Some of the most famous cars to have raced at the Indianapolis 500 include the 1911 Marmon Wasp, the 1932 Miller FWD Special, the 1965 Lotus 38, the 1980 Chapparal-Cosworth 2K and the 1996 Reynard Ford. Each of these vehicles represents a landmark in Indianapolis 500 history, often due to innovations that affected the design of subsequent Indy cars and those used in other racing series.
The Marmon Wasp won the inaugural Indianapolis 500 race in 1911. Though the Wasp's cowled cockpit and aerodynamic body were imitated by many subsequent race cars, its most-copied innovation is the rear-view mirror. The rear-view mirror allowed driver Ray Harroun to drive without a spotter for oncoming traffic, saving a considerable amount of weight compared to other cars. The only other car as influential as the Wasp in influencing car design is the Lotus 38, the first mid-engined car to win the Indianapolis 500. Though the Reynard Ford is not a trendsetter like the Wasp or Lotus 38, it is the fastest Indy car of all time, as of 2015.
The Miller FWD Special and the Chapparal-Cosworth 2K are also among the most famous Indy cars due to their use of unique technologies in Indy car design. Though four-wheel drive systems such as that used by the FWD Special fell out of favor in the Indianapolis 500, rally cars continue to use similar systems. The Chapparal-Cosworth 2K's revolutionary ground effect aerodynamic system led to the proliferation of similar aerodynamic features on modern cars.