Beautiful Luxury Cars Throughout History

By Jake SchroederLast Updated Apr 18, 2020 9:40:40 PM ET
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Photo Courtesy: Axion23/Wikimedia

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder — or the driver, in this case. This expression can apply to automobiles as well as people. Although the aesthetic appeal of any vehicle is subjective, some remarkable cars are best described as works of art — they are that beautiful.

Throughout history, car manufacturers have occasionally produced unique models that enchant observers with sleek lines, enticing style and exceptional beauty. Let’s take a look at some of the most impressive artistic accomplishments.

1957 Ford Thunderbird

The Thunderbird that debuted in 1955 was considered by some experts to be a competitor of the Chevrolet Corvette and several high-performance European sports cars. The sleek-looking, first-generation "T-Birds" — easily identified by their iconic porthole windows and classic hood scoop — looked just like sports cars.

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Photo Courtesy: Morven/Wikipedia

The 1957 model had plenty of power, even with the standard engine that produced 245 hp. However, Ford equipped the Thunderbird with luxurious comfort and convenience features, rather than sports car handling characteristics. The American classic became the first entry in a new "personal luxury" car market segment.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GT S

The prolonged nose, swooped-back cabin and coupe body style of the 2018 Mercedes-AMG GT S turns heads on the track or when the car just cruises on city streets. The flagship of Mercedes’ high-performance line of super sports cars evokes images of a long history of sports cars, beginning with the classic 300 SL.

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Photo Courtesy: More Cars/Flickr

The front-end length accommodates the V8 engine that generates 515 hp and 494 lb-ft of torque. With the engine located behind the front axle, the vehicle achieves an ideal overall balance, and the driver enjoys a unique experience that is reminiscent of classic sports cars.

1967 Shelby GT500

Ford Motor Company launched the "pony car" segment of the car market in 1964 with the introduction of the innovative Mustang. While the first-generation cars were alluring, they were underpowered, even by the standards of the ‘60s.

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Photo Courtesy: sv1ambo/Flickr

In 1967, Carroll Shelby introduced his version of the Mustang, the Shelby GT500, with Ford's 428 CID V8 engine producing 485 hp. The former pony exhibited sports car characteristics with a muscle car attitude. The fierce Shelby proved its worth by taking the first three places and beating Ferrari at the French classic, Le Mans.

2017 Pagani Huayra

Italian supercars lead the exclusive club of high-performance cars that not only consistently beat the competition on the racetrack but draw attention everywhere off the track. These rolling works of art express a rare and unparalleled beauty with their sleek lines and aerodynamic styles. The Pagani Huayra is no exception.

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Photo Courtesy: sylway/Pixabay

The front end of the body displays an aggressive splitter and race-spec canards. The front hood, engine lid and the roof finished in carbon-fiber are accented by deep side skirts and split-spoke alloy wheels. Finally, a massive wing and rear diffuser help hold the road through fast curves.

2017 Koenigsegg Agera R

The Swedish mid-engine supercar Koenigsegg Agera R gives the Italian exotics a run for their money, not only with its lightweight silky-smooth carbon fiber body, but also with its extraordinary power. The Agera produces more than 900 hp and reaches 60 mph in a mere 2.9 seconds, making it the world’s fastest production car in 2017.

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Photo Courtesy: Norbert Aepli/Wikimedia Commons

The supercar is a pleasure just to look at, even when parked on the street. Koenigsegg included some practical features for daily use, like a usable luggage compartment and a detachable hardtop for those Sunday afternoon rides through the countryside.

2018 Bugatti Chiron

The signature horseshoe-shaped grille has been a design feature of every Bugatti automobile since the phenomenally successful Type 35 race car in the 1920s. While many believe the shape derives from a horseshoe due to founder Ettore Bugatti’s love of horses, the grille’s form actually mimics the shape of an egg.

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Photo Courtesy: Andrew Basterfield/Wikimedia

The grille and the distinctive C-bar on the side distinguish the luxurious Chiron from other supercars, but the performance is perhaps the most dramatic difference. Bugatti claims the Chiron accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in less than 2.5 seconds, on its way to an electronically limited top speed of 261 mph.

1990 Ferrari F40

Perhaps the most characteristic feature of the mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive Ferrari F40 is the massive wing that adorns the rear of the race-car-style body. Designed to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Ferrari automobiles, the model was the last car approved by Enzo himself.

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Photo Courtesy: Will Ainsworth/Wikimedia

Jay Leno owns one of the precious few produced. While the manufacturer originally planned to produce only 400 F40 vehicles — all painted in the striking Rosso Corsa color — 1,315 of the supercars were manufactured from 1987 to 1992. A rare 1990 F40 sold in Monterey, California, in 2018 for more than $1.7 million.

