More Cars You Must Drive

Sometimes the whole story simply won’t fit in the magazine. We couldn’t leave these cars out of the conversation, however, so we’ve posted this addendum to the print article just for our online users. Here are 15 more cars you must drive.

Jaguar XK120, 1948-'54:

Jaguar did for the high end what MG did for the masses. Sure, there were a few Ferraris and other super-rare, super-expensive cars by 1948, the XK120 Jaguar could be called the first mass-produced supercar.

With the top speed at a claimed 120 mph and a base price mere mortals could afford, the Jaguar was a world-beater. And beat the world it did, becoming a staple at every sports car race in the country by the early '50s.

Expert opinion: Richard Griot--"A bit cramped inside for my body type, but just looking at the car brings a smile. They’re a wonderful experience when you don’t smell the anti-freeze blowing over the windshield.  Pack a picnic lunch, gorgeous girl at your side, and who knows what will happen… Ok, it will definitely happen!"

Lotus Elan, 1962-'75:

The Lotus Elan was a big step and a bold move for the cottage sports and race car manufacturer from Hethel, England. Even though it weighed about 1500 pounds, the Elan is quite comfortable; company boss Colin Champman proved that a car doesn't need to have a bone-jarring ride to handle incredibly well.

Of course, most people didn't buy an Elan for its comfort. It's also a fast, incredibly responsive machine.

Expert opinion: Jay Leno--"Today a light car weighs 3000 pounds. A Lotus Elan weighs a little more than half this figure. The ride and handling are so nice--except for freeways. There are few cars nicer to drive from Point A to Point B than a Lotus Elan."

Corvette Stingray, 1963-'67:

While a bit rattle-prone at times and not the stiffest car ever made, the Corvette Stingray is like your favorite pair of jeans: familiar, comfortable and packed with character. It also works for just about any situation, from a family outing to an evening at the ballpark.

First, there’s that wonderful engine—both small- and big-blocks were available. Either way, it’s a torquey mill that loves to loaf about. Of course, when things get exciting it can scream like a banshee. The four-speed Muncie is easy to shift and keeps power on the boil.

Then there’s the view, with Coke-bottle front fenders showcasing an amazing dashboard. And thanks to the two-seat layout, the experience can be shared with a friend.

Expert opinion: McKeel Hagerty--“I’ve owned a black ’63 split window for a number of years. You can choose your poison, from single-malt Scotch to Prozac, but nothing is a better mood adjuster. The midyear (C2) Corvette got just about everything right. They were the right size, they’d done away with the punishing solid rear axle, had plenty of horsepower (even in the mildest 250-horsepower tune), and they looked great. You can quibble about the drum brakes on the ’63-’64, but the answer there is a ’65 or later car.”

Shelby Mustang, 1965-'70:

Sure, it was a bit rude and crude and engineered out of Falcon pieces, but the Mustang was more than the sum of its parts. Then Shelby added the right bits to make it a real race car. In today’s world the 306-horsepower Shelby Mustang is not particularly fast, but in its day it was a world-beater. With little modification, it won many SCCA B Production races.

To drive one is to understand the "bigger hammer" approach. A 1965 Shelby came standard with a loud, side-exit exhaust, rock-hard suspension and tossable feel. It also has an exhaust wail that you have to hear to believe.

Expert opinion: Drew Alcazar--“Okay, so it is the second Shelby on my list. Am I biased? Only the few who have really driven an early GT350 will know why this deserves to be on the list. I have said it before: Once you have one, you will always have one--or forever want one again!”

BMW 2002, 1968-'76:

Sit in one of these 40-year-old BMWs and everything is exactly where it should be. From the perfectly placed binnacle that holds the speedometer and tach to the location of every knob and control, these cars are perfectly built around the driver. Then there's the rest of the package, as the torquey inline four and nearly flawless handling came together to create the ultimate driving machine--long before the slogan was in vogue.

Expert opinion: Richard Griot--“Nimble, light, and well balanced. The greenhouse is delightful, and the thin pillars let you see everything on the road. Color?  Colorado Orange, of course.”


Triumph TR6, 1969-'76:

All the Triumph TRs are lovely to drive in their own way, from the cutback doors of the early TR2s and TR3s to the more refined TR4s. Then there's the TR6: a torquey six-cylinder engine mated with classic British sports car styling and charisma. To drive one is to fully understand why so many people still love British sports cars. Sure, there are faster and better-handling cars out there, but there's something about a TR6 that's hard to sum up.

