Automotive

Masterclass: 25 legendary cars that prove beauty is more than skin deep

Masterclass: 25 legendary cars...
The 250GT California was hand built by Sergio Scagletti
The 250GT California was hand built by Sergio Scagletti
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The Duesenberg Model J was an American take on the classic luxury car
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The Duesenberg Model J was an American take on the classic luxury car
The boat tail on the Model J is one of the reasons it's so pretty
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The boat tail on the Model J is one of the reasons it's so pretty
The interior of the Model J is a gorgeous mix of leather, wood and metal
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The interior of the Model J is a gorgeous mix of leather, wood and metal
The engine in the Model J was the most powerful in America when it launched
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The engine in the Model J was the most powerful in America when it launched
Add Duesenberg to the list of carmakers that doesn't exist anymore
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Add Duesenberg to the list of carmakers that doesn't exist anymore
It might look like the front, but this is actually the rear of the Model J
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It might look like the front, but this is actually the rear of the Model J
The Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic wasn't nearly as popular in its time as it is now
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The Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic wasn't nearly as popular in its time as it is now
A Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic on show at Monterey Car Week
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A Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic on show at Monterey Car Week
The riveting on the Type 57SC Atlantic is one of the most recognisable elements of the car
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The riveting on the Type 57SC Atlantic is one of the most recognisable elements of the car
Riveting details on the Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic
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Riveting details on the Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic
The Type 57SC Atlantic is famously owned by Ralph Lauren
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The Type 57SC Atlantic is famously owned by Ralph Lauren
The 540K Spezial Roadster was remarkably fast for its time 
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The 540K Spezial Roadster was remarkably fast for its time 
Mercedes Benz wasn't in the business of family cars back in the 1930s - the Spezial Roadster was all about exclusivity
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Mercedes Benz wasn't in the business of family cars back in the 1930s - the Spezial Roadster was all about exclusivity
It looks fit for Cruella de Ville, but this Spezial was owned by a baroness
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It looks fit for Cruella de Ville, but this Spezial was owned by a baroness
The 540K Spezial was available in 180 hp supercharged trim
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The 540K Spezial was available in 180 hp supercharged trim
Spezial Roadsters varied based on the coachbuilder used 
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Spezial Roadsters varied based on the coachbuilder used 
Behind the wheel of the 540K Spezial Roadster
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Behind the wheel of the 540K Spezial Roadster
Adding a roof doesn't make the Spezial any less stunning 
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Adding a roof doesn't make the Spezial any less stunning 
The long nose of the Spezial is home to one of the most powerful engines of its time 
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The long nose of the Spezial is home to one of the most powerful engines of its time 
The classic Mercedes three-pointed star is unchanged, even today
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The classic Mercedes three-pointed star is unchanged, even today
The Auto Union Type C was the most powerful racer in its class 
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The Auto Union Type C was the most powerful racer in its class 
Audi still wheels out the Type C for historic celebrations
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Audi still wheels out the Type C for historic celebrations
The Auto Union Type C had a crazy V16 engine 
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The Auto Union Type C had a crazy V16 engine 
The Auto Union Type C was reportedly a bit of a pig to drive
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The Auto Union Type C was reportedly a bit of a pig to drive
The Auto Union Type C makes its way around Monaco 
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The Auto Union Type C makes its way around Monaco 
The Type C was usurped by the Mercedes W125
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The Type C was usurped by the Mercedes W125
The Auto Union Type C was known for spinning its wheels up to 100 mph
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The Auto Union Type C was known for spinning its wheels up to 100 mph
The Mercedes W125 was the most powerful racer in the world at the time of launch 
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The Mercedes W125 was the most powerful racer in the world at the time of launch 
The W125 used an inline eight with more than 590 hp 
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The W125 used an inline eight with more than 590 hp 
The W125 was a direct response to the Auto Union Type C
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The W125 was a direct response to the Auto Union Type C
A cutaway look at the Mercedes W125
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A cutaway look at the Mercedes W125
It took until the 80s until F1 cars had as much power as the W125
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It took until the 80s until F1 cars had as much power as the W125
The long nose of the W125 is at odds with the long tail of the Auto Union Type C
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The long nose of the W125 is at odds with the long tail of the Auto Union Type C
This Talbot-Lago teardrop is pretty enough to make you cry
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This Talbot-Lago teardrop is pretty enough to make you cry
The interior of the Talbot-Lago is a stunning environment 
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The interior of the Talbot-Lago is a stunning environment 
Power by Talbot-Lago, body by Figoni et Falaschi
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Power by Talbot-Lago, body by Figoni et Falaschi
This style of body is best known for being fitted to Delahayes, but the Talbot-Lago example is stunning as well 
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This style of body is best known for being fitted to Delahayes, but the Talbot-Lago example is stunning as well 
The enclosed rear fenders on the Figoni et Falaschi are a gorgeous touch
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The enclosed rear fenders on the Figoni et Falaschi are a gorgeous touch
The shape of the Talbot-Lago is reminiscent of the Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic
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The shape of the Talbot-Lago is reminiscent of the Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic
The BMW 328 was remarkably successful as a racer 
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The BMW 328 was remarkably successful as a racer 
The 328 won Mille Miglia, even though it was down on power compared to its rivals
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The 328 won Mille Miglia, even though it was down on power compared to its rivals
The 328 was powered by an inline six making around 80 kW
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The 328 was powered by an inline six making around 80 kW
The 328 weighed just over 800 kg
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The 328 weighed just over 800 kg
The 328 has inspired the current crop of BMW roadsters 
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The 328 has inspired the current crop of BMW roadsters 
The 328 was launched without fanfare, but made a huge impact on the racetrack 
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The 328 was launched without fanfare, but made a huge impact on the racetrack 
Racing versions of the 328 had tweaked aerodynamics
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Racing versions of the 328 had tweaked aerodynamics
The 328 is regularly rolled out at historic races 
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The 328 is regularly rolled out at historic races 
The 328 Roaster looks a bit quaint compared to some of the mostrous racers on this list 
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The 328 Roaster looks a bit quaint compared to some of the mostrous racers on this list 
The Jaguar XK120 was a world beater
