CARS OF ALL TIMES
COMPILED BY SKISM & MAROK • WORDS: SKISM
Accompanying our Vehikel Issue (3), here it is: THE top list of the greatest cars ever. It needed to be done. Forget all others, this is the one, the only, the right list. Of course, it’s highly subjective, so subjective that even we might see this list differently with a change of the weather or after dinner. What it also is: it absolutely doesn’t care about reliability, longevity, economy, consumption, reasonabilty, comfort or, well, pricing of the cars. It’s just the looks, the sleek design, the aesthetics, emotions, completely irrational, just the wet dreams of blessed designers coming true, ideas becoming lines becoming metal becoming reality becoming desires.
As automobiles getting A) more and more unispired and identical in design these days and B) cars in itself are getting more and more outdated and redundant, for younger urbans even unwanted and their personal possession is absolutely nothing they’re longing for, it’s about time to worship the heydays of car design from the late 60s to the 80s, when italian designers, such as Marcello Gandini, Giorgetto Giugiaro, Pietro Frua or Leonardo Fioravanti created sculptures of metal, leather, wood, plastic and rubber. Some of the manufacturers took it too far, went bancrupt, stopped (De Tomaso, Iso, Jensen, Monteverdi), others got taken over (Datsun), just slipped into oblivion by taking the wrong turn design wise (Lancia), got completely uninspired and boring (Mercedes Benz, Citroën, almost all german cars) or went from the sporty bon vivant elegance to phony and embarrasing showoff cars for vulgar rappers, tasteless soccer stars and bored sheiks (Lamborghini, Bentley, almost everyone following the SUV trend) and only just a handful of manufacturers seem to have an outlasting serious design language that follows a tasty path and keeps the family genes and their spirit alive (Alfa, Aston Martin, Volvo, Jaguar, mostly Porsche and Maserati - exceptions prove the rule), plus there’s new ones coming up as electrified start-ups are changing the game - and sometimes even the design languages (Tesla, Lucid, Rivian, Canoo, Neuron).
Oh yeah, since there’s myriads of amazing visions, concept cars, one-offs and prototypes, this list is all about production cars. Well, now let’s slip into automotive dreamland here and don’t even think about checking you bank account…
01 Ferrari 400i/412i
Based on its similar beautiful 365 GT4 2+2 predecessor (but with the nicer ferrari double rear lights that were typical for that time) this 70s/ 80s gem is probably the most uncommon Ferrari you could get. A sportscar with the look of the most sleekest coupé, somewhat a ‘Rrari for the sunday ride with the family. Not a single line of this Fioravanti/ Pinifarina design isn’t likeable, everything is following a clean and well-balanced aesthetic. At least for now: our no.1.
02 Momo Mirage
Boy, what a beauty! Real estate millionaire and car collector Peter Kalikow already had most dream cars you could own, but he and N.Y. Jag agent Alfredo Momo tied together their myriads of automotive connections to build and establish their own dream that should embody the spirit and performance of Ferrari and the comfort and luxury of Rolls-Royce. First drafts from Raymond Loewy's design studio led to a Pietro Frua design, an Alfieri chassis and a production of just six pieces until rising prices of their italian manufacturers and a falling US Dollar made them hitting the brakes.
03 Lotus Esprit S1
This Giugiaro design is - apart from the first wedge prototypes of the late sixties and the Countach which hit the streets two years before in 1974 - as wedgy as wedge can be. There’s absolutely no way you cannot like it. Proportions: perfect. Lines: as reduced as possible. With almost no curves the polygonal so called „folded paper“ design which resembles an origami model now seems to get a renaissance - you’ve seen the Cybertruck, right? Here’s the blueprint.
04 Aston Martin Lagonda S2
Another wedge, but the luxury sedan version of it - the lowest four-door of its time. This William Towns design technically and mechanically was an absolute catastrophe (because it never really worked) and was numerously rated as one of the ugliest cars of its time, but (for us) it totally is not. It probably just was ahead of its time, being too futuristic design wise and technically. Just look at the cockpit that was fully digital (no wonder it didn’t work - it was 1976!), no buttons, no knobs, just touch thingies. From '84 even a voice control was added. Even for today's standards it's avant garde. A handful of nice shooting brakes, coupés and - yes, you read right: - a long version have also been build.
