We all love a good set of wheels. Some cars are fun to drive, others are awesome to look at, and some are just iconic. For the car geek, certain vehicles are especially legendary. We’d all love to purchase one of these classic cars, fix it up, and take it out on the road, but most of us only know basic car maintenance. It takes a true elite car geek to navigate the complexities of replacing a Jaguar XK straight six engine or wiring a set of vintage Lucas headlamps into a classic Rolls-Royce. Still, we can admire from afar.
Here are just 7 of our favorite vintage rides.
1. 1957 Chevy Bel Air
The “‘57 Chevy,” as it’s best known, remains the ultimate car lover’s dream. It sent the automotive world in a frenzy when it was first introduced, thanks to its fully upgraded design, signature tailfins, sleek curved bumper, and shimmering chrome accents. Buyers could choose between 6-cylinder and V8 engines as well as a range of horsepower options.
The ‘57 Chevy Bel Air has stood the test of time because it’s synonymous with ‘50s youth culture, the boundless freedom and optimism of postwar adolescence. It doesn’t hurt that the timeless design still looks great on the highway. This remains one of the most fun cars to fix up and customize, whether you’re restoring the interior or upgrading to a more powerful 21st-century engine.
2. 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
If we may shift gears (forgive the pun), the Pontiac Firebird is a far cry from the ‘57 Chevy but still a wonder to behold. Perhaps best known as the car prominently featured in Smokey and the Bandit, the ‘77 Firebird is the epitome of cool. With its bold black-and-gold color motif and its flaming bird decals, this one stands out for all the right reasons.
The ‘77 Firebird is the first in the line to feature the familiar slant-nose hood scoop. It’s also a true muscle car with its powerful 8-cylinder engine options.
3. 1963 Aston Martin DB5
The 1963 DB5 may have James Bond to thank for its enduring popularity. This sleek, sophisticated luxury GT was featured in at least 6 Bond films and is still synonymous with English high society.
With its all-aluminum 4.0 L engine, powerful ZF 5-speed transmission, and three SU carburetors, the DB5 is a vehicle worthy of an international superspy, and it still holds its own. It’s also noted for its reclining seats (still uncommon for the time), wood pile carpets, chrome wheels, and magnesium-alloy body. It even has automatic windows. If you’re a collector, though, you’ll have a hard time getting your hands on this one, especially in the United States. You may need to expand your search nationwide and find a good classic car transporter.
4. Ford Model T
The Model T isn’t beloved because it’s attractive, powerful, or full-featured—it’s none of those things. Car geeks love it because, while it wasn’t the first car to hit the market, it was the first viable car to hit the market. It was the automobile that showed us what was possible, and it birthed the automotive phenomenon.
Honestly, it’s no fun trying to drive this beast. With its hand-crank engine and two-speed transmission, it’s actually sort of pain—and don’t expect to hit 30 miles per hour. Still, if you can get your hands on one, you’re guaranteed to be the hit of the car show.
5. 1949 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible/Coupe
When you think of the archetypal ‘40s car, you likely think the ‘49 Cadillac Series 62. With its oversized grille, chrome body, and bold blue exterior coupled with gray interior, it may just be the original cruising car. It’s also one of the first vehicles to make prominent use of the tailfin, which would become a more standard fixture in the 1950s.
In many ways, the Series 62 was ahead of its time. This car came equipped with a 331cid engine, automatic transmission, 6-volt exhaust system, and electric fuel pump. All you need is a gritty film noir backdrop, and you’re ready to hit the town like Sam Spade.
6. Rolls-Royce Dawn Drophead
Whether you opt for the ‘49 model or the ‘54, the Drophead doesn’t disappoint. This postwar automotive marvel includes all of the hallmarks of the classic luxury vehicle, with its sporty design, skirted and curved front fenders, and prominent leather interior. But, the Dawn Drophead is smaller and sleeker than the pre-war models and offers more beneath the hood.
The Dawn series proved so popular the Rolls-Royce released an updated line in 2015. If you want to get your hands on an original, though, don’t hold your breath. There are only three in the United States, and they’re becoming increasingly difficult to find in Britain. Their scarcity is part of what makes them so alluring to car geeks.
7. 1963 Corvette Stingray
1963 marks a rebirth for the beloved Stingray. Faster, lighter, and more precise, the ‘63 model would become the envy of sports cars everywhere. Car geeks still love it because the design holds up: the peaked fenders, bobbed tail, extended nose. The coupe doors are cut into the roof to simulate the look of a classic race car, and the simulated air intakes—with their prominent indentations—help to complete the look.
And of course, it’s not all about the aesthetics. The Sting Ray is as functional as it is stylish. And today’s restorers love to upgrade the machinery and make it run better than ever before. Whether you opt for red, silver, or silver blue, you’re guaranteed to turn heads on the highway.
While we may not know what the future holds for cars, we do know that the past holds plenty of inspiration. Did we miss your favorite classic car? If so, let us know!