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The Jaguar XK120 was a world beater
The engine in the XK120 drove it to a top speed of 120 mph
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The engine in the XK120 drove it to a top speed of 120 mph
The enclosed rear wheels on the XK120 were designed to help it hit 120 mph
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The enclosed rear wheels on the XK120 were designed to help it hit 120 mph
The shape of the XK120 is quintessentially Jaguar
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The shape of the XK120 is quintessentially Jaguar
The XK120 has smooth, rounded edges like all good classic British cars
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The XK120 has smooth, rounded edges like all good classic British cars
The XK120 is achingly pretty, even with French-style yellow lamps
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The XK120 is achingly pretty, even with French-style yellow lamps
The straight six that powered the XK120 to the speed record
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The straight six that powered the XK120 to the speed record
The XK120 used to set the speed record was, er, mildly modified
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The XK120 used to set the speed record was, er, mildly modified
The Porsche 550 Spyder was owned by a lot of rich, famous people 
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The Porsche 550 Spyder was owned by a lot of rich, famous people 
Actor James Dean was killed driving his 550, dubbed Little Bastard 
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Actor James Dean was killed driving his 550, dubbed Little Bastard 
The 550 was powered by a naturally aspirated four cylinder engine 
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The 550 was powered by a naturally aspirated four cylinder engine 
The simple lines of the 550 Spyder make it a classic 
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The simple lines of the 550 Spyder make it a classic 
The rounded headlamps of the 550 Spyder are pure 911, but the car stands alone as a legend 
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The rounded headlamps of the 550 Spyder are pure 911, but the car stands alone as a legend 
The 550 Spyder has been used as inspiration for plenty of modern Porsche special editions 
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The 550 Spyder has been used as inspiration for plenty of modern Porsche special editions 
The 550 Spyder weighs well under 1,000 kg
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The 550 Spyder weighs well under 1,000 kg
The Porsche 550 Spyder 
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The Porsche 550 Spyder 
The (tiny) beating heart of the Porsche 550 Spyder 
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The (tiny) beating heart of the Porsche 550 Spyder 
The Alfa Romeo Disco Volante was tested in the wind tunnel 
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The Alfa Romeo Disco Volante was tested in the wind tunnel 
The shape of the Disco Volante has been compared to a flying saucer 
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The shape of the Disco Volante has been compared to a flying saucer 
The shape of the Disco Volante was used as inspiration for a modern 8C coach build 
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The shape of the Disco Volante was used as inspiration for a modern 8C coach build 
The Disco Volante was designed by Carozzeria Touring 
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The Disco Volante was designed by Carozzeria Touring 
The Disco Volante is said to have inspired the Jaguar E-Type's design 
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The Disco Volante is said to have inspired the Jaguar E-Type's design 
The Disco Volante was designed with aerodynamics in mind 
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The Disco Volante was designed with aerodynamics in mind 
The Mercedes 300SL Gullwing inspired the modern SLS AMG 
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The Mercedes 300SL Gullwing inspired the modern SLS AMG 
The 300SL was the fastest car in the world when it launched 
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The 300SL was the fastest car in the world when it launched 
The 300SL was a grand tourer capable of remarkable performance 
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The 300SL was a grand tourer capable of remarkable performance 
The straight six in the 300SL was powerful enough to make it the fastest car in the world 
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The straight six in the 300SL was powerful enough to make it the fastest car in the world 
Of course, the Gullwing doors on the 300SL are the most memorable feature
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Of course, the Gullwing doors on the 300SL are the most memorable feature
Styling cues from the 300SL are still being used on Mercedes cars today 
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Styling cues from the 300SL are still being used on Mercedes cars today 
The Gullwing doors on the 300SL were novel in the 50s, and still are today 
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The Gullwing doors on the 300SL were novel in the 50s, and still are today 
The 300SL was also available as a roadster, although that did mean losing the Gullwing doors 
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The 300SL was also available as a roadster, although that did mean losing the Gullwing doors 
The 300SL continues growing in value 
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The 300SL continues growing in value 
The Gullwing was designed to cover huge distances at high speed 
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The Gullwing was designed to cover huge distances at high speed 
The tartan seats in the 300SL are a perfect period touch 
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The tartan seats in the 300SL are a perfect period touch 
The dials in the 300SL are classic Mercedes 
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The dials in the 300SL are classic Mercedes 
The Gullwing doors on the 300SL are its defining feature 
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The Gullwing doors on the 300SL are its defining feature 
The button on the floor of the Citroen DS is actually the brake 
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The button on the floor of the Citroen DS is actually the brake 
The DS went through a number of iterations
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The DS went through a number of iterations
The Citroen DS was a legend, with lots of small innovations scattered throughout its design
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The Citroen DS was a legend, with lots of small innovations scattered throughout its design
DS, or deesse, is French for goddess 
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DS, or deesse, is French for goddess 
The DS ran on smooth hydro-pneumatic suspension 
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The DS ran on smooth hydro-pneumatic suspension 
The DS was built for more than 20 years
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The DS was built for more than 20 years
The high-set indicators on the DS were are safety feature 
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The high-set indicators on the DS were are safety feature 
The single spoke steering wheel on the DS was unique at launch 
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The single spoke steering wheel on the DS was unique at launch 
The DS had swivelling headlamps 
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The DS had swivelling headlamps 
The Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa has a unique aerodynamic form 
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The Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa has a unique aerodynamic form 
Behind the wheel of the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa 
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Behind the wheel of the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa 
The 250TR in its element 
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The 250TR in its element 
The Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa is a stunning example of how racing can influence design 
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The Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa is a stunning example of how racing can influence design 
Another win for the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa 
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Another win for the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa 
The V12 in the Testa Rossa 
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The V12 in the Testa Rossa 
The Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa is a legend on and off the track 
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The Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa is a legend on and off the track 
This 250 Testa Rossa is one of the most expensive cars ever sold at auction 
