character of the 300SL is obvious just from looking at the swooping oversized hood, which houses the record-setting 3.0-liter, 216-horsepower straight-six engine. The sheet metal of the hood wraps itself around the engine, swooping upwards and back to accommodate the headlights. Each wheel well is accented with a thin eyebrow, drawing airflow and eyeballs smoothly along the body. A pair of distinctive gullwing doors, the defining design element of the 300SL, allow entrance into its leather-trimmed cabin. Large glass windows define the cabin as it slopes down towards the smooth rear end. At the time of its release, in 1954, it was the fastest production car available, with a top speed approaching 160 mph, and it was also the first production car to offer a fuel-injected engine.

1970 Dodge Challenger R/T

By Sicnag (1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 426 Hemi) [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

By Sicnag (1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 426 Hemi) [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

The product of a bygone era, the 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T is one of the premier American muscle cars of all time. Unlike the flowing, organic curves that typify many of the other cars on this list, the Challenger draws its beauty from its powerful and simple details. The front of the Challenger is marked by a set of quadruple headlights and a recessed grill. The hood is wide and flat, announcing its power through a simple design that doesn’t need aerodynamics to punch through the air. The center of the hood is highlighted by the full-throated air scoop that provides air for its greedy 6.28-liter, 335-horsepower engine. Its wide C-pillars highlight the end of the cabin, and the rear of the vehicle is decorated with a full-width light bar. Inside, wood trim accents the leather upholstery and plush carpets that wrap around the passengers.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

By Sicnag (1963 Chevrolet C2 Corvette Coupe) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Sicnag (1963 Chevrolet C2 Corvette Coupe) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

From the tip of its beaked headlights to the tip of its bobbed tail, the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette exudes a precisely engineered beauty. The softly curved hood sports a trio of understated flares, with one tracing the outline of each wheel well and a third running down the center of the hood. A pair of recessed scoops accents the body panel behind each front wheel, drawing the eyes downward before the curve of the windshield demands attention. A split rear window, a unique design decision for the 1963 model, identifies the original Corvette Sting Ray before tapering down to the bobbed rear end. Precise handling and an array of engine choices, including a 5.4-liter 250 horsepower V-8, make the 1963 Corvette a favorite among collectors. A dual-cowled dashboard completes the iconic styling of this trendsetting beauty.

1955 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider

By The Car Spy (8afgs) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By The Car Spy (8afgs) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

With its split front bumper and triple grill, the 1955 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider is a masterpiece of elegance. The exterior of the Spider sports one long, elegant curve from the tip of the front bumper to the end of its drawn-out, slowly sloping rear end. The body of this two-seat roadster is nearly seamless, with only the hood, doors and trunk interrupting the otherwise unbroken outline of the vehicle. Subtle fins trace the outline of the headlights and taillights along the top of the body. The interior is tastefully trimmed with leather upholstery, with luxurious carpets and piped leather accents gracing the cabin. The engine of the Giulietta is polite and capable, but not earth-shattering, delivering 64 horsepower from its 1.3-liter inline four-cylinder engine.

Talbot-Lago T150C SS

By Bombkev (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Bombkev (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In an era when the form of racecars was just as celebrated as their function, the Talbot-Lago T150C SS found itself winning on both the racetrack and the concours. Its distinctive shape has been given many names over the years, but in America, it’s best-known as the Teardrop. Swooping, exaggerated wheel wells accent the shape of the car, adding voluptuous flares to the barrel shape of the main body. The windshield flows smoothly out of the front of the car before tapering down towards the ground, with the rear wheels sitting just behind the driver. The individual details of each T150C, including its interior, are unique; each car was custom-built according to the specifications of its original buyer. Its 4-liter, straight-six engine delivers 170 horsepower, propelling a stock T150C to a third-place finish in the 1937 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

1964 Aston Martin DB5

By Sicnag (1964 Aston Martin DB5) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Sicnag (1964 Aston Martin DB5) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

When the James Bond film franchise needed a car that could live up to its suave superspy, the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 was the first and obvious choice. Its stately profile, with crisp curves tracing a line straight back from the front headlights to the rear taillight pillar, speaks to the grace and class of British design. A wide air scoop highlights the curve of the hood, giving any sophisticated gentleman driving the car a dash of unmistakable charm and implied danger. The line of the cabin forms a swooping teardrop as it meets with the trunk. Inside, overstuffed leather chairs wrap the four passengers in comfort. Unfortunately for fans of James Bond, superspy gadgets weren’t available as an option for the DB5 vehicles, but buyers could order an in-dash record player with their new DB5. Beneath its sleek exterior, the DB5 is powered by a 4.0-liter inline-six engine that produces a respectable 282 horsepower.

Powerful cars are plentiful, but truly beautiful cars remain a rare work of art. The most beautiful cars in history have left their mark far beyond their sales figures, inspiring legions of automakers to copy the most successful elements of iconic cars. Which car do you think is the most beautiful?

 

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