When we posted our article on the most desirable cars, we got a lot of feedback. We still do, actually. Much of the dialogue is people asking why we excluded race vehicles. The simple answer is that there are different factors at play for the form giving of a street-going vehicle versus a race-bred one. The constraints placed upon the designers and engineers are so wildly different it drives different thinking, a different form, and frankly, shapes our expectations to be different as well. That, and we wanted to have a reason to do another list. So there's that.
Unlike our last aesthetically driven list, there is only 1 rule:
1. Like last time, all selections must have debuted in their desired form on or before 1985.
The list is larger than any previous one, and still left a lot of desirable options on the cutting room floor. There are so many cars and series that are not represented at all, but not for lack of considering them.
So let's dig in.
The 1978 Dome Zero
Almost from the initial concept, the Zero was intended to compete at the 24 hours of LeMans. The rules for homologation in Japan were very strict at the time, so it's only true public presence was at car shows and LeMans, where it competed for 3 years. The Dome Zero was also the inspiration behind the television show Transformers generation one character Hot Rod. In so many ways, The Zero is distinctively a Japanese aesthetic. It's not traditionally pretty, but so futuristic, it's appealing. The planar form has a much more modern Lamborghini Reventon-like feel to it.
The 1967 Ford GT40 MkIV
The Ford GT40 MkIV was the ultimate closing chapter of a legend. Despite being named Mark for, it shared very little with its earlier predecessors the Mark one and two. Arguably the Mark one or two are equally attractive, but there is a beautiful elegance to the rear word aerodynamics on the market for car. The market for was only entered in two races, the 12 hours of Sebring and the 24 hours of LeMans. It won them both in record time. It made winning look easy with its enormous engine and refined aerodynamics.
The Lotus 49
While it also made for a very attractive non-aero car, my favorite iteration is in the first years of aero in Gold Leaf livery.
The 1963 Aston Martin Development Project 215
The Aston Martin DP215 was the final in a series of front engine project car they produced. It is a gorgeous Zagato bodied car of which only two were produced. It recorded over 198 mph on the Mulsanne straight, and was rumored to still be accelerating. There is only one left in existence.
The 1951–53 Jaguar C-Type
This is the car that essentially started Jaguar dominance at La Sarthe. It won in 1951, its first year at Lemans. It probably would have in 1952 as well except, worried about the rumored Mercedes 300SLs, they modified the C-Type's aerodynamics hoping to increase speed. The rearrangement of the cooling system to accommodate the aero forced all three cars retire from overheating. For 1953, they re-focused their attention on weight. They lightened the body, installed Weber carburetors and used lighter equipment for the fuel tank and electric systems. The biggest weight savings was the switch to disc brakes. This made the C-Type the first disc brake-equipped car to win LeMans.
The 1976-79 Porsche 935
Growing up as a kid, the Porsche 935 derivative of the 911 was largely responsible for me looking at the 911 as a desirable car. It looked cartoonish in its slant nose / whale tail embodiment, with flames perpetually shooting out, and generating nearly 800 hp in some permutations. It may not have been attractive in the traditional, elegant sense. More appropriately, it was just difficult to look away from it.
The 1962-64 Ferrari 250 GTO
It is believed that there were only 39 Ferrari 250 GTOs built in its two-year production run. To add to their mystique, it is believed that buyers had to be personally approved by Enzo Ferrari himself to take delivery of one.
The 250 GTO managed to win it's class in 1962, 63 and 64 in the FIA GT International Championship. It was essentially one of the last front engine cars to remain competitive in this level of motorsports. All these provenance-building points notwithstanding, it is simply gorgeous.
The 1983–86 Lancia LC2
Let's get right to the point. The car was not very successful in its racing endeavors. It did manage three wins in 51 races. But just look at it. It is an Italian permutation of a Porsche 956. With Martini livery. I'm not sure you can go wrong.
The 1956-59 Aston Martin DBR1
The Aston Martin DBR1 was a purpose built sports racing car for LeMans. It started racing in 1956, but it's most successful outing was the 1959 24 hour race. It provided Aston Martin it's only out right victory at the legendary race in the hands of only two drivers, versus the 4 of most teams today: Roy Salvadori and the young Carroll Shelby. All I know is it's gorgeous. And Carroll Shelby called it one of his favorite cars of all time.
The 1966-67 Ferrari 330 P3/4
This may have been one of Ferrari's biggest failed efforts. Ford was cleaning their clocks with the GT40. But in a sense, we all won, because the battles between Ford and Ferrari were producing outrageously fast pieces of rolling sculpture. With their dramatic, highly pronounced fenders, and exaggerated greenhouse, The 330 P3/4 Ferraris are clearly no exception.
The 1969-73 Porsche 917
One of the advantages to placing the Porsche 917 on the list is that there are so many different permutations to choose from. You have two versions in 1969 (short and long tail), two in 1970 again, four in 1971 (short and long tail, Spyder version, and CanAm version), and the 1972 and 1973 versions. By the thinnest of margins, I am partial to the 1969 short tail version. But any of them deserve to be on this list. And unlike the Ferrari 330 P3/4, the 917 had incredible success on the track, in nearly every permutation.
The 1967 Gurney Eagle Westlake Mk1 T1G
Quite simply one of the sexiest rear-engined non-aero formula cars ever created.
1939 Auto Union Type D
It's aesthetic is so quintessentially period-German. There is a mechanical elegance and simplicity to it.
The 1957 Chevrolet Corvette SS
So it's basically just heavily 'speedstered' Corvette. I'm OK with that. It really transforms the car from a GT-like car to looking like it's really meant for business. Even the 'street' Corvette stripped and prepped looks badass. Very sinister in all black.
The 1970 Trans Am Boss Mustang
When I think of the American Road racing scene, this is always the car that comes to mind. Either the Grabber Orange or Parnelli Jones red and black livery is equally just fine, thanks.
1972 Harley Davidson XR750TT
Since I have more of a motorsports bend, that means I don't look at Harley Davidsons as passionately as their more avid fans. Yet this 1972 XR 750 TT is just gorgeous. It looks like it could have been designed in the 80s or 90s, and still looked appropriate for the time.
The Porsche 908
Not unlike the 917, there were several permutations of the 908. I am partial to the full bodied long tail version of 1969. Good enough to take second place in LeMans in 1969.
The 1954 Mercedes W196R Streamliner
The W196 was the Mercedes-Benz Formula One car for 1954 in 1955. It used desmodromic valves and direct fuel injection.
The Streamliner was an aerodynamic closed wheel aluminum body that was placed over top of the W196 Formula One car for the high-speed tracks. They claimed a 1-2 finish at the 1954 French Grand Prix. The body was only used three more times. Similar to the Audi, it has an elegant, functional aesthetic to it.
The Lotus 11
I have always been partial to these, particularly in polished aluminum form. It feels as if it is the essence of the Colin Chapman theory, in a bodied car. Beautiful simplicity.
1966 Chaparral 2D
It's as if Porsche was taking cues from Chaparral with the 908 and 917. Jim Hall did some crazy, innovative, beautiful stuff, but I find this one the most visually appealing of them.
So there you have it. We'd love to know what you think, and what you'd choose.