2005 Maserati MC12

Under the Maserati MC12’s beautiful and elegant coachwork lies the mechanics of the Ferrari Enzo. Although they share parts, the differences between the two cars are significant. The massive rear spoiler on the Maserati produces more downforce than is produced on the Enzo.

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Photo Courtesy: Alden Jewel/Wikimedia

The car features traditional dampers instead of the electric dampers used by the Enzo and a removable hardtop for wind-in-the-face, open-road driving. Along with exterior differences, minor variations in the engines of the two vehicles make the MC12 its own supercar and not merely a Ferrari lite.

1995 McLaren F1

Only 64 of the 106 McLaren F1s made from 1992 to 1998 were road-legal machines when they left the factory. Experts claim no other car influenced the supercar segment like the McLaren. The design was revolutionary.

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Photo Courtesy: edvvc/Wikimedia

It was the first production vehicle built with a carbon-fiber monocoque chassis. It led the industry in the use of expensive materials, including Kevlar, magnesium and titanium. The result was a 0.32 drag coefficient. The interior boasted a Formula One car configuration with the driver seated in the middle of three seats. Lightweight materials, luggage compartments in the rear fenders and high-tech features made the McLaren unique.

1965 Maserati 3500 GT

Maserati began production of the 3500 GT in 1957 with only 18 cars. However, many more — 2,226 in total — were produced when Maserati withdrew from motor racing to focus on Gran Turismo road cars. The GT helped save Maserati from the company’s economic difficulties at the time.

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Photo Courtesy: AlfvanBeem/Wikimedia

The Italian car manufacturer produced the 3500 GT from 1957 to 1964 in both a two-door coupé and a convertible. Carrozzeria Touring designed the graceful and elegant shaped body of the 3500 GT. However, several coachbuilders contributed to the vehicle’s construction. The body is made from aluminum and attached to a "Superleggera" tubular steel frame.

1980 BMW F1

While the 1980 BMW F1 strikes a menacing figure on the racetrack with its characteristic "kidney grille" and monster rear spoiler, perhaps it’s the famous powertrain that is most remembered. The BMW M12 engine, designed in the 1960s, became one of the most successful engines in the history of Formula 1 racing.

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Photo Courtesy: Lothar Spurzem/Wikimedia

At well over 350 hp (even in the early versions), the turbocharged 1500 cc, 4-cylinder engine blew away the competitor’s normally aspirated engines in the 2-liter category. M12 powered cars won numerous races, including the Drivers' Championship, the first to be won using a turbocharged engine.

1913 Rolls Royce Ghost

Driving or riding in a Rolls-Royce brought the same enormous prestige 100 years ago that it carries today. In 1907, the respected publication Autocar coined the phrase "best car in the world," referring to the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. It was the hypercar of that era, and no other car came close to its speed and luxurious appointments.

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Photo Courtesy: Craig Howell/Wikimedia

The Silver Ghost could reach an impressive 80 mph and was equipped for the rough terrain of Britain’s more remote colonies and expansive empire. The car came with a large radiator and fuel tank for extended range.

2017 McLaren P1

Introduced in 2013, the P1 is McLaren’s second production supercar and the most powerful road-legal car the company has produced to date. Using a hybrid drivetrain, the P1 LM, a street-legal variant of the P1 GTR, has a total power output of 986 hp and 774 lb-ft of torque.

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Photo Courtesy: Motor Verso/Wikimedia

The supercar uses the same carbon-fiber monocoque and roof structure of the GTR and employs advanced technologies developed for Formula One racing. McLaren built only six F1 LM models. The company kept one for development purposes and sold the other five.

2017 Lamborghini Veneno

Based on the Lamborghini Aventador, the Veneno is a limited production supercar built to celebrate Lamborghini’s 50th anniversary. Typical Lamborghini lines characterize the extreme proportions of the Veneno revealed in the forceful arrow-shaped front-end and the alternating razor-sharp lines and silky, tight surfaces.

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Photo Courtesy: Alang 68/Wikimedia

The optimized aerodynamic shape guarantees unparalleled stability in the straightaway as well as through fast curves, with typical race car handling characteristics. This low resistant body shape is pushed through the air by a 6.5-liter naturally aspirated V12 engine that accelerates the vehicle to a top speed of 355 km/h.

1987 Porsche 959

Car and Driver described the ’87 Porsche 959 as nearly perfect: "What single word more accurately describes a car that combines race car performance with luxury sedan comfort, that is equally adept at commuting through rush-hour traffic, profiling in jet-set locales, negotiating blizzard-swept mountain passes and outrunning light airplanes?"