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This 250 Testa Rossa is one of the most expensive cars ever sold at auction 
The 250 Testa Rossa was a successful racer, although not to the same degree as some of the cars on this list 
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The 250 Testa Rossa was a successful racer, although not to the same degree as some of the cars on this list 
The V12 in the 250TR displaced just three liters 
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The V12 in the 250TR displaced just three liters 
The interior of the 250 Testa Rossa is typically stripped out
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The interior of the 250 Testa Rossa is typically stripped out
The badge on the nose of the 250TR instantly makes it one of the most desirable cars in the world 
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The badge on the nose of the 250TR instantly makes it one of the most desirable cars in the world 
The fuel tank in the 250 Testa Rossa was remarkably close to the driver's head
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The fuel tank in the 250 Testa Rossa was remarkably close to the driver's head
The most recognizable badge in the motoring world
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The most recognizable badge in the motoring world
Yet another Prancing Horse 
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Yet another Prancing Horse 
The aerodynamic form of the 250 Testa Rossa was unique for its time 
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The aerodynamic form of the 250 Testa Rossa was unique for its time 
The Fiat 500 Cinquecento is a legend
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The Fiat 500 Cinquecento is a legend
The rear-engined 500 is a masterpiece of packaging 
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The rear-engined 500 is a masterpiece of packaging 
The 500 is often copied, and has been revived recently
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The 500 is often copied, and has been revived recently
The Fiat 500 manages to be practical and a style icon 
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The Fiat 500 manages to be practical and a style icon 
A Fiat 500 gets to work in black and white 
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A Fiat 500 gets to work in black and white 
The 500 was available with a soft sunroof 
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The 500 was available with a soft sunroof 
The 500 predated the Mini, but both cars have a similar utilitarian focus 
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The 500 predated the Mini, but both cars have a similar utilitarian focus 
The Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Roadster stands out among American cars of the period 
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The Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Roadster stands out among American cars of the period 
The fins on the big Cadillac were among the largest fitted to a car 
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The fins on the big Cadillac were among the largest fitted to a car 
The V8 engine in the Eldorado was hooked up to a Hydra Matic automatic gearbox 
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The V8 engine in the Eldorado was hooked up to a Hydra Matic automatic gearbox 
The chrome interior trim and red leather of the Biarritz are suitably brash 
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The chrome interior trim and red leather of the Biarritz are suitably brash 
Air suspension on the Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz was a part of the range-topping appeal 
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Air suspension on the Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz was a part of the range-topping appeal 
The grille on the Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Roadster was common with other cars in the Cadillac range
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The grille on the Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Roadster was common with other cars in the Cadillac range
The long, low Cadillac was the flagship of the range 
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The long, low Cadillac was the flagship of the range 
The trim on the big Caddy is loud and proud 
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The trim on the big Caddy is loud and proud 
There's plenty of rear seat space in the Biarritz. Then again, you'd hope so 
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There's plenty of rear seat space in the Biarritz. Then again, you'd hope so 
The Eldorado Biarritz was the epitome of American excess
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The Eldorado Biarritz was the epitome of American excess
The Jaguar E-Type is arguably the best looking car ever built 
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The Jaguar E-Type is arguably the best looking car ever built 
This E-Type was a barn find, and has the patina to prove it 
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This E-Type was a barn find, and has the patina to prove it 
Behind the wheel of the Jaguar E-Type 
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Behind the wheel of the Jaguar E-Type 
Jaguar sold plenty of E-Types to high-flying socialites and models 
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Jaguar sold plenty of E-Types to high-flying socialites and models 
The simple interior of the Mini was part of its appeal 
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The simple interior of the Mini was part of its appeal 
The design of the Mini was a masterpiece of packaging 
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The design of the Mini was a masterpiece of packaging 
The Mini shape is iconic, even today 
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The Mini shape is iconic, even today 
The Mini has its wheels pushed to all four corners for more interior space 
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The Mini has its wheels pushed to all four corners for more interior space 
The Mini has been reborn recently, but the new BMW take on the car lacks the remarkable compact dimensions of the original 
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The Mini has been reborn recently, but the new BMW take on the car lacks the remarkable compact dimensions of the original 
The transverse mounted engine in the Mini 
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The transverse mounted engine in the Mini 
The Mini Cooper was loved by celebrities and families alike 
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The Mini Cooper was loved by celebrities and families alike 
The Ferrari 250GT California is, put simply, stunning 
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The Ferrari 250GT California is, put simply, stunning 
Long and short wheelbase versions of the 250GT California were built
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Long and short wheelbase versions of the 250GT California were built
Power in the California came from a three-liter V12
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Power in the California came from a three-liter V12
The California has become one of the most valuable cars in the world
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The California has become one of the most valuable cars in the world
The 250GT California was hand built by Sergio Scagletti
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The 250GT California was hand built by Sergio Scagletti
The V12 in the California was tiny by today's standards
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The V12 in the California was tiny by today's standards
The huge wooden steering wheel in the California is a far cry from the button-heavy current designs
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The huge wooden steering wheel in the California is a far cry from the button-heavy current designs
The panels on the California were hand beaten, which means no two cars are the same
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The panels on the California were hand beaten, which means no two cars are the same
The 250GT California was built in incredibly limited numbers
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The 250GT California was built in incredibly limited numbers
Not everyone will like the roof on the California, but it doesn't ruin the lines to our eyes
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Not everyone will like the roof on the California, but it doesn't ruin the lines to our eyes
The elegance of the 250GT California has never been matched
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The elegance of the 250GT California has never been matched
Ferrari has tried to revive the California badge, but the modern car doesn't come close to the original
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Ferrari has tried to revive the California badge, but the modern car doesn't come close to the original
The design of the California was a Sergio Scagletti special
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The design of the California was a Sergio Scagletti special