Expert opinion: McKeel Hagerty--“It’s hard to not love a TR6. They’re butch enough to appeal to people who wouldn’t be caught dead in something as cute as a Bugeye Sprite. The 2.5-liter straight six is smooth and makes great sounds. It would be nice if the Triumph engineers had figured out how to design a proper independent rear suspension—and just 104 horsepower from six cylinders is a bit weak, but at least there’s plenty of torque to make up for it. It’s hard to think of a better first collector car.”

Fiat X1/9, 1972-’89:

There’s something about a mid-engined Italian exotic: funky foot placement meets an amazing engine note and razor-sharp handling. And don't forget the cockpit dominated by a Momo wheel that flanks the driver with sexy Bertone sheet metal. Who says that only Ferrari and Lamborghini can deliver the experience? The Fiat X1/9 fulfills those promises and does so for a song.

Expert opinion: David Wallens--"It’s having a cockpit dominated by a Momo wheel while being flanked by sexy Bertone sheet metal. Who says that only Ferrari and Lamborghini can deliver that experience? The Fiat X1/9 fufills those promises and does so for a song."


Mazda RX-7, 1979-'85:

This car continued where the original Datsun Z-car left off. The RX-7 also proved that if you build a good, well-priced, reasonably sized sports car, people will buy them in droves.

The basics may not sound too impressive: live rear axle, worm-and-sector steering and struts up front. But rev that rotary past 8000 rpm, and it all starts to make sense.

Expert opinion: McKeel Hagerty--“Not too many gearheads now in their early 40s have forgotten when the first RX7s arrived in late 1978. By then, the 240Z had morphed into something far less hardcore, and the era of malaise was threatening to do away with all forms of automotive fun. The chainsaw-like whine of the rotary engine and the way it would shoot to the redline (which came with a buzzer to alert you) was pretty heady stuff compared to an MGB or a Mustang II of the day. Like Alfa, Mazda knew that you could make a live rear axle work pretty well—handling was first rate.”

Audi Quattro, 1980-'91:

When Audi debuted their Quattro, they also introduced all-wheel drive to the sports car world. Until then, this drivetrain layout was more associated with Jeeps and the like. The Quattro also featured something else that was rather groundbreaking at the time: a turbocharged engine. While today's sport compact scene is dominated by turbocharged, all-wheel-drive monsters like the Subaru Impreza WRX and Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, that original Quattro helped blaze the trail.

Expert opinion: Ralph Gilles--"This car is so easy to rotate on loose surfaces. Audi pioneered the whole idea of torque-sensing differentials. You literally kick the back end around, kind of like a boat, to steer this car. What a blast."

Volkswagen Rabbit GTI, 1983-'84:

Who says that fun cars can't be inexpensive--or as close as the nearest Volkswagen dealership? Sure, the original GTI was just a hotted-up Rabbit, but it had all of the bits that proclaimed the return of performance: meaty aluminum wheels, a close-ratio gearbox and a willing engine.

Expert opinion: Ralph Gilles--"The marketing on this car was fun. All the ads had a cool shot of the GTI jumping. This car introduced the idea that efficiency could be fun. In black it also pretty much introduced the idea of a blacked-out look. Big, 14-inch wheels on a car this small was also a big deal back in 1983."


BMW M3: 1988-present:

The BMW has constantly redefined the concept of a sports coupe. For more than 20 years the M3 has offered a nearly perfect mix of comfort, practicality and performance.

If you only have a chance to try one of them, though, we'd zero in on the E36-chassis cars offered from 1995 through 1999. While not as exotic as the early ones or as fast as the later examples, the E36 M3 makes a great dance partner. Plus, it also flies under the radar, meaning it can gobble up the highway miles as easily it laps any race track.

Expert opinion: Ralph Gilles--"This car is so easy to drive. The steering is fantastic. This car is so engaging, and the tossability is unparalleled. An E36 M3 drives like a modern Lotus Elan."

McLaren F1, 1992-'98:

Of all the available supercars, this one may be the super-est. This carbon fiber-based machine can reach 240 mph. It can cruise well north of 100 mph without breaking a sweat. Then there's the three-across seating position: driver in the middle with a passenger on either side.

Expert opinion: Jay Leno--“The McLaren is the greatest car of the 20th century. It did everything better and faster than every other car in the century. There are no driving assists on the McLaren. It is the last pure driving experience.”