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Photo Courtesy: M 93/Wikimedia

When it was introduced in 1986, the twin-turbocharged 959 was the most technologically advanced road-traveling sports car ever built and the fastest street-legal production vehicle in the world. The sportscar achieved a top speed of 197 mph, while variations could reach 211 mph.

1965 Ford GT40 Mk II

Ford Motor Company designed and built the GT40 with one goal: Beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. The Italians had won every year from 1960 to 1965. While two GT40s with 427 CID Galaxie engines showed well in the ’65 race, they were ultimately retired due to transmission problems.

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Photo Courtesy: Franco Vannini/Wikimedia

In 1966, Ford arrived at Le Mans with a more refined car and defeated Ferrari. The Mk II's triumph marked the first victory for an American manufacturer in a significant European race since a Duesenberg driven by Jimmy Murphy won the 1921 French Grand Prix.

2020 Tesla Roadster

The 2020 Tesla Roadster demonstrates that an electric car can be as sleek, elegant and stylish as its traditional gas-powered competitors. What’s more, the EV outperforms even the most expensive high-performance supercars. The Roadster utilizes two electric motors, both front and back, powered by a 200-kWh battery that gives the EV a range of up to 620 miles under normal driving conditions.

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Photo Courtesy: Smnt/Wikimedia

Tesla’s Elon Musk claims the 2020 Roadster accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in an astonishing 1.9 seconds, reaches the quarter-mile in a mere 8.8 seconds and tops out at a speed of more than 250 mph.

2020 Mercedes-AMG G63

Only diehard Mercedes G-class enthusiasts would claim that the AMG G63 is a beautiful machine. On the contrary, it’s essentially a box on wheels. The beauty of this vehicle isn’t in its aesthetic appeal, but in the features that make it a first-class off-road vehicle that is also comfortable to drive on city streets.

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Photo Courtesy: Alexander Migl/Wikimedia

For the 2020 AMG model, Mercedes has added a Trail Package to an already well-equipped off-roading vehicle. The package includes all-terrain tires, additional underbody protection, all-weather rubber floor mats, mud flaps and heat-insulating tinted glass (Europe).

1993 Jaguar XJ220

Jaguar has a history of building some of the most beautiful, luxurious and well-respected sports cars in the world. The graceful lines and aerodynamic bodywork make the automobiles worthy of the label "work of art."

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Photo Courtesy: Valder 137/Wikimedia

However, the XJ220, a collaborative effort by Jaguar and Tom Walkinshaw Racing, may be best known for its track records. The XJ220 achieved the distinction as the fastest production car from 1992 to 1993, when it reached a record speed of 212.3 mph during test runs at the Nardo test track in southern Italy.

1935 Jaguar SS 100

In the 1930s, it was common practice to give products animal names. Hence, the Jaguar moniker for this 1935 SS 100. The number 100 referred to the maximum speed (optimistic) of the vehicle. Only 308 SS 100 roadsters were produced from 1935 to 1939, and only 190 had 2-liter engines.

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Photo Courtesy: GTHO/Wikimedia

Considered by many to be among the most aesthetically beautiful cars of the era, the rare SS 100 continues to be the essential 1930s British sports car. With its soft top down, the legendary car is still ideal for a drive in the countryside.

1967 Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale

The 1967 Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale — literally meaning "street legal" — is considered by many to be the first modern supercar. The gorgeous mid-engined two-seater — based on the Tipo sports prototype racing car — was the fastest production vehicle for the standing kilometer when introduced. The 2.0-liter V8 engine generated 227 hp and 152 lb-ft of torque.

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Photo Courtesy: edvvc/Wikimedia

The Alfa Romeo was also the first production car to use butterfly doors. The top portion was all glass that curved into the roof. The cabin was luxurious for a sports car of that era, with leather everywhere.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

The 1963 Corvette model year is often remembered as the first year Chevrolet used the "Stingray" name. It referred to one of the two models introduced (the other being the convertible). The exceptional Stingray featured elegant flowing body panels and compound-curved side windows that made it an aerodynamic masterpiece well ahead of its time.

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Photo Courtesy: Jeremy/Wikimedia

However, the most distinctive characteristic of the ’63 Stingray coupe was the rear split window. Although a controversial design adornment at the time — it obstructed the driver’s view — it became one of the most sought-after features for collectors.

2004 Porsche Carrera GT

In 2004, Porsche unveiled an exotic mid-engined supercar that no one expected, but it piqued the interest of many well-heeled enthusiasts. Based on a Porsche Le Mans race car design that never came to fruition, the Carrera GT boasts a 0-to-62-mph acceleration time of 3.9 seconds.