05 De Tomaso Mangusta
The Mangusta, the baddest of them super sport cars. I mean, just look at it. The fierce grin of that 1967 Giorgetto Giugiaro masterpiece, the height just short above a meter, the love to detail just as the lengthwise folding gullwing doors tailgate, and every single line is just at the right place. But with about two thirds of its weight sitting on the back axle it had a poor handling, becoming some sort of a suicide ride in higher paces. In the late 90s the Mangusta was revived as Qvale Mangusta which turned out to be an unbelievably ugly piece of shit, so nasty it would without a doubt run the top list of super ugly cars. To set things straight again after this awful intermezzo, Bill in Kill Bill drove the original.
06 Iso (Rivolta) Fidia S4
„The world’s four fastest seats“, that’s how Iso advertised this 1967 Giugiaro piece, who stated that he „stole“ his own design of the Mangusta’s front for this one. Pricier than a Rolls-Royce, more exclusive than a Maserati Quattroporte, with stitched leather interior and a more extraordinary design than DeTomaso’s Deauville (1971) it was the ride of the celebs - Pete Townsend and Sonny Bono had them, John Lennon even had two. With a production of about 200 pieces it wasn’t much of a success.
07 Monteverdi High Speed 375
If you think about great cars you probably don’t think about Switzerland. Think Monteverdi. At not even 30 Peter Monteverdi was the world’s youngest Ferrari distributor when Enzo Ferrari took his import license for some reason, so Peter started his own car company and sold around 3000 cars from the late 60s to mid 80s. This Pietro Frua gran coupé design that later was built by Fissore with some slight changes might be Monteverdi’s greatest work. Also a 4-door version was built which is one of the sleekest limos you can ever think of and that’s still in use in Katar’s royal fleet.
08 Maserati Quattroporte (all except gen IV)
Speaking of dream limos, the Quattroporte parks just around the corner. First generation from 63-69 was a another Frua design, second one (74-78) was Gandini at Bertone, third Giugiaro, but the greatest of them all was definetly the „Aga Khan“ by Frua (pictured) that was build as commissioned work ordered by the swiss billionaire. Only two of them were build: one for Aga Khan, one for the King of Spain. The following Gandini and Giugiaro versions were also great designs, but the subtle elegance, the airy cabin with lots of glass, distinctive for Frua’s work, made it so amazingly beautiful.
09 Ferrari 512 BB (Berlinetta Boxer)
Having a „family Ferrari“ at number one here, it’s about time to go for the real ones. Most would presumably choose the Magnum ride 308 GTS, we go for the faster, more rakish 512 BB, designed by Leonardo Fioravanti at Pininfarina, that claimed to be the fastest street car available at that time ('76) - which it wasn’t - the Lambo Countach was slightly faster as british Magazine Autocar’s test proved. Facts we don’t care much about. This list is all about the looks, we said. I mean, look at it!
10 De Tomaso Longchamp
Derived from De Tomaso’s four-door sedan Deauville, the Longchamp is a beefy and powerful looking aesthetic italian version of a muscle car. Drawn by Ghia’s Tom Tjaarda and influenced by his own Lancia Marica prototype. Its design and chassis was used later for the similar also great looking Maserati Kyalami when Alejandro de Tomaso took over Maserati from Citroën in 1975.
11 Lamborghini Miura
This Gandini magnum opus, that was the fastest supercar of its era (released in 66), would definetly have been in our top ten if it wasn’t for his whimsical sleeping eyes. They’re not really bad, actually a great design idea for that time, but hey, they inspired that extremely unfunny guy who invented those embarrassing eyelashes decals for Renault Twingos and probably made a million with that eyesore crap. Apart from that: what a gorgeous car!
12 Porsche 930 (911 Turbo)
Ask anyone in this universe about german cars and they’ll think Porsche. Porsche 911. One of the most successful cars ever, a timeless classic. And even though you’ve seen it a million times, you can’t get enough of this 1975 F.A. Porsche/ Anatole Lapine creation. Masterpiece.
13 McLaren F1
This Peter Stevens designed CFK-monocoque three-seat supercar debuted in 1993 and with 370km/h was the fastest production car of its time. And the most expensive money could buy with around a million Dollars. Mr. Bean, Missy Elliot, Pink Floyd's drummer Nick Mason, Jay Leno have one, Ralph Lauren has two of them, Elon Musk crashed his.
