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DECEMBER 7, 2015: WE PICK THE MOST ICONIC CAR IN AUTOMOTIVE HISTORY

By on December 7, 2015

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Any word with “iconic” in front of it in a sentence means the subject is also in front of its peers in the world at large.

 

 

To quote Frank Sinatra in his song about the iconic city of New York; “A-number-one-Top-of-the-list-King-of-the-Hill”.

Incidentally, we at MSCC also put the iconic Sinatra at the top of the list of great singers. However, our task is to pick the most iconic car of all time in our humble opinion and the task is not easy when you consider the cars that have made a big impact in the automotive world. For instance, a strong case could be made for the 1957 Chevy because this car never became unpopular ever since it left the showroom during the Elvis era.

 

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The resiliency of the ’57 Chevy in the hearts and minds of car guys is likely based upon its appearance which had the largest tail fins in the history of the Bowtie brand. The ’57 Chevy had it all: good small block V-8 performance for the time, a clean, fast look and the enduring appeal of a strong contender for the iconic crown. But we did not pick the ’57 Chevy as our most iconic automotive choice.

 

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Another candidate for most iconic car would be the 1964 Mustang because these sporty compacts ushered in the pony car era and changed the game for young buyers who wanted an affordable ride in a smaller, stylish package.

 

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The young customers got it all with the Mustang and the evolution to iconic status came very quickly with the even sportier 1964 ½ models introduced in July, 1964. But we did not pick the first year Mustang as our most iconic car.

 

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One of the most popular cars ever produced was the first-generation Volkswagen Beetle. This car had an infamous start in pre-war Nazi Germany with Hitler’s plan to build an affordable car for the German people, but it gained an enormous foothold in the global car market when the Beetle was built in a post-war reconstruction era for Germany.

 

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The terminally cute Beetle was an instant hit with buyers and their kids during the baby boomer population explosion after WW II. It was an affordable, dependable commuter car with great gas mileage that served a valuable purpose in the new suburban neighborhoods built long distances away from urban centers in North American cities. The Beetle is definitely an iconic candidate for its unusual looks and staggering production numbers, but it is not our choice for top dog in the iconic car department.

 

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The 1955 Ford Thunderbird hit the showroom 60 years ago and was an instant legend in the Fabulous 50s. The two-seater sports car flew in the face of the car market when it debuted as the anti-family car alternative for North American buyers. A first-gen T-Bird was built for a buyer who was comfortable with the single life and a two-seater “personal luxury car” (Ford’s term for the T-Bird) was an asset as an image-builder for dating purposes.

 

 

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The small block 292 Ford V-8 in the first T-Bird gave these personal luxury cars some serious jump when it came to performance in 1955. The first T-Birds had it all when it came to style, speed and overall curb appeal, but these ‘Birds did not fly to the top of the list for our pick as most iconic car.

 

 

There were two Corvettes that made serious noise as the most iconic rides of all time: the 1953 Corvette and its younger sibling, the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray. The 1953 ‘Vette blazed a path for the two-seater sports car market in North American and even preceded the first T-Bird. This ‘Vette was popular with the same buyer as the T-Bird and it attracted them two years earlier than the T-Birds in the early 50s. That gave the first-gen Vettes a racer’s edge in the icon department, but it was seriously challenged 10 years later with the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray.

 

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The ’63 ‘Vette was a game-changer when it debuted in the early 60s. This car looked fast at a standstill and had plenty of horses under the hood to back up that look. It also had Hollywood handsome good looks with its hideaway headlights and fastback roof line. The ’63 Vette could make a compelling case for iconic champ, but it was not our choice here at MSCC.

 

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The boys from Mopar cannot be left off the list of iconic rides because they had the baddest fins of the 50s with their Forward Look cars, but we picked a low cost muscle car from the late 60s as our iconic candidate from Chryco. The 1968 Plymouth Road Runner was an affordable way for young customers to get access to generous horsepower well beyond their driving skills.

 

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The Road Runner was a two door version of the mid-sized Plymouth sedans that were popular with cab companies and police departments in 1968. The Road Runner badge, factory 383 under the hood, two fewer doors, and low price tag gave the Plymouth a big boost in the image department for young buyers on a budget. A few more bucks and you could buy a 426 Hemi in a ’68 Runner, but a 383 provided more than enough horses to get into plenty of trouble with these inexpensive road rockets.

 

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The 1968 Plymouth Road Runner was an iconic ride in its own right; however it is not our choice for most iconic ride of all time.
That honor goes to the Ford Model T. The first Model T left the factory 107 years ago and changed the game for the automobile industry. Henry Ford built a mass production vehicle that could fit into the budget of early 20th century buyers who wanted to switch from horse and buggies.

 

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The early years of the automotive industry are littered with the carcasses of failed car companies who were unable to build an affordable, dependable alternative to old school horsepower pulling a wagon. Henry Ford figured out the puzzle and built a legacy with the Model T.

 

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The Model T was not simply a car-it was a tractor, truck, snow plow, bus, lumber mill and anything else that it was called upon to do in the early 20th century. The T was a jack-of-all-trades and mastered them all when it was pressed into duty.

 

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They made over 16 million of these iconic vehicles and the last one left the factory long before most of us were even born-but car guys owe everything to the success of this early-era ride from Henry Ford.

 

We at MSCC salute the Model T as our choice for most iconic car of all time.

 

Jim Sutherland

 

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