The Ford GT40 was born out of a desire to spite Enzo Ferrari
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The Ford GT40 was born out of a desire to spite Enzo Ferrari
The GT40 is just 40 inches tall 
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The GT40 is just 40 inches tall 
The GT40 is the first American car to win at Le Mans 
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The GT40 is the first American car to win at Le Mans 
The beating V8 heart of the GT40 
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The beating V8 heart of the GT40 
The Ford GT40 was the result of a business deal gone bad
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The Ford GT40 was the result of a business deal gone bad
The Tipo 33 Stradale is stunning in road-going trim 
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The Tipo 33 Stradale is stunning in road-going trim 
The Tipo 33 is a compact, classic piece of design 
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The Tipo 33 is a compact, classic piece of design 
The Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 in racetrack trim 
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The Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 in racetrack trim 
The Alfa Romeo badge is back in a big way at the moment 
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The Alfa Romeo badge is back in a big way at the moment 
Alfa Romeo is a brand with a rich racing history
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Alfa Romeo is a brand with a rich racing history
The simple interior of the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33
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The simple interior of the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33
The Tipo 33 has been used as inspiration for the Alfa 8C and 4C
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The Tipo 33 has been used as inspiration for the Alfa 8C and 4C
The curves of the Tipo 33 are much simpler than the angles and scoops you get on modern racers
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The curves of the Tipo 33 are much simpler than the angles and scoops you get on modern racers
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The Lamborghini Countach 4000 Quattrovalvole was the most advanced Countach 
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The Lamborghini Countach 4000 Quattrovalvole was the most advanced Countach 
The Countach 4000 Quattrovalvole used a smarter, more advanced V12 than the cars that came before it 
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The Countach 4000 Quattrovalvole used a smarter, more advanced V12 than the cars that came before it 
Under the hood of the Countach 4000 Quattrovalvole
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Under the hood of the Countach 4000 Quattrovalvole
The scoops and spoilers on the Countach 4000 Quattrovalvole make it polarizing, but we're big fans 
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The scoops and spoilers on the Countach 4000 Quattrovalvole make it polarizing, but we're big fans 
The Countach is, arguably, the quintessential supercar 
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The Countach is, arguably, the quintessential supercar 
Lamborghini joins the list of cars and brands created because of a dispute with Ferrari  
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Lamborghini joins the list of cars and brands created because of a dispute with Ferrari  
The scoops on the Countach 4000 Quattrovalvole feed the V12 mounted amidships 
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The scoops on the Countach 4000 Quattrovalvole feed the V12 mounted amidships 
The Ferrari F50 was advertised as an F1 car for the road 
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The Ferrari F50 was advertised as an F1 car for the road 
The F50 used a bored-out F1 engine
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The F50 used a bored-out F1 engine
The F50 sits awkwardly among its range-topping Ferrari stablemates 
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The F50 sits awkwardly among its range-topping Ferrari stablemates 
The F50 used an advanced carbon fiber construction 
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The F50 used an advanced carbon fiber construction 
The V12 in the F50 sounds unbelievable 
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The V12 in the F50 sounds unbelievable 
The F50 is rarer than an Enzo or LaFerrari, and has more racing pedigree than either 
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The F50 is rarer than an Enzo or LaFerrari, and has more racing pedigree than either 
The F50 is beautifully built, in contrast with the kit-car F40 
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The F50 is beautifully built, in contrast with the kit-car F40 
The F50 joins a long line of Ferrari range toppers 
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The F50 joins a long line of Ferrari range toppers 
The V10 heart of the Carrera GT was born in motorsports 
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The V10 heart of the Carrera GT was born in motorsports 
The Carrera GT is known for its spiky handling 
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The Carrera GT is known for its spiky handling 
The V10 heart of the Carrera GT makes an absurd sound 
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The V10 heart of the Carrera GT makes an absurd sound 
Porsche pitched the Carrera GT as an analog alternative to the Ferrari Enzo 
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Porsche pitched the Carrera GT as an analog alternative to the Ferrari Enzo 
The proportions of the Carrera GT are smooth
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The proportions of the Carrera GT are smooth
Beside the 918 Spyder, this is the most special Porsche of the 21st century 
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Beside the 918 Spyder, this is the most special Porsche of the 21st century 
The nose of the Carrera GT was designed to represent an ultimate 911
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The nose of the Carrera GT was designed to represent an ultimate 911
The Carrera GT is rear drive, and has no driver aids 
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The Carrera GT is rear drive, and has no driver aids 
The birchwood gearknob in the Carrera GT is a throwback to the simple units in classic Porsches 
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The birchwood gearknob in the Carrera GT is a throwback to the simple units in classic Porsches 
The Porsche Carrera GT with its targa top in place 
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The Porsche Carrera GT with its targa top in place 
The rear wing on the Carrera GT extends at speed 
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The rear wing on the Carrera GT extends at speed 
The LaFerrari is the first Ferrari to use hybrid power
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The LaFerrari is the first Ferrari to use hybrid power
The interior of the LaFerrari is all about lightweight design 
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The interior of the LaFerrari is all about lightweight design 
Ferrari has used its F1 nous to create the V12 hybrid system in the LaFerrari 
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Ferrari has used its F1 nous to create the V12 hybrid system in the LaFerrari 
The LaFerrari is the most valuable of the hypercar holy trinity 
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The LaFerrari is the most valuable of the hypercar holy trinity 
The seats in the LaFerrari are fixed,  but the pedals and steering wheel move to meet the driver 
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The seats in the LaFerrari are fixed,  but the pedals and steering wheel move to meet the driver 
The nose of the LaFerrari is inspired by F1
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The nose of the LaFerrari is inspired by F1
This is the only LaFerrari finished in this shade of black 
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This is the only LaFerrari finished in this shade of black 
The LaFerrari name was chosen because it is the modern Ferrari
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The LaFerrari name was chosen because it is the modern Ferrari
The new Ford GT is V6 EcoBoost powered 
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The new Ford GT is V6 EcoBoost powered 
The design of the Ford GT is form following function 
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The design of the Ford GT is form following function 
Behind the wheel of the Ford GT 
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Behind the wheel of the Ford GT 
The Ford GT is powered by an EcoBoost V6 
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The Ford GT is powered by an EcoBoost V6 
The stunning tail of the Ford GT 
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The stunning tail of the Ford GT 
The Ford GT at its launch in Detroit 
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The Ford GT at its launch in Detroit 

There's something special about finding the perfect combination of brains and beauty. Automotive history is full of advanced cars that, as well as stopping traffic with their stunning looks, were engineered to outdo their rivals with superior power, performance and packaging. Here are our picks for history's prettiest game changers.

Duesenberg Model J

The Duesenberg Model J was an American take on the classic luxury car
The Duesenberg Model J was an American take on the classic luxury car

Duesenberg isn't around anymore, but it once stood for unmatched luxury and excess in the motoring world. The Model J was designed to offer an American alternative to the cars coming out of Rolls-Royce and Hispano-Suiza. As was convention, the car was shown off as a chassis and engine at the 1928 New York Auto Show.

Power came from a straight eight engine, designed by Fred Duesenberg. It was comfortably the most powerful car in America at the time, making up to 265 hp (198 kW) depending on tune. If that wasn't enough, a supercharged version with upwards of 300 hp (224 kW) was offered later.

Even though it cost $8,500 (equivalent to around $100,000 nowadays) without a body, and was launched just before the Depression struck, the Model J sold in reasonable numbers. The company never met its goal of 500 cars, but reports suggest around 480 did make it out of the factory before its (first) collapse in 1937.

1934 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic

The Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic wasn't nearly as popular in its time as it is now
The Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic wasn't nearly as popular in its time as it is now

There are just two Type 57SC Atlantics left in existence, one of which is owned by Ralph Lauren. Nowadays, it's among the most valuable cars in the world, but when it launched the Atlantic was widely unloved. The car was teased at the 1935 Paris Motor Show, but the Electron Aerolithe Prototype scared off potential buyers with its unconventional design and flammable body panels.

Thankfully, those flammable body panels were swapped for aluminum when production rolled around. Power came from a supercharged inline eight engine making 157 kW (210 hp) that, coupled with the aerodynamic shape, was good for 200 km/h (124 mph). Because the initial prototype was made of magnesium, the body panels and fins couldn't be welded on – unless the coachbuilders wanted a huge fire on their hands. Instead, they were riveted, a unique touch carried into the production car.

1936 Mercedes 540K Spezial Roadster

The classic Mercedes three-pointed star is unchanged, even today
The classic Mercedes three-pointed star is unchanged, even today

Back in the 1930s, Mercedes wasn't in the business of building hatchbacks or sedans for the everyman. Exclusivity was the name of the game, and the 540K Spezial Roadster was the most exclusive of the lot.

As was usually the case in the 1930s, the Spezial came in a range of body styles. Regardless of body, power came from a supercharged V8 engine with 180 hp (134 kW) of power, enough for a top speed around 110 mph (177 km/h). That's the preserve of family hatches now, but it was properly quick in 1936.

Just 419 were built, with a starting price equivalent to around $200,000 today. The car you see above was built by the in-house Mercedes styling department, as was the case with most Roadsters, but some cars were coach built by external companies. Values have skyrocketed recently, with a pristine example selling for $9.9 million at auction last year.

1936 Auto Union Type C

The Auto Union Type C had a crazy V16 engine 
The Auto Union Type C had a crazy V16 engine 

It's not immediately apparent, but under the silver skin of the Auto Union Type C lies the beating heart of an absolute monster. The designers didn't give the Type C that long tail because it looked good, and it wasn't an aerodynamic decision. The tapered tail is home to a supercharged six-liter V16 engine making 520 hp (388 kW).

The Type C represented the final iteration of a Ferdinand Porsche design that debuted in 1934. Although it shared plenty with the Type A and Type B, the 1936 car made them both look positively pedestrian, courtesy of that stonking supercharged engine. Top speed was 340 km/h (211 mph).

It was close to unbeatable, too, winning three of five Grand Prix races, half of the circuit races and every single hillclimb entered. Don't think for a second the Type C was good to drive though, because all reports suggest the car was an oversteering pig, with terrible weight distribution and a crude swing-axle suspension setup. Just imagine trying to hold your 520 hp racer in a slide on cross ply tires at upwards of 100 mph (160 km/h). Drivers today have it too easy ...

1937 Silver Arrows W125

The W125 was a direct response to the Auto Union Type C
The W125 was a direct response to the Auto Union Type C

Given the monstrous power on offer, it took something special to topple the Type C. That something special was the W125, which managed to squeeze 595 hp (444 kW) out of a supercharged inline-eight engine. The motor could actually make more power, with its peak of 626 hp (467 kW) dialed back for the sake of reliability.

Even in reliability-first specification, the engine was the most powerful ever seen in racing. It was also short lived, as regulations surrounding engine displacement rendered the W125 ineligible for Grand Prix competition. The world didn't see racers with the same amount of power until Can Am rolled around in the 1960s, and F1 cars couldn't match the W125 for grunt until the bonkers 1980s turbo era.

1937 Talbot-Lago T150-C by Figoni et Falaschi

The enclosed rear fenders on the Figoni et Falaschi are a gorgeous touch
The enclosed rear fenders on the Figoni et Falaschi are a gorgeous touch

Just two examples of the Goutte d'Eau were built by legendary coach builder Figoni et Falaschi. Teardrop designs are regarded as some of the most beautiful ever built, and this particular car is one fine example – just look at the gorgeous sloping wheelarches, and drink in the fully enclosed front fenders. It's arguably more elegant than the other teardrop on this list, the Type 57SC Atlantic, though that isn't reflected in modern auction values.

The Talbot-Lago was much more than just a pretty face. It had an independent front suspension, and the chassis was designed to deliver a low center of gravity. With power from a 4-liter inline-six engine it was capable of hitting 100 mph (160 km/h) in a straight line, while the lightweight body made for a car that could back it up in the corners as well.

1937 BMW 328 Roadster

The 328 weighed just over 800 kg
The 328 weighed just over 800 kg

The 328 Roadster looks quaint compared to the supercharged monsters from Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz, but it was also a very successful race car. BMW introduced the car at the Nurburgring but its greatest win came at the 1940 Millie Miglia, where the 80 kW (107 hp) 328 showed up significantly more powerful competitors.

