The 10 Hottest, Sexiest, Most Influential Roadsters Ever

July 30th, 2010

1971 Jaguar E-Type

Few auto designs have withstood the test of time like the roadster. Some of the most iconic cars in history were of the two-seat, open-top variety, from James Dean’s Porsche 550 Spyder to the Ferrari 250 GT Spyder featured in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Below are some of the most influential classic roadsters on Earth, followed by a list of modern versions destined to become classics.

Before we get started, though, I should quickly clarify some things about terminology. A classic roadster, sometimes referred to as a spyder (or spider) provided a truly open-air driving experience. Modern roadster design has evolved to feature conveniences such as a retractable roof and windows. Officially that means they are convertibles, but automakers routinely still use the “spyder” designation to label their roadster offerings.

Let’s get to the list!

Here are the top 5 classic roadsters:

Shelby Cobra

Shelby Cobra

1964 Shelby Cobra

No other American car makes the list of classics. The Cobra remains one of the most desirable roadsters ever produced, and in 2007 Carroll Shelby’s own 427-cubic-inch, 800-horsepower V8 Cobra sold at auction for $5.5 million.

Porsche 550 Spyder

1955 Porsche 550 Spyder

1955 Porsche 550 Spyder

Porsche began selling the fabled 550 Spyder in 1954, born out of its win in the 1953 24 Hours of Le Mans. Not even a year later, the car was made infamous when James Dean died in one on the evening of September 30, 1955.

Austin Healey 3000

1963 Austin Healey 3000

1963 Austin Healey 3000

Austin Healey has a long, successful racing history in prestigious events such as Sebring and Le Mans. The 3000 was produced from 1959 through 1967 and is still used in competition by enthusiasts today.

Jaguar E-Type

1971 Jaguar E-Type

1971 Jaguar E-Type

Quite simply one of the most beautiful vehicles ever produced.

Ferrari 250 GT Spyder

Ferrari 250 GT Spyder

1961 Ferrari 250 GT Spyder

Only 55 copies of the 276-hp V12 250 GT Spyder were produced, making it one of the most collectible cars in the world. In 2008, a black 1961 GT sold for almost $11 million.

The top 5 modern roadsters:

Porsche Boxster Spyder

2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder

2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder

Calling the Boxster a “spyder” is a bit redundant, since the Boxster is already a convertible. In this case, Porsche used the term to designate this version as unique. With its dual-hump decklid, manual soft top and zero-to-60 sprint in just 4 seconds, the Boxster Spyder is worthy of its name.

Tesla Roadster

2010 Tesla Roadster

2009 Tesla Roadster

Like the classic roadsters before it, the Tesla redefines the capabilities and expectations of an automobile. The electric Roadster will go down in history as a game-changer.

Honda S2000

Honda S2000

2004 Honda S2000

The front-engine, rear-wheel-drive S2000 already has collectible status, since Honda decided to end production of its 240-hp roadster after the 2009 model year.

Audi R8 Spyder

2011 Audi R8 Spyder

2011 Audi R8 Spyder

Sure, you might argue that a 525-hp, 5.2-liter V10 supercar that starts at $162,250 shouldn’t be included on this list, but you would be wrong. If you want a perfect example of a modern performance roadster, look no further than the R8 Spyder.

Jaguar XKR

2010 Jaguar XKR Convertible

2010 Jaguar XKR

I didn’t include the Jag because it’s the best roadster on the market. I selected it because, for the price, it’s the best looking without sacrificing much in the ways of performance and luxury. If I were buying a modern roadster today, this would be the one!

Do you have a favorite roadster or roadster memory? We’d love to hear about it!

-tgriffith

Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Used Jaguar XK-Series
Used Audi R8
Used Honda S2000
Used Porsche Boxster

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  1. | #1

    I never got a ride in it, but my Dad was apparently quite a fan of his 1961 Sunbeam Alpine, which looked pretty good and was featured in “To Catch a Thief”:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunbeam_Alpine
    I have some very vivid memories of top-down, too-fast drives with my Uncle Jake in a late-’60s/early-’70s Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. I was very little at the time and had no trouble stretching out full-length on the flat rack in back, watching the underside of lots of bridges and highway overpasses whiz by.

  2. | #2

    Now lets expand the list and rank them.

    My personal favorite must be in the top 50 somewhere. How about a category for odd looking roadsters and include the Porsche 914 (I’m biased because I own one).

  3. Ron V
    | #3

    No mention of the BMW Z3? Yes, it is right in between the classic and modern, but as such has a unique place in roadster iconography. What a car…

  4. | #4

    List holds no weight unless Mazda Miata is included. Just being honest.

  1. | #1
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