The Greatest & Most Iconic Cars of All-Time
By Carlo Leon Sadang | 16 March 2022
Thousands upon thousands of models have been made and sold throughout history and to be truly fair a lot of terrible creations have surprisingly made it from the drawing board to the approval of the marketing, sales, management, engineering and design team.
Surprisingly, a lot of brilliant and beautiful models that have been practical as well have not even made it past the prototype. How and why this happens I would not know. Maybe it was too expensive to mass-produce, maybe it was way beyond its time but since we will never know the real story behind the success and failure of every model what we can talk about are those who actually made history throughout the automotive world.
From the time of the horse-drawn carriage, it was not possible to travel using machines as they were just totally out of the human realm. There were trains anyway and traveling to faraway places was reserved for the daring. The automobile changed all that and made man mobile.
I would say that the most Iconic of all would be the original Benz gasoline-powered engine. This started the ball rolling. It was a two-seater carriage with just enough power to drive two people slowly across town but since the idea was so revolutionary because for the first time there was no horse and it was not a train, it gained worldwide acceptance as the wave of the future.
True to form, German engineering at its best changed the way we travel forever. It was a horse carriage without a roof but with a small gas engine and crude tires and suspension. The Ford Model-T made cars more accessible to the masses but we would always look back at the first car in history. Had Benz focused on mass production rather than premium engineering the Mercedes Benz cars may have been every man’s car of today.
The Toyota Corolla or Altis to some countries takes the top spot for being the most practical everyday car performing the basic purpose of a vehicle. To get the passenger from point A to B with as little complications and reliability to do it all over again for hundreds of thousands of miles. The Altis is everyman’s car and it has no apologies for being boring, common, ordinary and fuel-efficient. Toyota has tried to lead the market with their hybrid Prius model however as the car had already been boring the realization came that if it was more boring than a Corolla then why would the market even bother?
Apparently, the market has a clear baseline for what it would consider acceptable and the Corolla is in many ways the baseline for passenger cars around the world. I would say that the Volkswagen Beetle used to occupy this spot until the Toyota Corolla had taken this throne.
The Porsche 911 makes no apologies for being the most consistent sports car of all time. Ever since the first 911 has rolled out it has not stopped rolling. It is the template for sports car design. The classic 911 silhouette remains unchanged with a few retouches to slowly forge the model into the future but that shape, believed to be the ideal shape of a sports car which is a two-door car seems to be the correct recipe.
It has to be also said that the unquestionable German Engineering which has set the bar extremely high for sports car design makes the 911 arguably the greatest sports car model of all time. The 911 will never go out of style whatever they say. It will always be in the top 10 of any year and trying to change it completely would be the only reason why I see it would fail. I would put this ahead of the Jaguar E-Type simply because the E-Type is already dead. I will also give special mention to the Corvette.
It has beaten the Porsche in racing competitions and performance figures in the past. My only gripe with the Corvette is that when it changed from the front engine to rear-mounted I barely recognized it as a Corvette. Someone has to fix this in Chevrolet. So for consistency, the Porsche takes the top spot though I personally would prefer a Ferrari 355 any time of the day.
When it comes to a passion you need to go Italian. However, the most famous marquee is Ferrari. Why shouldn’t they be but I’ll have to simply digress here. This is where I will pick the Alfa Romeo. It should not be in business. It loses money, it’s hard to maintain, it is not reliable, it is not relatively cheap, and a very low resale value and clearly the best days of Alfa Romeo are clearly behind.
Alfa is so complicated I can’t even pick a model to choose for this article but I guess that is what an Alfa really is. But the subject of this article is Greatest and Most Iconic Cars of All-Time. It certainly is not the greatest but it certainly is an Iconic car. So I will say every Alfa Romeo model is iconic simply because it is an Alfa. To those who don’t understand I will simply say this: If I had to pick just one car in my life to drive it would be an Alfa Romeo. If I had to pick a model it would probably be 155 or 156. I know it is a rolling headache but one thing is for sure, I’m driving a very iconic car and I know what I’m talking about just by owning one.
For the one that made it on top and the masters of the universe, it is a battle between the S-Class of Mercedes and the Rolls Royce Phantom. With all honesty, the Phantom is half a notch higher than the S-Class even if the S-Class did manage to make the greatest 4 door saloon of all time the W140. The Phantom is both iconic and great like the W140 but since the Mercedes line-up is more confusing and they just have too many models the Phantom takes the win by being still in production and being the number one choice of those who have made it to the top.
And finally who would forget the Land Rover Defender. They set the template for an SUV when the Range Rover started to build a more sophisticated version of a four-wheel drive vehicle. The name itself is cool – defender. Another thing that makes it iconic is the fact it has remained the same until recently.
The new iterations of the Land Rover are objectively prettier and more civilized than the old Defender however the 4WD purists who want to still have a crude 4WD suddenly had the Ineos Grenadier as their only hope for Landy (Land Rover pet name) nostalgia. I guess the Defender is so Iconic because it looks and does the part without any fancy. The previous Defenders were slow and sometimes unreliable but when they were working, they would literally go anywhere.
This is where a vehicle does not measure up to the greatness and iconic status it is given but I guess being the first to do it gives you some sort of grip on the hearts and minds of the public.
But wait. I forgot the vehicle that will change everything. Drumroll, please!!! The Tesla Model S. Yes it in my opinion is the first proper electric vehicle. This is when we look back at an era and a century from now; they will be talking about this vehicle. By that time cars will be flying and who knows maybe teleportation will be possible but if cars still remain relevant, the Model S will be as great and Iconic as those mentioned.
Elon Musk was just as bold as Carl Benz back then, only the concept of a motor-powered vehicle exists in Elon’s era. It was also stupid fast because it was electric and the handling was surprisingly comparable to its fuel-powered counterparts. Then they realized it was also safe. The only thing they could find fault at it was that it was boring. But let’s be honest.
Unless it was an Italian or German super saloon the Model S was as boring as its regular 4-door counterparts. By the way, I almost forgot. It is also a self-driving vehicle. When Tesla sorts out the bugs in its manufacturing and gets the price down then we’ll probably see the domination of this now Iconic and great brand in all the streets of the world.
I know I’ve missed some cars but when I said “Great and Iconic” I was referring to cars that are not just one-hit wonders or cult classics. They revolutionize or continue to transport us. Their impacts are still to this day remembered even if they have been made many decades ago. Some are even Iconic because they just are like the Alfa. Whatever your car is remember one thing, the greatest car is the car that you own.
Carlo Leon Sadang is a technical researcher and an engineer. He currently finishing his ebook about ethical and moral standards. He is still actively working as an engineer while writing ebooks on the side.