14 Bitter SC Coupé
You could see this second Bitter model as a design rip off of Ferraris Tipo F101 (400i/ 412) series (our no.1) - and the similarities are evident, you could also see it as a bow by Germany's Erich Bitter to the Pininfarina design and a cheaper 1981 version of it and it clearly fit into Bitter's portfolio of great cars he produced back then. First draft was by Bitter himself that got reworked by Henry Haga and Georges Gallion and got its final touches by Giovanni Michelotti.
15 Iso Grifo
This young Giugiaro (for Bertone, where he just got chief designer a minute before) two seater design with the typical Iso Rivolta air slot gills is so classy we can’t imagine driving it anywhere north of the alps. Or somewhere without palm trees, a park and a chateau in the picture. 412 units of this beauty were built between 1965 and 1974, from 1970 on with pop-up headlights, a bit similar to Iso's "Lele".
16 Ferrari 308 Dino GT
A similar kind of breed as our no.1 is the Bertone drawn Dino GT. With its slick line it is even more far away from any Ferrari and was their first 8 cylinder mid-engine. Ask a friend, he'll tell you: it's a great sunday ride.
17 Lamborghini Espada
The family Lambo. A milestone gran tourismo by Marcello Gandini which looked like nothing else and sold 1220 units. It was later transformed into a hatchback by Pietro Frua that unfortunately never went into mass production:
18 Maserati Biturbo (Tipo AM 331)
Some may argue that the Kyalami was the better Coupé, but the so called „Small Quattroporte“ built from '81 until the 90s is one of the few bargains in our list and you can grab one of those Pierangelo Andreani (design often falsely attributed to Giugiaro) pieces for under 20k - sometimes even cheaper. It’s a simple classic without the aim to turn heads and if you go for the second production unit, you can even count on everyday usability.
19 Lamborghini Countach
Why isn’t this amazingly futuristic and groundbreaking 1974 Marcello Gandini/ Paolo Stanzani wedge in our top ten? Just because of the simple fact that this over-virile machine started the era of Lamborghini being the brand of exaggerated cars for nouveau riche posers and tasteless soccer stars. The better Countach has been the Lambo Bravo anyway - it’s a pity the so called „Baby Countach“ never made it into production.
20 BMW M1
What started as a co-op between Lamborghini and BMW soon came to a halt and resulted to this completely built by BMW mid-engine production in 1978. Less than 500 units of this Giugiaro car were made, lots of them for race tracks.
21 Citroën SM
Call it dramatic, call it futuristic - that's Citroën back then. These Robert Opron lines, the interior, absolutely unique. A small quantity of a four door stretched version was also produced. The likes of Santana, Cheech & Chong, Stone’s Charlie Watts, Johan Cruijff, Lee Majors, Brezhnev, The Shah of Iran, Haile Selassie, the Queen, Pope John Paul II and Idi Amin all drove the SM. Jay Leno still does - but which car he doesn’t?
22 Maserati Khamsin
Another Gandini wedgy masterpiece from 1973 and successor of the also otherworldly beauty Ghibli. Its sales weren’t much of a success due to the fuel crisis and just 30% of the Ghibli’s total which makes him a highly sought after gem today. Read the gandini interview and his thoughts on the Khamsin in our latest print issue Vehikel (3).
23 Lancia Delta 4x4
Introduced in 1979 the Delta, a small hatchback, soon dominated the rallye scene with its 4WD version. Slick 80s Giugiaro lines made him an instant classic that was produced with various facelifts until the late 90s.
24 Volvo 1800 ES
This 1972 design had been falsely stated as done by Frua until Volvo admitted in 2009 that it’s drawn by Pelle Petterson based on a Jan Wilsgaard proposal. With its beautiful frameless all-glass rear hatch it became very popular and still is taken as a blueprint for later Volvo designs, such as the 480, the first V40, C30 and the „Concept Estate“. Driving behind one of them definteley makes you slow down to stay behind.
25 VW Golf 1 (Mk1)
Giugiaro said that the Golf Mk1 is the most important design of his career. Sharp, flat, simple and on point made this one a world wide bestseller. It’s omnipresent, state of the art, the superstar, the mother of all C-segment cars, well, the mother of them all. Best of them: the GTI Pirelli version pictured here.