Porsche Boxster, 1996-present:

The Boxter was a radical departure for Porsche. Not since the 914 had the company produced a mid-engined car for the street. It can also be argued that the Boxster saved one of our favorite car manufacturers. The model brought back a Porsche for everyone—well, at least those in the upper-middle class.

While the original 2.5-liter cars weren't extremely quick, driving one is still a soul-stirring experience. The handling, exhaust note and purposeful interior all teamed up to bring the Porsche mystique to a totally new group of enthusiasts.

Expert opinion: Andy Reid--"The Porsche Boxster is the best-handling road car Porsche has ever built and one of the easiest cars to drive fast—very fast—built by anyone."

Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4, 2004-present:

Like the McLaren F1 and the Lamborghini Miura, the Veyron is a car that changed everything. Sure, it costs more than a million dollars, but it's also the fastest and most technologically advanced road car ever sold.

The performance is just amazing: zero to 60 in about 2.5 seconds plus a top speed of 253 mph. Need to slow down? Deploy the air brakes. However, this is not a stripped-out shell but a full-on luxury supercar, featuring the world's finest leather and a dashboard decorated in engine turned aluminum.

Expert opinion: Brian Johnson--"'Cause it's just so friggin' gorgeous, ludicrously expensive and has the 'I’m the only one in town who’s got one' factor."

Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, 2009-present:

Who says that supercars aren't within reach of the masses? The latest Corvette ZR1--available through any Chevy dealer--doesn't pretend. Standard equipment includes a 638-horsepower supercharged V8 engine flanked by a carbon fiber body, carbon ceramic brakes and giant wheels. The ZR1 can hit 205 mph yet still handle stop-and-go traffic. It's like the exotic that doesn't act like one.

Expert opinion: Craig Jackson--“ZR1 corvette: one of the last of the supercars. I doubt we will see a car this powerful and this cheap ever again. The ZR1 easily holds its own performance-wise against anything at any price. It will blow you away.”

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mspace New Reader
7/13/10 7:30 a.m.

And a howl of protest from the owner of several of the finest "driver's cars" ever made...Lancia. For a perfect balance of the attributes that make a car a pleasure to drive, and that made giant killers that won innumerable races against cars with twice the horsepower, Lancias are something special. From the lowliest sedans to the glorious Aurelia convertibles and spiders of the 50's, to drive any Lancia is a treat. If I had to pick one, it would have to be a 4th series Aurelia B20 coupe from the mid 50's, or maybe a Fulvia HF from the 60's. Understated and delightful cars, and pretty, too. Mike Space

Tom Heath
Tom Heath UberDork
7/13/10 3:23 p.m.

THAT is why we love reader comments. Thanks for the counterpoint, Mike.

I've yet to experience a Lancia firsthand, but I've drooled over a Stratos and Delta Integrale. I need to spend some time with earlier models.

(Full disclosure- I had no influence on this final list, so don't hate me if your favorite didn't make it...)

AndreGT6
AndreGT6 SuperDork
7/13/10 4:19 p.m.

Errr not making this impossible or anything are we :) And I'd drive a GT6 over a TR any day of the week!

wlkelley3
wlkelley3 SuperDork
7/13/10 5:32 p.m.

Several on my bucket list are here. Lotus Elan, BMW 2002, TR6 have been at the top of the list ever since I've learned about those as a teen (a lo-o-ong time ago. The M3 has been a recent addition.
Oh, someday.

don11
don11
7/15/10 8:24 p.m.

I have to add the 1961 LANCIA FLAMINIA ZAGATO to the list. The steering and handeling at 110 mph 3100 RPM's, 1- 2 barrell solex at 30mpg, OH don't forget to 10" inboard pwr and 11" frount disc brakes working on the 165x400 Perelles for a dead straight stop. I think one of the greatest inexpensive all AL hand built bodies ever built.

kellycombes
kellycombes
7/16/10 6:49 a.m.

Well, I'm more than half way through the list! Not sure if I'll get to the Veyron. Anyone have one I can try?

Rupert
Rupert HalfDork
7/19/10 10:01 a.m.

Hey, you forgot the PL-510 & the 610 DATSUN!

Remember that little sedan with a from the late '60s with a water-cooled 1600-1800 SOHC & 4-wheel ind. susp. with a price tag lower than a VW? Remember how they dominated under 2.5ltr. sedan racing by beating the BMWS?

If you include a BMW 2002, you should also include the DATSUN PL-510 & its' bigger brother the 610 which also beat BMWS on a regular basis and ruled B Sedan during that era.

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