After just four years in production, the little 328 had been entered in more than 170 races and, remarkably, won more than 140 of them. It also made the successful transition to life on the road, with the introduction of a consumer version of the car broadening its appeal further. Its simple lines and compact proportions stand out as beautiful, and there's simply no mistaking that kidney grille for anything but a BMW design.

1948 Jaguar XK120

The Jaguar XK120 was a world beater
The Jaguar XK120 was a world beater

Ask someone to describe the quintessential Jaguar, and it's likely their response will look something like the XK120. It's a classic British sports car on the outside, with bulbous curves and aerodynamic rear fenders designed to eke out every last drop of speed in a straight line.

Behind its (very) pretty curves, the XK120 delivered impressive performance. The 120 in the name was a not-so-subtle reference to its 120 mph (193 km/h) top speed, which was faster than anything else in the world at that point. A version of the car with a low-cut windscreen actually clocked 133 mph (214 km/h) on a stretch of Belgian motorway in 1949, and Jaguar proved its inherent stability by averaging over 100 mph (162 km/h) for 24 hours on a French oval track in 1951.

Not satisfied with these increasingly arduous tests, Jag then ran a fixed-head version of the car at over 100 mph for one week straight, shattering records for average speed and distance covered over a set period of time.

1952 Alfa Romeo Disco Volante

The Alfa Romeo Disco Volante was tested in the wind tunnel 
The Alfa Romeo Disco Volante was tested in the wind tunnel 

Wind tunnel testing plays an important role in the development of all modern cars, but that wasn't the case when the "Flying Saucer" came along. The unique shape was developed and built by Carrozzeria Touring, a process that included time in the wind tunnel. As a result, the car had a drag coefficient of just 0.25 and a 140 mph (225 km/h) top speed.

The curves of the Disco Volante clearly struck a chord with the public, but they also had an impact in the boardrooms and design studios at Jaguar. Rumor has it the Alfa inspired the curvaceous shape of the E-Type, although proving the connection is impossible.

1953 Porsche 550 Spyder

The simple lines of the 550 Spyder make it a classic 
The simple lines of the 550 Spyder make it a classic 

Based on the 356 Speedster, the Porsche 550 is one of the best known cars in the motoring world. Although part of that is down to its stunning looks, the car also had some very famous owners contribute to its story. James Dean was famously killed while driving his "Little Bastard" in California, while Jerry Seinfeld is among the current owners list.

The 550 isn't particularly powerful, but it was incredibly successful on the track. The car won around 90 of the 370 races it entered, in spite of the tiny 110 hp (82 kW) four-cylinder engine mounted behind the driver. In part, the success was thanks to the car's skinny 570 kg (1257 lb) curb weight.

Values have skyrocketed recently, to the point where a well maintained Spyder is worth upwards of $5 million at auction.

1954 Mercedes 300SL

The 300SL was the fastest car in the world when it launched 
The 300SL was the fastest car in the world when it launched 

The 300SL is undeniably one of the most beautiful cars in the world, but it was also one of the most technologically advanced when it launched in 1954. Along with those eye-catching gull-wing doors, the SL was the first car to be fitted with direct fuel injection. Thanks to this clever tech, the inline six hiding under that loooong bonnet made 212 hp (158 kW) – enough for a record-breaking 162 mph (260 km/h) top speed.

Like so many of the other cars on this list, the 300SL was beloved by actors, socialites and prominent racers of the era, including Juan Manuel Fangio, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Clark Gable.

That doesn't meant the car was perfect though. The dramatic doors carried plenty of curb-side credibility, but they also trapped drivers inside in a rollover. The handling balance also varied wildly based on how much fuel was in the 130-liter tank, and the rear swing axle was notorious for following the camber in the road.

1955 Citroen DS

The DS had swivelling headlamps 
The DS had swivelling headlamps 

When it comes to the world of weird cars, Citroen is in a league of its own. The legendary flair of the company's designs were coupled with serious engineering development, though. Case in point: the DS.

We don't have room to list all the innovations packed into the déesse (goddess) but here are some of the most important. It was fitted with rotating headlights, a single-spoke steering wheel and a safety-first brake "button" in place of the pedal. But even these innovations pale in comparison to the hydro-pneumatic suspension that delivered a true "magic carpet ride."

The system is credited with saving President Charles de Gaulle's life, allowing his chauffeur to drive away on three wheels after terrorists shot one of the rear tires on his DS. Citroen sold 700 cars within 15 minutes of launch, and more than 12,000 people had expressed desire to own one by the end of the day. The design has appeal today, too. Seeing a DS on the road is like spotting a UFO or Unicorn – rare and exciting.

1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa

This 250 Testa Rossa is one of the most expensive cars ever sold at auction 
This 250 Testa Rossa is one of the most expensive cars ever sold at auction 

This selection includes many rare and successful racers, but few are quite as rare or as successful as the Testa Rossa. The fact it's a Ferrari helps, too. Just 34 examples were ever built, and variations of the car won at Le Mans in 1958, 1960 and 1961.

The car was designed by Sergio Scagletti, the mind (and hands) behind some of the most beautiful Ferraris ever built. Even though it was powered by a thoroughbred three-liter V12 engine, the Testa Rossa was actually designed to prioritise reliability over performance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Still, with 300 hp (221 kW) shifting just 800 kg (1,764 lb) it wasn't slow.

1957 Fiat 500 Cinquecento

The Fiat 500 Cinquecento is a legend
The Fiat 500 Cinquecento is a legend

The little Fiat is much more humble than some of the other metal on this list, but it's one of the most significant cars here. It was designed to deliver low-cost motoring to the Italian masses, but rather than developing an austere body and beige interior, the design team at Fiat created one of the most iconic designs in the motoring world.

Why is it sitting alongside giant Cadillacs and otherworldly Citroens? Because there is something beautiful about simple, effectively executed industrial design. Stay tuned for more a bit later on ...