26 Sbarro Windhound
A hydraulic chassis, 4-wheel drive, expensive leather interior, a thirsty Mercedes SEL motor that in this great looking but bulky body got even thirstier (up to more than 35 liters per 100 km) and a center console TV would make this swiss two door boutique SUV a perfect car for today’s Saudi princes and climate change deniers with enough spare. Ahead of its time in 1978 when SUVs weren’t that fancy just 9 pieces of this extraordinarily expensive swiss SUV were produced which barely makes it a „production car“. A 6 x 6 special commissioned version was also built for King Khaled of Arabia. Design by Franco Sbarro (body) and Pierre Cardin (interior).
27 Bizzarrini Strada (5300 GT)
This pancake flat draft by ex-Alfa, Ferrari and Iso chief engineer Giotto Bizzarrini accelerated to 100 km/h in less than 7 seconds, attained a top speed of 280 km/h, won Le Mans in its class. And our hearts.
28 Lamborghini Urraco
The 1972 Urraco by Gandini was meant to be an affordable alternative to the Dino or Merak and still can be found for under 100k.
29 Subaru Libero II (SDX) (also known as Sumo, Domingo and Combi)
We absolutely have no idea who’s responible for this amazingly good one-of-a-kind design (we just know Subaru had one of the smallest design teams in car design - and you can tell from most of their models), but what looks like a mix of a manga telephone cell and a ski gondola and with a width of not even 1,50 m it is one of the biggest space wonders in car design ever. Chances are high the whole design team fits into this creation.
30 Isdera Imperator 108i
Derived from the (BB-Mercedes) CW 311 the Eberhard Schulz concept Isdera Imperator saw light in 1984 and made it to a small production batch of about 30 cars. Yes, what you see on its roof is the rear view mirror to see all the other cars you've taken over becoming tiny dots.
31 Maserati Ghibli • 1967, Giorgetto Giugiaro
32 Alfa Romeo 1300-2000 GTV • 1968, Bertone
33 VW SP2 • 1973 Brazil only, Marcio Piancastelli
34 Lancia Montecarlo • 1975, Paolo Martin
35 Renault R5 Alpine Turbo • 1980, Marcello Gandini
36 BMW 3.0 CSI • 1971, Wilhelm Hofmeister
37 Facel Vega (S1 - 3) • 1954 - 1964, Jean Daninos
38 Fiat Panda • 1980, Giorgetto Giugiaro
39 Volvo 262C • 1978, Jan Wilsgaard, Bertone built
40 Aston Martin DBS • 1967, William Towns • 41 Ferrari 308 GTB/ GTS • 1975, Leonardo Fioravanti • 42 Fiat 130 • 1969 - 1977, Paolo Martin • 43 Monica 560 • 1971, Tony Rascanu, David Coward • 44 Monteverdi Sahara/ Safari • 1978, Peter Monteverdi (modified International Harvester „Scout“ design)
45 Aston Martin DB10 (Bond car)/ Vantage 2019 (production) • 2015, Sam Holgate/ Marek Reichman/ 2019, Marek Reichman • 46 Range Rover (S1 - 3) • 1970, George Thomson • 47 Polestar 1 (Volvo) • 2019, Thomas Ingenlath • 48 Lancia Flaminia Marica Ghia • 1969, Tom Tjaarda • 49 Jensen Interceptor • 1966, Carozzeria Touring
50 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta SWB • 51 DMC DeLorean • 52 Ferrari 365 GTB Daytona • 53 Lamborghini Jalpa/ Silhouette • 54 Iso Lele • 55 Porsche 928 • 56 BMW 635 CSI • 57 Datsun 280 ZX • 58 Ferrari GTC4 Lusso • 59 Gurgel X-15 • 60 Ford Bronco • 61 De Tomaso Deauville • 62 Jaguar XJ-S Lynx Eventer • 63 Lamborghini Jarama • 64 Mercedes 220 SE Coupé • 65 Maserati Bora • 66 Lada Niva • 67 Ford GT40 • 68 De Tomaso Pantera • 69 Lancia Gamma Coupé • 70 Lamborghini LM002 • 71 Toyota Celica Supra • 72 Mercedes 280SL (W113) • 73 Maserati Simun •74 Bristol 412 • 75 Citroën Pallas DS • 76 Volvo 240 • 77 Peugeot 504 Coupé • 78 Alvis TF21 • 79 Renault Espace
As a little add on for all you pistonheads here's the right movie after that long read: