From muscle cars to classic cruisers, the Americans have always done eye-catching classics – and they’ve always thought big.
From the pioneers of mass production to the bootleggers of the 1930s, the boom times of the 1950s and the glamour of the 1960s, cars have featured heavily in the development of a nation.
Here, we outline why we think they come out on top for classics.
Do you agree?
If there’s one word we can associate with American classics, it’s muscle. While the British have their light little sports cars, American Muscle cars evoke the image of big, heavy cars with massive V8 engines. They roar like animals and have plenty of grunt.
Born of an era of cheap petrol in the States, think Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Corvette, AC Cobra and Dodge Charger, to name just a few. If ever a type of car personified a nation, it’s the Muscle Car.
America loves its motorsport, especially Nascar.
The sport can trace its roots back to the underground booze trade days of the 1930s, when bootleggers would modify their cars to outrun the police. When alcohol became legal again the racing continued – this time legally and on the track. Today, Nascar attracts millions of fanatical followers and its racers are superstars.
And it’s not just on home soil that the Americans excel – they have enjoyed success over the years at races like Le Mans, where cars like the Ford GT40 became legends and road-going versions became highly sought-after.
THE AMERICAN DREAM
If ever a nation has grown up with cars, it’s the USA. The post-war era especially saw cars become a big part of a new aspirational age. A shiny new Cadillac, for example, was a symbol of prosperity, of freedom and of movement of the people. While the Italians were looking for cheap transport in the post-war recovery years, America was richer than ever.
In the 1950s cars like this were hugely sought after and they still are today. For those in their late teens at the time, cuddling up at a drive-in movie on the bench seat was the Saturday night of choice as the USA became one of the world’s wealthiest nations.
Cars and iconic people, film stars especially, come together on this one. Steve McQueen is the prime example – in films like Bullitt he made cars as sexy as they had ever been. The Dodge Charger and Ford Mustang chase scene is still one of the most memorable of cinematic history and exemplifies the entwinement the States have always had with their cars.
And there are plenty more examples – the General Lee Dodge Charger in Dukes of Hazard and KITT, the Pontiac Trans AM that was the star of Knight Rider. Aside from their big and small screen links, American cars have always had a style and personality that perfectly reflects the nation’s social history.
America is a nation of pioneers, a people of discovery and a society of invention. And it’s no different in the automotive field.
While the Germans are famed for their innovation and engineering prowess, it was a man by the name of Henry Ford who pioneered mass production and mobilised a nation when he started producing the Model T.
He famously said that customers could have it in “any colour as long as it’s black”, which was, of course, a reference to the fact that this was a car with a primary function of getting the country moving. And today that pioneering spirit continues - just look at electric car manufacturer Tesla, which is revolutionising things before our very eyes.