1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Convertible

The Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Roadster stands out among American cars of the period 
The Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Roadster stands out among American cars of the period 

Forget about good industrial design, and forget economy of space, the Eldorado Biarritz Convertible epitomizes American excess of the '60s and '70s. As the range-topping model in the already-luxurious Eldorado lineup, the Biarritz wanted for absolutely nothing. Power came from a V8 with 345 hp (257 kW) on tap, put to the road through a four-speed automatic gearbox.

Power steering, power assisted brakes and six-way power seats were all available, as was air suspension. Still not sold? The fins on the Biarritz were the largest fitted to any Caddy, and there was enough chrome to make even the blingiest rapper feel a bit self conscious. If you want to stand out, there are few better ways.

1961 Jaguar E-Type

The Jaguar E-Type is arguably the best looking car ever built 
The Jaguar E-Type is arguably the best looking car ever built 

The E-Type is arguably the prettiest car ever built. There, we've said it. Enzo Ferrari agreed, as did the countless models, movie stars and socialites who dropped their cash on a Jaguar after the car's launch at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show.

Behind the stunning body was a thoroughly modern sports car. The long-nosed Jaguar had four-wheel disc brakes when most cars still used drums, and its monocoque construction was considered forward thinking among its competitors. Like all good classic Jaguars, the car was powered by a naturally-aspirated inline six.

It could hit 100 km/h (62 mph) in less than seven seconds, and its 150 mph (241 km/h) top speed was enough to make it the fastest car in the world at launch. What's more, the E-Type also proved an incredibly successful racer, especially in low-drag form.

1961 Austin Mini Cooper

The Mini Cooper was loved by celebrities and families alike 
The Mini Cooper was loved by celebrities and families alike 

Few cars captured the public imagination like the original, Sir Alec Issigonis designed Mini. If the Fiat 500 demonstrated what could be done with a small car and a big idea, the Mini perfected it with its space efficient design. The wheels are all pushed to the edges of the body to maximize space inside, and the transverse-mounted front-wheel drive layout is a masterpiece of packaging.

The Mini became an icon of the '60s in Britain. The Beatles painted their Minis in wild and wacky ways, and three of the little cars starred in the original Italian Job. The plucky Brit also showed up considerably more expensive metal in the rallying world, famously winning the Monte Carlo Rally three times. It would've won a fourth, too, if it wasn't for some dodgy stewardship.

1961 Ferrari 250GT California

The design of the California was a Sergio Scagletti special
The design of the California was a Sergio Scagletti special

The 250GT California sits alongside the E-Type and the 300SL as one of the most beautiful cars ever built, although its rarity makes it even more valuable. Just 106 were built, 56 in short-wheelbase and 50 in long-wheelbase trim. All were powered by a V12 displacing just 3 liters, with peak power of 280 hp (209 kW). That doesn't sound like much, but all 280 of those Italian horses sings like an angel. The 250GT looks pretty, and it sounds it too.

The panels on each California were hand-beaten by Sergio Scagletti, meaning no two cars are the same, and the interior is an example of everything that was right about motoring in the 1960s. Leather, wood and metal are the dominant materials with nary a patch of plastic in sight. Maybe that's why Ferris Bueller was keen to "borrow" the California in on display in Cameron's conservatory?

1966 Ford GT40

The Ford GT40 was born out of a desire to spite Enzo Ferrari
The Ford GT40 was born out of a desire to spite Enzo Ferrari

The Ford GT40 was built with a single purpose: to make Ferrari look slow at Le Mans.

Why? Ford was trying to buy Ferrari. Everything was going well, and a team of Ford lawyers made the trip to Maranello to negotiate the terms of sale in May 1963. But the deal fell through when Enzo Ferrari spotted a clause in the contract that would hand control of the Ferrari racing team to Ford. He kiboshed the deal on the spot. This enraged Henry Ford II, who vowed to hit Enzo where it hurt. Thus the legendary GT40 was born.

It took a while for Ford to perfect the formula. The original GT40 and its successor were failures. No US-built car had ever won at Le Mans, and building a car good enough to outdo the experience of Europe's leading car manufacturers is not an easy thing to do. Compounding things was the fact Ford II expected his engineers to develop the car in just 10 months.

Consequently the first GT40 flopped on the big stage, as did the car entered in the 1965 race. But come 1966, the GT40 was ready for its big moment. The combination of big V8 power, an aerodynamically advanced shape and all the engineering might of the biggest carmaker in the world bore fruit. The GT40 won in 1966. It then went on to do it three more times.

1967 Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale

The Tipo 33 Stradale is stunning in road-going trim 
The Tipo 33 Stradale is stunning in road-going trim 

Alfa Romeo is a brand that means a lot to gearheads. Its long back catalogue of stunning sports cars include the 33 Stradale – a road-going version of the Tipo 33 that saw service as a Sports Car and Can Am racer in the '60s and '70s.

It was the first production car to be fitted with dihedral doors, the likes of which are now common on attention-grabbing supercars, and the curved glass windows that blend into the roof were incredibly advanced when the car launched. Just 19 were built, and no two cars were the same. Early examples had twin headlamps, later replaced with a single light design, and the cooling system at the rear of each vehicle varied based on who put it together. Such was the nature of handbuilt Italian cars.

Power came from a race-bred two-liter V8 engine making 230 hp (172 kW) of power. Once again, because each engine was handbuilt that figure varied wildly from car to car. The car given to motoring press at the time was capable of hitting 100 km/h (62 mph) in just 5.5 seconds.

1985 Lamborghini Countach 5000 Quattrovalvole

The Lamborghini Countach 4000 Quattrovalvole was the most advanced Countach 
The Lamborghini Countach 4000 Quattrovalvole was the most advanced Countach 

If the Countach is the ultimate supercar and the 5000 QV is the ultimate Countach, does that make it the archetype against which all supercars should be judged? No matter the answer, there's no doubting its status as the definitive Lamborghini.

The wedgy looks of the Countach look remarkable in 2017, but we can only imagine what it must have been like to spot one back in the '80s. Sure, the gigantic rear wing and tacked-on scoops don't make for the most cohesive silhouette on the road, but few cars can dream of matching the big Lambo for sheer presence.