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Photo Courtesy: Cruizer/Wikimedia

However, Porsche gave priority to handling via a stability-enhancing downforce from the rear wing that automatically moves up 6 inches at high speed. Along with a unique underbody design, the features generate a total downforce of 640 pounds, with 70% on the rear axle for straight-line performance.

2001 Lexus LFA

The appearance of the 2001 Lexus LFA is cutting edge, to say the least, even when compared to the unique style of a Ferrari 458 Italia. The LFA form was partly influenced by the 4.8-liter V10 positioned in the back in the front engine bay. Lexus achieved a 48% front and 52% rear weight distribution.

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Photo Courtesy: Tennen-Gas/Wikimedia

The real story of the LFA lies within its skin. The body is made of carbon-fiber composite, supported by a monocoque chassis. The passenger cell is carbon-fiber, while the engine frame is made from aluminum.

1938 Talbot-Lago

The Talbot-Lago was once labeled as outrageous, shocking and even vulgar. Sir William Lyons, Jaguar's creator and designer, said, "The lines of that car are positively indecent." However, today’s experts consider the teardrop design of the Talbot pleasing to the eye, making the exotic 1930’s car one of the most beautiful and stylish in the world.

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Photo Courtesy: Jagvar /Wikimedia

Automotive journalist Griffith Borgeson said the masterpiece was created with "five individually sculptured pods — the four wings [fenders] and the pod for engine and occupants — all of which flowed into each other to form a consummate unity."

1954 Chevrolet Corvette

By today’s standards, the 1954 Chevrolet Corvette is not an exceptionally beautiful automobile. Its beauty and allure come from the 60-plus years of Corvette history that followed. Chevrolet built only 3,640 Corvettes in 1954, and sales were disappointing. Nearly a third were unsold by year’s end.

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Photo Courtesy: Morio/Wikimedia

Although sports car enthusiasts were fascinated with the fiberglass plastic body of the Corvette, they were discouraged by the anemic powertrain, 6-cylinder engine and Powerglide automatic transmission. Nevertheless, the ’54 "Vette" was the foundation of what would become America’s most successful sports car.

2018 Aston Martin DB11

Aston Martin sports cars are featured in seven James Bond films, but the DB5 is perhaps best known for its role in Goldfinger. Few can forget the passenger seat eject feature activated by a button on the gear shift knob.

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Photo Courtesy: Matti Blume/Wikimedia

The DB11 follows a long tradition of high-performance sports cars and is the first turbocharged series-production car in Aston Martin's history. The supercar is powered by a twin-turbocharged 5.2-liter V12 that produces 600 hp at 6,500 rpm and 516 lb-ft of torque between 1,500 and 5,000 rpm.

1967 Toyota 2000GT

Toyota has produced millions of sturdy and well-built cars over the years, most of which were Land Cruisers, mini pickups and Coronas. Before it became an auto industry giant, the company built an exotic supercar, the 2000GT, that boasted a seven-main-bearing, 2.0-liter DOHC in-line 6-cylinder engine. With a top speed of 131 mph, the 2000GT broke 13 endurance and speed records at Japan's Yatabe test circuit in October 1966.

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Photo Courtesy: Mr choppers/Wikimedia

Independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes and rack-and-pinion steering helped distinguish the supercar from its competitors. Only 337 were built from 1967 to 1971.

2001 Lamborghini Diablo

The Lamborghini Taurus logo wasn’t a fierce enough figure to convey the aggressive posture the company wanted for their new supercar, so they named it the Diablo (devil in Spanish). The high-performance mid-engine sports car produced between 1990 and 2001 was the first production Lamborghini with a top speed exceeding 200 mph.

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Photo Courtesy: Jack Snell/Flickr

For the 2001 model year, Lamborghini made several improvements to an already phenomenal machine. The VT (four-wheel-drive version) got an increase to 543 hp at 7100 rpm, 20 more than the previous year’s Diablo. Torque was upped by 11 lb-ft to 457 at 5800 rpm.


1983 Ferrari 288 GTO

Road and Track claimed the Ferrari 288 GTO was a pioneer, "Has there ever been a better-looking high-performance mid-engined sports car? Prettier ones, perhaps…but never one so perfectly proportioned, so perfectly melding pure aggression with beauty."

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Photo Courtesy: Mariom990/Wikimedia

The GTO was designed and built to race in the new Group B Circuit series, requiring a minimum of 200 cars for certification. When the series was suspended for safety reasons, the GTO lost its opportunity to race. All 272 cars built became road cars in a stock red color, except one lone black car.