Ten Number-One American Cars

2015 Ford Mustang

Today marks the 238th birthday of the United States, and to celebrate this we have decided to create a list of what we believe to be the top 10 best vehicles ever developed by the American automotive industry. And let us tell you, it was not an easy task to wade through more than 120 years of car manufacturing to find the best, most American cars ever made. There are quite a few contenders, but we think we compiled a pretty good list. And needless to say, we had a difficult time ranking these, because these vehicles are all so iconic, influential and legendary. So here’s the list we decided on: a ranked list of the 10 best American Cars. While reading this list, ask yourself, “What great cars has Belgium made recently?”

1992 Dodge Viper

1. (tied) The flagship of Dodge’s legendary sports-car fleet, the ‘92 Dodge Viper is an absolute beauty on the road. With an engine weighing 711 pounds (323 kg), the Viper is capable of producing 500 horsepower. The car weighs 3,284 pounds (1,490 kg) and does not have modern driver aids such as traction control or antilock brakes. All that power was a bit too much for some people to handle, and accidents on the way home from the dealership were common. Oh well. That doesn’t stop it from being an amazing American car. Just be careful not to burn your leg on the exhaust alongside the door sill (even Tim Howard can’t save you from it).

2013 Tesla Model S

1. (tied) This one is a bit of a stretch to say the least, but the Tesla Model S could prove to be an absolute game-changer if this whole electric car thing catches on. The Model S can be seen as the first accessible auto from Tesla, making it as close to a mass-market electric car of today as possible. The Model S will be seen as Tesla’s first step toward legitimacy in becoming an auto manufacturer. The one huge drawback with the Model S is its 45-minute recharge time (a problem that may be solved with the production and implementation of graphene-based supercapacitors at an undetermined future date), but with a 265-mile range, there could be worse problems. We may be getting a little ahead of ourselves, but the Model S may have the potential to be the mascot for another American auto revolution.

1946 Dodge Power Wagon

1. (tied) There aren’t many vehicles as American as a pickup. The ancestor of the Ram Trucks brand of today, the Dodge Power Wagon is based on the WC series of Dodge’s three-quarter-ton military trucks produced during World War II. The truck continued to be a valuable asset in military operations for decades and became iconic for its utility and function. Production lasted from 1946 to 1980, where the brand underwent a 25-year hiatus to resurface as the Dodge Ram 2500. Its modern-day descendant, the Ram 1500, has proven to be an absolutely fantastic pickup worthy of the Power Wagon’s legacy. The new 2015 Ram 1500 is slated to be one of the most versatile and refined pickups on the market.

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

1. (tied) The 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air is arguably one of the most recognizable American cars of all time, and it’s a symbol of post-war American consumerism. The car’s image is highly recognizable the world over and has been used frequently in pop culture since its production. The Bel Air boasted body styles including sedans, convertibles and station wagons. Not a terribly popular car at the time, the Bel Air is highly sought after by collectors today. The ’57 was outfitted with a 283-cubic-inch (4,640 cc) Super Turbo Fire V8 engine, capable of producing 283 horsepower. A concept for a new Bel Air convertible surfaced in 2002, but GM decided not to pursue resurrecting the American icon, and that’s probably for the best.

1961 Shelby Cobra

1. (tied) As far as American racing goes, there isn’t a car much more iconic than the Shelby Cobra. Ford wanted a car that could compete with the Corvette, and so in 1962 they gave Carroll Shelby the 260-cubic-inch HiPo (4.2-liter) engine tuned for high performance. The engine was put inside AC Cars’ prototype CSX2000 chassis, and an icon was born. The Mk 1 Cobra saw a great deal of success on the racetrack in its lifetime. During its production, only a couple hundred Cobras were produced per year. Cobras today can reach sales prices upward of $1,000,000, which is not surprising given the rarity of these legendary cars.

1949 Oldsmobile 88

1. (tied) While the Oldsmobile Rocket 88 may not be the fastest or prettiest of cars, it very much deserves a spot on our list of number-one American cars. Released in 1949, the Rocket 88 was the first American muscle car. Equipped with the first American-made high-compression overhead-valve V8, the Rocket 88 pumped out 135 hp, not much by the standards of 1960s muscle cars, but it was enough to get the horsepower wars started. Soon after the release of the Rocket 88, Chrysler came out with the Hemi, and Chevrolet debuted its small-block V8. Just this week, the most powerful muscle car ever was announced to be the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat—a car that will push out 707 hp when it hits showroom floors. There may be many muscle cars out there better than the Rocket 88, but they wouldn’t exist without it. For that, we will be forever grateful to Oldsmobile and the Rocket 88.

1964 Ford Mustang

1. (tied) If there is one car that symbolizes America, it’s the Ford Mustang. Originally released in 1964 as a 1965 model, the Mustang quickly took America by storm. In fact, the Mustang is still so popular that it’s now set to take the whole world by storm, with the 2015 Mustang designed to be a global car (orders from Europe have so far been through the roof). The Mustang founded the pony-car class, leading to the rise of cars like the Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird and Plymouth Barracuda. Throughout its history, the Mustang has been a crowd pleaser, using its high power-to-weight ratio and relatively inexpensive price to win over fans new and old. For consistently delivering a fun, cheap ride and representing all that is right with America, the Mustang firmly deserves a place on our list.

2015 Chevrolet Corvette

1. (tied) The Chevrolet Corvette has been the stuff of dreams for many an American kid. Ever since its introduction in 1953, the Corvette has been nothing short of a legend, proving to the world that the perfect combination of power, performance and price is just a bowtie and checkered flag away. With the release of the 2014 Corvette Stingray, Chevrolet continued the tradition, offering 460 hp and a 0-60 time of 3.8 seconds for a relatively modest $53,000 (not bad for a car that’s regularly slotted against competitors with MSRPs north of $100,000).

1944 Willys MB

Photo courtesy of Hemmings Daily

1. (tied) At the outbreak of World War II, the United States Army was in need of a new workhorse. As war raged in Europe, the Army decided it needed to update its existing transport machinery and hastily asked automakers for new ideas. In 1940, the Army decided the Bantam GPV Blitz Buggy was the vehicle to move forward with. However, Bantam couldn’t fulfill the Army’s contract, and the Army turned Bantam’s designs over to Willys-Overland and Ford. What resulted was the Willys MB (the grandfather of the modern Jeep Wrangler) and Ford GPW. While the cars played crucial roles in both theaters of war, they are most famous for their June 6, 1944, deployment to Normandy, where they were part of the invading Allied force and then played a critical role in helping the Allies race across Europe and into Germany. After the war, the cars were so popular that Willys began selling them as the CJ (Civilian Jeep), and British manufacturer Land Rover built its first prototype on a Jeep chassis. For their role in winning World War II and spawning today’s two most legendary off-road vehicle manufacturers (Jeep and Land Rover), the Bantam GPV, Willys MB and Ford GPW all earn a spot on this list of America’s number-one cars.

1908 Ford Model T

1. (tied) In 1908, Henry Ford shook the world with his company’s release of the Ford Model T. Available in any color a customer wanted (as long as it was black), the Model T was the first car accessible to large amounts of the population. Thanks to Ford’s use of interchangeable parts and the moving assembly line, a Model T could be produced in as little as 93 minutes. Ford wanted a car for the masses, and the Model T was just that: At one point during its production run, more than half the world’s cars were Fords, and by the end of it over 15 million Model Ts had been produced. To say the Model T is one of America’s number-one cars does not do it justice—the Model T is the world’s number-one car.

What do you think is America’s number-one car?

-jharrington and zwaller

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