Hindsight tells us the Countach was a bit of a pig to drive, but the 5000 QV was the most refined of the breed. Thanks to a new four-valve setup (hence Quattrovalvole) the V12 pumped out 420 hp (313 kW). The engine had also had a bigger displacement and ran with a higher 9.5:1 compression ratio than the LP5000S it usurped when it launched at the Geneva Motor Show in 1985.

1995 Ferrari F50

The F50 used an advanced carbon fiber construction 
The F50 used an advanced carbon fiber construction 

Billed as the "first and last Formula 1 car with two seats," the F50 actually sits as a slightly awkward member of the Ferrari family. It wasn't as fast as the F40 that preceded it, and it isn't a rolling piece of art like some of the classics. But it is a technological masterpiece, a showcase of what the world's most famous car manufacturer can do when it sets its mind to the job.

The F50 truly was a race car for the road. It was powered by a V12 engine developed on the same block as the powerplant from the Ferrari 641, the car Alain Prost drove during one of his fiercest battles with Ayrton Senna. Ferrari bored it out from 3.5 to 4.7-liters, but the highly-strung 513 hp (383 kW) powertrain made little concession to drivability on the road.

At its core, the F50 is an old-fashioned take on the modern supercar formula.. Just 349 were built, making it even rarer than the F40, Enzo or LaFerrari.

2004 Porsche Carrera GT

The nose of the Carrera GT was designed to represent an ultimate 911
The nose of the Carrera GT was designed to represent an ultimate 911

Representing the pinnacle of road-going Porsche performance, the Carrera GT has come into the public eye for the wrong reasons of late following the death of Paul Walker. Its engine came from an aborted motorsports program – the company was developing a new Le Mans prototype in secret when the FIA abruptly changed the rules, rendering it useless.

Rather than throw out all its hard work, Porsche decided to built the Carrera GT. Under the short rear hood was a screaming V10 engine with 604 hp (450 kW), hooked up to a six-speed manual gearbox. The clutch was notoriously tricky to negotiate, the handling was famous for being unforgiving if you were a bit clumsy, and the styling lacks the drama of the Ferrari Enzo.

But the slick simplicity of the way it looks, and the hardcore analog focus of the powertrain makes the Carrera GT a legend of the motoring world. It also has one of the best sounds in the world, like a baleful animal screaming for its lost mother. Trust us, that's a good thing.

2014 Ferrari LaFerrari

This is the only LaFerrari finished in this shade of black 
This is the only LaFerrari finished in this shade of black 

We know, LaFerrari is a silly name, but The Ferrari represents the pinnacle of modern hybrid performance. It's also comfortably the best looking of the latest crop of hypercars.

Certain elements of the LaFerrari are shared with past Prancing Horse flagships: the car is powered by a mid-mounted V12, and it's built around a carbon chassis with room for two inside. But there are some significant differences as well, most significant among which is the hybrid KERS system.

In total, the hybrid system combines for 950 hp (708 kW). All that grunt is put to the rear wheels through a dual-clutch automatic gearbox, which made the LaFerrari quite a handful to drive near the limits, but that's kinda the point here.

2015 Ford GT

The Ford GT at its launch in Detroit 
The Ford GT at its launch in Detroit 

Like the GT40 before it, the modern Ford GT has been designed to take down Ferrari. But it goes about it in a very different way to the original, or even the GT launched back in 2002. This is a thoroughly modern supercar, with looks unlike anything we've seen from Ford before, and performance claims to make most European supercars look pedestrian.

New Atlas was in the crowd when the GT was unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show. Most manufacturers will tease their new supercar before launching it, but Ford gave no hint about the bomb it planned to drop on a hockey stadium full of unsuspecting journalists. It just wheeled the car out on stage, said it was going to built it and then, kinda, walked off, leaving the world's motoring press agape at the stunning coupe on show before them. Mic drop.

Unlike it predecessors, the new GT won't be powered by a thirsty eight-cylinder lump of iron. Ford is going all-in on downsizing, which means the mid-mounted engine is a small V6 turbo. Ignore the EcoBoost badging, with 647 hp (482 kW) on tap the focus has been placed on the "Boost" side of things.

That's it for our selection of the most aesthetically pleasing and elegantly engineered cars in history, but these things, of course, are in the eye of the beholder. Let us know what you think we've missed in the comments below. For a closer look at these brainy beauties, be sure to check out the image gallery.

11 comments
CLH
I agree the Mercedes-Benz 540K Spezial-Roadster should be on the list. Too bad you didn't include a photo of one. The photo used is a 540K Cabriolet B - a VERY different body style.
Jim N.
Scott, I would have thought that the Chevy Corvette would have made the list somewhere along the line? Great article! JBN
VincentBrennan
This may be boo hooed but I think at least one Studebaker should have been included. Some are still considered one of the most aerodynamic cars ever built and certainly so for it's time. Throw in Paxton supercharged engines and styling/engineering so different from the typical American cars of their time and I think the argument can be made for them being somewhere on the list. These were real production cars not one offs or 2 rare examples. The other miss was the VW Type 1 or as most people know it the "Beetle". How can the Fiat be on this list and not the VeeDub? This car had far more impact on the world that the silly Fix It Again Tony! This was the car that REALLY made small cars acceptable from one end of the planet to the other and had a production run far longer than any other car. MISS!
dleader
That is a 1958 Eldorado.
Martin Hone
No AC Cobra ?
WB
great list.. and no studebakers, cobras or corvettes don't belong on this list... these all have class.
DouglasAnkrum
....What? No German insect vehicles....?
T N Args
Thanks for providing arguably the ugliest photo ever taken of arguably the prettiest car ever built.
JoeSTERN
You showed an ugly Fiat but left out what I consider the most beautiful affordable road car of its time: the Fiat 124 Spyder from the early 1970's.
El_Zato
Eurocentric much. I think the Alfa Tipo 33 wins this particular beauty contest. But there's some candidates missing like the Pininfarina-designed Honda NSX with its VTEC system, and the McLaren F1, arguably the best naturally aspirated supercar ever. I like the Giugiaro-designed Lotus Esprit too. Quite advanced for its time.